By Edward L. Fiandach, Esq.
Nobody has ever asked me, but I’m sure it has been asked, if they’re so good, then why do they advertise? The answer to that is simple. Because other’s do.
In 1977, the United States Supreme Court decided the matter of Bates v. the State Bar of Arizona. In a nutshell, Bates held that Arizona State Bar restrictions upon advertising by lawyers constituted a violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In 1979, I was admitted to the practice of law. I immediately went into practice with my father, Samuel Fiandach and Fiandach & Fiandach was born. Sam and I always found attorney advertising distasteful and shunned it like the plague. Until fifteen years ago, Fiandach & Fiandach existed solely by means of word of mouth. We did no advertising at all. We had acquired a reputation for honesty, hard work, good results and frankly, that was all we needed.
About fifteen years ago, things began to change. A local lawyer, new to the practice of DWI began to advertise on the radio. The commercials, which featured actors portraying how the firm had got them off drew the fire of the RAID, the local bar and media, but they also drew clients. The simple fact of the matter was that regardless of how tasteless the commercials were, they were the public’s first media wide exposure to an attorney that purported to represent those charged with Driving While Intoxicated, hence, people called.
Recognizing the obvious, we began to do some limited advertising, and continued for approximately one year at which point, seeing no further need, we discontinued.
In 2005, a former personal injury attorney from out of town decided to go into the practice of DWI. His firm flooded the airwaves with commercials of every manner. Virtually overnight, and despite our vastly superior skill and experience, our phone stopped ringing. Our firm, which then numbered four attorneys, was forced to make an unpleasant decision. Either we engage in a full blown advertising campaign or get out. Obviously, you know the conclusion we came to.
Does advertising benefit the public? It can, provided that it is properly regulated and carried out. Unfortunately, there are no rules that prevent lawyers, no matter how inexperienced, from declaring that they practice in a particular area. For example, although I know nothing about the law pertaining to stocks and public offerings, tomorrow I could set up a website declaring that our firm is devoted exclusively to SEC litigation with no fear of reprisal from Bar authorities. On the other hand, and we believe wrongly, attorneys such as myself who have met rigid ethical, experience and educational requirements so as to be Board Certified, must run the rather demeaning disclaimer that you can see in other places on this website.
So how can you protect yourself? Simple. Really look at the qualifications. Is it boast or is it fact? Do the qualifications indicate that other peer groups such as Martindale Hubble have found them to be superior? Have other organizations recognized them as experts by asking them to write, teach or lecture.
Criminal defense is expensive. It also is difficult and requires decades of experience to do it right. Unfortunately, advertising does not.