Is T.V. advertising a cause for lawyers’ poor image?

The managing partner of a large law firm contends that P.I. lawyers’ advertisements on television are the root cause for the poor image lawyers currently experience.

I suggest that the commercials are of no consequence and that his assertion makes him (this managing partner) look foolish.

I know. You now want proof of my assertion. Well, here it is, in part.

Years ago, at some time during my 25 years of practicing law (before I began coaching and consulting with lawyers) and at a time when I was very much involved with the State Bar’s (CA) campaign to raise the image of lawyers, I believed that we were fighting an uphill battle. The reason: We start in the hole by 50% of the litigating population. That part of the litigating population that “loses” a lawsuit thinks the other side’s attorney was mean-spirited, unethical and unprofessional. Now, how do you win a battle with 50% of your resources already wounded.

The State Bar conducted focus groups. I still have one of the videotapes of a focus group because I knew one day this very discussion would arise and some might not believe me. The focus groups, to a man and to a woman, said that it was THEIR lawyer (not the opposing lawyer) that created the problem. Poor service, failure to return phone calls, inaccurate arithmetic on the billing statements … and on and on and on ….

Now, how do you fight the battle when most of your troops are wounded before you go into battle?

I suggest that this managing partner look, first, to his own firm before he goes marching off to the battle field to complain that lawyers are getting a bum wrap. What’s the expression? Don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house.

I’m all for cleaning up the image of lawyers. But lawyers, first, need to clean up their own act with their own clients. Then, lawyers need to educate those lawyers in the public eye who perform legal services clearly not understood by the public. Just look at some of the debates/disputes amongst politicians sitting on Judiciary Committees, and their comments about other lawyers’ (ABA, for example) involvement with judicial candidates’ evaluations of competency. The list here can go on and on.

When lawyers are neither civil nor respectful of other lawyers, why should the public regard lawyers with high regard?

My point is that lawyers can’t look outside successfully or credibly or hope for a better reputation as a profession until they look inside in their own firms. Opposing advertising on television is not the answer.


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