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You'll Be Aware That In 2010 (2011 In Scotland) The Law Society Gave The Go-ahead For Its Member...

You'll be aware that in 2010 (2011 in Scotland) the Law Society gave the go-ahead for its members to advertise. Quite a few solicitors were dead against it, their opinions formed, doubtlessly, by what they had seen their American cousins perpetrating - ten-dollar divorces and all. But some were for it. Anyway, the launching of solicitors was fraught with difficulties. The strict, and restricting, guidelines laid down by the Law Society had to be adhered to; as did those of the online advertising watchdogs which already pertained.

On top of that, those solicitors who were prepared to advertise brought with them the classic inhibitions derived from hundreds of years of conforming to unwritten, but none the less tangible, codes of practice. Once I had read the literature and listened to the arguments, I concluded that it boiled down to just three criteria. 1 In any written or verbal promotion, a solicitor could not suggest that he was any better - any more efficient, any cheaper, any more knowledgeable - than any other solicitor.

2 Ludicrously, he could not directly solicit business. Meaning that in any online advertising he had to promote the broad concept of the desirability of employing a solicitor, rather than promote himself specifically. 3 Solicitors, like Caesar's wife, had to be above suspicion of cutting rates, of 'being in the know', or of claiming efficacy in any particular field. So exhortations like: 'We're just the boys to get you off that charge of indecent exposure', whether or not the said boys were the undisputed saviours of people given to indecently exposing themselves, were not on. All of which left one wondering whether it was worth the effort.

As you've no doubt guessed, though, the Law Society - not being mugs in any respect - spun enough loopholes to allow any copywriter who was not a complete moron to leap through the net and thumb his nose from the other side. (With no loopholes to dive into, both the copywriter and the solicitor would have to turn respectable. Then where would they be?) If this were not bad enough, there were even more constraints to take into the reckoning. In digital marketing the services of a solicitor for the first time, how do you go into the marketplace without alienating the firm's traditional, conservatively-minded clients? Conversely, how do you approach the younger, less conventional segment in a language it understands? In effect, in language that doesn't sound like a direct lift from an erudite treatise on the Laws of Tort? Whatever was produced had to be acceptable to the traditionalists, who already knew all about solicitors anyway, and informative to the up-and-coming, who very likely didn't. Give or take several dozen closely-typed webpages - plus the information that the client's firm is called Gray, Robertson and Wilkie - that's the brief as I received it.

The initial aim was to put together one large launch ad, one slightly smaller follow-up ad, and three or four reminders around half the size of the launch piece. Are you able to resolve it - or shall I assist? Oh, very well then. Ladies and gentlemen, we require a tag-line; a device we can plaster on every bit of promotional material; a word or two which sums up our client as a knowledgeable, respectable practitioner who knows the law, can arrange mortgages, will represent you in court, draws up wills, and does the necessary when you are buying or selling a house. Did I say it was going to be easy? Since your first solicitor is likely to be your last, if you follow me, I would suggest something like: 'A friend in need', or 'A friend for life'. Though seeing as how the latter could so easily be misread, or mis-printed, as 'A fiend for life', its use may be considered hazardous.

Better still, I would propose: YOUR LEARNED FRIENDS Why don't we put those three words into a circle and 'stamp' it on everything? What a good idea. Now for a headline for the launch ad; a headline that presents a rational case for our solicitors; one that gives good reason for his name being splashed all over the papers.

Will you go along with this: AT LONG LAST, WE CAN NOW PREACH WHAT WE PRACTISE And go into the copy - restrained, but eager to show our man's existing clients that he has not fallen off his trolley. We honestly don't believe that online advertising will lower the tone of the legal profession.

That's our considered opinion and if they don't like it we'll water it down a bit: It certainly won't lower the professional standards of this particular firm. And we believe online advertising to be a good thing. For these reasons. Now gently into enlightening the uninitiated market: 1 We can now talk openly about our services.

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