While I was watching TV last night, a commercial for realtor.com came on. It highlighted all of the great things that realtors do to help their clients buy and sell their homes. The National Association of Realtors sponsored the commercial.
So I checked out their website.
Wow! It’s a clean beautiful website that covers every aspect of buying, selling, or renting a home as well as great resources on financing and moving. It’s a one-stop shop for people making one of the biggest purchases of their lives. They even have a handy mobile app for finding your dream house on your mobile phone. (Very convenient for when you’re driving around looking at houses for sale.)
I also checked out some of their other ads. They’re happy and funny. They show people who have a real estate problem and how their app fixed it. Their ads say, “Use our app and finding your dream home isn’t that scary. In fact, it can be fun.” Check them out here.
This got me thinking about lawyers. Where is the lawyers.com equivalent from the American Bar Association? Where is the StateLawyers.com equivalent from the State Bar Associations?
Why don’t the bar associations advocate for their members? It’s not hard to come up with an advertising campaign that says, “You have a legal problem. Here’s how a lawyer can solve it.”
The problem with the bar associations is that they’re focus is inward. The work they do focuses on the profession and not on the work lawyers do or the clients we serve. It is all about regulating the lawyer.
And this is a problem.
The bar associations are missing their biggest opportunity to be relevant in 2015. They should be the biggest champions of the profession. They should be client facing, advocating for their members. Instead they choose to overly regulate their members with burdensome rules that don’t benefit lawyers doing business in the 21st century or our clients.
Rather than putting out ads that help people remember why they need lawyers (like the realtor.com spots), they focus on penalizing lawyers who try to advertise and get it wrong (according to ridiculously archaic rules!) They focus on what lawyers can and can’t do rather than why we do the work we do and who we help
What bothers me the most though is when I see LegalZoom.com ads. They’re doing EXACTLY what the bar associations are failing to do. Showing would-be clients the importance of getting a little legal advice and making it easy for them to do it.
And those ads are directing clients away from lawyers toward a website that claims to “magically” solve the client’s legal problem.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. It doesn’t matter if lawyers can do the work better and add more value. It doesn’t matter if LegalZoom is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law or not.
What matters is that LegalZoom is saying what prospective clients want to hear. What matters is that LegalZoom can advertise any way they want without being subject to the stupid marketing rules that the bar associations impose on lawyers. What matters is that your bar association doesn’t help you reach the clients you want, an that they hinder your ability to market your services.
If the bar associations are going to restrict the way members can advertise and market their services, then they need to do a better job actively advocating for their members.