CHARLESTON – A recent study showed that telephone book Yellow Pages are the top choice for consumers seeking an lawyer, saying it is the "most acceptable" form of attorney advertising.
For the most part, local attorneys agree with that notion.
The Yellow Pages AssociationT (YPAT) recently announced that, according to a new Attorney Advertising Perceptions Study from Wiese Research Associates, consumers have rated Yellow Pages as the most acceptable form of attorney advertising. Almost half of respondents said they would use the Yellow Pages to select an attorney if they were not familiar with or referred to a particular attorney. So, it's no surprise the "Attorneys-Lawyers" Yellow Pages heading ranks sixth out of more than 4,000 headings and generates nearly 290 million references annually.
"It's not surprising," Charleston attorney Elliot Hicks said of the survey findings. "People go to that type of advertising instead of it coming to them."
Hicks headed two State Bar committees in recent years to examine lawyer advertising. He said the only ads his committee ever received complaints about were television commercials.
"Advertising that comes to them (consumers) is what causes people the most problems, such as TV," said Hicks, who works at Spilman, Thomas & Battle. "As far as concerns from public, the only thing we heard about is TV advertising."
Charleston attorney Rusty Webb said he advertising his firm in the Yellow Pages and has asked clients how they found out about his practice.
"If they say the Yellow Pages, I would ask which one specifically because there are three of them around here," he said. "It helps me account for my advertising and shows me where I need to advertise."
Last year, Webb said he asked clients how they came to his door.
"It (the Yellow Pages) is actually a minority," he said. "Most of my clients are referrals and former clients."
Margaret Workman said she could understand the results of the survey, but she said she has a problem with irresponsible attorney advertising.
"One of the things that concern me is that many ads aren't very dignified, for lack of a better term," said Workman, who is mulling another run for state Supreme Court. "That is one of biggest ways for the public to get the wrong idea about attorneys.
"I always try to keep my advertisements factual in terms of my experience and what types of cases I handle. I think some attorneys make false promises in advertising.
"I just think it's the responsibility of the entire profession to keep it respectable."
Additional findings in the survey include:
* On a 10-point scale with 1 being totally unacceptable and 10 being totally acceptable, Yellow Pages advertising is the most acceptable form of attorney advertising, scoring 6.7, compared to other mediums ranging from 3.9 to 5.3.
* Nearly four out of 10 consumers responded that the Yellow Pages is the best way for lawyers to inform potential clients of their services.
* Consumers rated the Yellow Pages significantly higher than other advertising mediums when it comes to attributes such as usefulness, objectivity, completeness and credibility.
"Attorneys and lawyers are very concerned with how their advertising is perceived amongst consumers," said Larry Small, director of research of YPA. "In today's environment, there are numerous ways to obtain information. The Yellow Pages is a directional medium that lets people who are looking for attorneys, find what they are looking for on their terms - where they want, when they want and how they want."
The Attorney Advertising Perceptions Study was conducted by Wiese Research Associates, Inc. to determine how consumers view attorney advertising, as well as how perceptions and actual use of various advertising mediums may influence consumer image of the legal profession. A random sample, telephone-based survey of 400 households was completed nationwide during July and August 2007.
The bottom line, Webb said, is that an attorney has to get the job done.
"If you consider doing a good job one, that is my most important form of advertising," he said. "As I go on, I probably will do less and less phone book advertising because more of my clients are coming in on referrals and return business."