Solicitors make a great advertisement for the profession

A THREE year £3 million advertising campaign to improve the image of solicitors is being considered by the Law Society. Chancery Lane officials have met with PR guru Sir Tim Bell to seek his advice on the way forward. The Lawyer asked a selection of advertising, public relations and media friendly lawyers what they thought.

Will Audrey, a copywriter at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, whose clients include National Westminster Bank, Coca Cola and Levi Strauss, said selling solicitors would be a great brief for any advertising firm as there was a big story to tell. But he added that the job would be a challenge. “Solicitors are the lowest of the low at the moment. I can imagine a book entitled 'Don't tell my mother I'm a lawyer.'”

His suggestions for advertising images include:

A solicitor with a client in their front room with a cup of tea discussing a legal problem such as divorce to humanise the profession.

A shot of Bishops Avenue, Hampstead's millionaire's row, alongside the slogan: “We're here to make you richer”, the implication being that it is the clients who live in luxury rather than the solicitors.

A picture of Kenneth Clarke crying together with the slogan “We make strong wills” to remind people that solicitors can help them stop the Government getting their money.

Graham Macmillan, of PR firm Fishburn Hedges, whose clients include the Solicitors Family Law Association and Osborne Clarke, said: “Bad sentiment about lawyers runs deep among the public. They are considered a powerful lobby which is self-serving and self-seeking.” He said the profession needed to adopt an advertising strategy which highlighted the benefits of using lawyers. He suggested televising real-life cases featuring people who had gained from legal advice in areas such as housing, industrial action and personal injury claims.

Ian Skillen, managing director of Glasgow advertising agency Rileys, masterminded a television and poster campaign for the Law Society of Scotland in the early 1990s. “It's never too early to call your solicitor” was the slogan. He warned that advertising alone could not solve the problems faced by English solicitors. “The climate of the profession needs to be improved by making lawyers more approachable and human,” he said.

Professor J Ross Harper, president of the International Bar Association, said the best way to raise the image of the profession was to improve the performance of solicitors. A small minority of solicitors cast a cloud over the positive aspects of the profession such as all the pro bono work undertaken by lawyers, he said.

Davies Arnold Cooper senior partner David McIntosh said it was sad the Law Society needed to spend money repairing the “needless damage caused by egos squabbling in Chancery Lane”. McIntosh, whose firm has run several advertising campaigns, added: “My advice to the profession is that it should stop living in the past, recognise nobody owes it a living and begin to realise the public want a service at affordable prices.” His suggested slogan is: “Winning for clients”.

Jon McLeod, account director at public relations and lobbying firm Westminster Strategy, which represents the Bar Council, said the Law Society needed to direct its campaign at politicians and the press. “I'm not sure I'd bother with a charm offensive. People hate one thing more than rich lawyers, and that's lawyers who want to be rich and loved,” he said.