Breaking Bad lawyer Saul Goodman’s advertising is a straight copy of the local big-shot law firm’s posters. It causes a bit of a stir. Especially when, in a beautifully bizarre publicity stunt, he rescues the contractor putting up his poster from plunging to certain death on live TV news.
Of course, like many of the plotlines from Breaking Bad, you’d think that kind of thing couldn’t happen here. Except that since the liberalizing Legal Services Act of 2011, it could. Law firms – not just ambulance-chasers – can advertise their services on posters, TV and digital channels.
The only surprise here is that it’s taken them so long to take advantage. But it’s happening – there’s a TV campaign for Slater and Gordon in which concerned-but-confident younger female client is seen in conference with a stern-yet-caring older male lawyer, behind the closed doors of a glamorous glass-walled office.
The voiceover says we can’t listen to them “for reasons of client confidentiality” (which is mildly hilarious – you mean they aren’t actors?) but the woman appears convinced her divorce/business deal/party wall dispute will be dealt with competently. The tagline is smart; “Your case is our cause”.
As ads go it’s pretty good, if fairly easily ignored – but that would be a mistake. It’s important because since the Act law firms not only can advertise; more of them will simply have to. It’s the law of the competitive marketplace.
We could soon see many more ads for law firms (big and small). Posters like Saul’s may be less effective in the UK; but TV is great for building brand and the power of digital content marketing for knowledge-based organisations means we’ll see more of them on our mobile screens. (It’s a rich area for contextual targeting, the law – picture a friendly divorce lawyer popping up as you peruse a discreet dating site …)
The bigger firms are taking longer to adjust to this new world, but it will happen. Another change in the Act – that non-lawyers can now own law firms – means more firms will float their shares on the Stock Market like early-adopters Gately, who listed on AIM recently.
Listing means shareholders wanting dividends; who will want to be sure their firm is maximizing profits through marketing. Which in turn means law firms will need communication agencies who understand how to sell complex products and services. S’all good, man – as Saul Goodman would say.
It looks like legal services marketing is about to get interesting. But we’ve promised ourselves not to steal Better Call Saul’s slogan, “you don’t need a Criminal Lawyer; you need a criminal lawyer”. We might get sued.