The Mysterious Logic of Lawyer Advertising
posted by Nate Oman
My local telephone company is extremely concerned that I might lack information on local Williamsburg merchants. Accordingly, I have received no less than six copies of the yellow pages over the last few months. One of the joys of the yellow pages, of course, is lawyer advertising. Now while I am entranced by the anachronisms of the law and found myself nodding at various points while reading Anthony Kronman’s pseudo-mystical paean to the legal profession gone by, at the end of the day I don’t mind lawyer advertising. The old rules strike me as little more than a cartel to protect the WASP-y legal establishment from competition by hungry outsiders. Down with the barriers to entry!
I did find an ad on the back of the most recent copy of the good book puzzling. It was a for a solo-practitioner specializing in divorce cases and custody disputes. Generally speaking, lawyers like to look stern in their ad pictures, like they are willing to go break the other guy’s knee caps for you if the law suit doesn’t work out. This ad, however, showed a portrait of this attorney with his wife and four, very cute little daughters. Everyone was smiling and happy, the incarnation of familial happiness. What I don’t understand is the logic of using this image to sell divorce services. Is the subtext supposed to be, “Hire me as your divorce lawyer and your family can be as happy as mine?” Initially, I thought that maybe this was an economic thing. Solo practice is tough, and maybe this guy’s ad budget was exhausted by purchasing the back cover of the yellow pages, so he had no choice but to use the family portrait because no other picture was available. The problem with this theory is that there was a separate, posed picture of just the two daughters. It was underneath the big font declaring the specialty in custody battles. The two little girls, however, did have extremely stern, lawyerly expressions on their faces.
Maybe the subtext is that if the lawyer loses, he’ll send his daughters to break your ex’s knee caps.