A new report by an advocacy group founded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows that plaintiffs’ lawyers are increasingly using online marketing to connect with potential clients. The Feb. 29 report, sponsored by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, shows how attorneys use Google keyword advertising, Facebook, Twitter and, in some cases, marketing websites disguised as resource websites to attract clients.
But the report, called "The Plaintiffs' Bar Goes Digital, An Analysis of the Digital Marketing Efforts of Plaintiffs' Attorneys and Litigation Firms," found that many of the efforts by plaintiffs’ lawyers have become less transparent in an attempt to capture potential clients’ information. The study cites the use of search engine optimization to lead people to sites that portray themselves as support sites or forums, but actually have ties to firms.
“Trial attorney firms by far, I think are the most aggressive marketers digitally out there,” said Pete Snyder, founder of New Media Strategies, the agency hired by the Institute to conduct the study. “It all comes down to truth in advertising. I believe you need to be honest about what you’re representing.”
The report estimated that firms spent more than $50 million on advertising using Google ad words during 2011. Snyder said that firms have been engaging more in online advertising because it presents the best way to connect with an audience. He said that firms are “head and shoulders above in sophistication and in many terms, dollars spent,” when it comes to online advertising.
“They are not spending more than Proctor and Gamble or G.E.,” Snyder said of all forms of advertising. “For the size of their industry, they are spending an exorbitant amount.”
Snyder said that the study was not conducted with any preconceived ideas or conclusions.
In its efforts to promote tort reform, the Chamber has often found itself directly at odds with the country's trial lawyers, represented by the American Association for Justice.
“Attorneys’ online marketing expenses are surely trumped by the hoards of cash corporations funnel to the U.S. Chamber to help them get immunity for their defective products, junk mortgages, and insurance scams,” American Association for Justice spokesperson Michelle Widmann wrote in an emailed statement.