Study on Lawyer Advertising: What the Public Really Thinks

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The Florida Bar Review Committee (BRC) recently released a massive 247-page report on lawyer advertising.  Here is the synopsis of the study and my comments in italics.  The following is based on a telephone survey conducted in the spring of 2010 commissioned by the BRC.

Selecting a Lawyer

A large majority of respondents who have used the services of lawyers in the past five years report that area of law practiced (88%), character attributes (88%), general reputation (81%) past results (74%), and client endorsements (61%) are important attributes to consider when choosing a lawyer. Comparatively, only 12% selected celebrity or well-known person endorsements as an important consideration.

Editor Note: The good news is that the practice areas are very important to selecting a lawyer, as is character. Endorsements and results are also reasons to choose a lawyer.

Lawyer Selection

For those who report hiring a lawyer within the past five years, the most important reason for selecting that lawyer or law firm is through a friend’s or relative’s recommendation (46%), followed by previous knowledge of the lawyer or law firm (11%). Comparatively, few respondents report that their most important reason for choosing a lawyer or law firm is through an advertisement (5%) or an Internet search (2%).

Editor Note: The best referrals always come from a friend, which is true in almost any industry.  While survey respondents may state that only 2% choose a lawyer from an Internet search, they certainly do search for lawyers online.  Per Google’s own data of search volume, in Florida alone, the top 50 search terms brought in over 100,000 search queries each month. []



Respondents indicate a very high level of prestige for doctors (89% great or considerable prestige). Lawyers (59%) and accountants (55%) rate about evenly when considering level of prestige, followed by bankers (45%) and real estate agents (26%). Those respondents who think highly of lawyers also tend to think highly of the justice system in general.

Editor Note: Overall, lawyers are just below doctors on the prestige scale.


Just over one-fifth (22%) of respondents feel that advertisements in general for professional services are misleading, while an equal percentage (22%) of respondents feel they are accurate.

Editor Note: Seems like a quarter of the people believe the ads are misleading and a quarter believe they are accurate.  That is a big middle ground of indecisive people.


Almost three-fifths (59%) report that their regard for the Florida Court system is about the same after viewing lawyers television advertisements, while one-quarter (25%) report their view is lower and 10% report their view is higher.

Editor Note:  Well that is good, 75% of the people who view the ad either have the same opinion or higher.

Words That Describe Television and Internet Lawyer Advertisements

71% of respondents list “self-serving” as one of the words that describes the advertisements for lawyers they have seen on television, while 62% list misleading and 61% list manipulative. Next are emotional (46%), informative (45%), helpful (42%), confusing (37%), dignified (36%), high quality (34%), humorous (31%) and truthful (26%).

Editors Note:  While I think that most advertisements are self serving, perhaps all lawyers should run more “The more you know” or GI Joe style PSAs.


Confidence in the Florida Court System

In general, nearly two-fifths (38%) of respondents have confidence in the Florida Court System, compared to nearly one-quarter (24%) who do not have confidence.

Editors Note:  Ouch.  The Florida Bar needs to start a PR campaign.  Only 38% have confidence in the system.


Use of a Lawyer

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents have not used the services of a lawyer in the past five years. A large majority of those respondents also report that they do not plan to hire a lawyer in the next 12 months. Over four-fifths (82%) of respondents who have used a lawyer in the past 5 years report that they are satisfied (59% very; 23% somewhat) with the legal services they received.

Editor Note: I find it a bit odd that two-thirds of study respondents have not used a lawyer in the past five years.  What if Coca Cola did a study about soft drinks and the respondents had not drunk a soft drink in five years?  Unless the goal is to just gauge overall public perception, then I think we should have a study about people who have used lawyers and who plan to use lawyers within a year.

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