To Advertise or Not to Advertise and Why It Matters So Much to Lawyers

by Doug Zanes | Last Updated: June 26, 2015

First, let’s start off with a wonderfully illustrated (and so darn cute) infographic on the history of Personal Injury Law…

And it even touches base on a little bit of how the legal world integrated itself into the world of advertising.

CLICK HERE for the full scale infographic!

Pretty interesting right? Well Legal advertising has always been a controversial topic and continues to be contested amongst certain purist groups of ethics boards and attorneys alike – claiming that lawyers have no business in the advertising business…

Why? Some argue that having attorneys advertise places too much of a burden on the legal system – a system already wrought with issues.

However, the pivotal moment in history was 1974, when John Bates and Van O’Steen found themselves faced with a dilemma and in an effort to save their firm, Bates and O’Steen opted to do the unthinkable and placed an ad in a local Phoenix, Arizona newspaper.

Although their actions drew in scores of new clients, their revolutionary advertisement move also landed them a lawsuit with the Arizona State Bar…  In the Bates v. State Bar of Arizona case, the Arizona State Bar argued against advertising by law firms because they believed that advertising would place too much burden on the legal system.

The Bar believed that the advertising may be too effective and dangerously increase litigation. Additionally, they suspected that lawyers would raise the cost of their services in order to compensate for their increased overhead due to the additional cost of advertising – a cycle that could easily get “out of control.”

Another fear was that the legal profession would be viewed as a common trade rather than the noble profession they believed they were part of… We hear some of you snickering out there but the truth of the matter, these were very serious considerations that eventually took this case to the Supreme Court!

A major argument made against legal advertising was the real fear that the public could not protect themselves against false advertisements.

Fear not (by current day testament)the Supreme Court ultimately overturned on the grounds that truthful advertising of the availability and terms of routine legal services was protected under the First and Fourth Amendments….

Bates vs. State Bar of Arizona opened the door for legal marketing by declaring unconstitutional the strict ethical rules that had previously constrained attorneys…And if you look through the infographic, it tells you a little more on the first attorneys to pilot TV advertising…

“So what?” We hear you asking this…

The so what is… So what do you think about attorneys advertising?

Do you believe there is an ethical dilemma?


Do you believe advertising is for all businesses?

We want to hear from you below!

And P.S. We found some of the “best lawyer ads in the history of television” courtesy of Buzzfeed. Enjoy!!!


Doug Zanes
Doug Zanes: Founding Attorney Raised in Douglas, Arizona, and went to college at Arizona State University and graduated from law school at St. Mary’s University School of Law in Texas. Doug began practicing law in Phoenix Arizona in 1997.
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