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Wendy Ampolsk

'Help, I Need an Attorney'

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So much is written in our pages about how to capture the ideal client. About how to market to that client, how to win his or her business and, if that client represents a business in turn, how to win and keep that business too.

It’s a worthy ideal, especially in today’s competitive law environment. All you have to do is pick up any copy of Marketing the Law Firm and our nationally known experts will tell you exactly how important your marketing plan is — and what can happen if you don’t have such a plan.

But what about, for lack of a better word, Mr. or Ms. “Average American Client”? Where do THEY go for representation when they want and need a really good attorney?

Case in point: A couple I know, people who have little-to-no knowledge of the law other than what they see on television, asked me for a recommendation. They were desperate for a good employment lawyer; reasons not important here. Well, I work with attorneys. I happen to have, obviously, access to employment lawyers in this state, not to mention nationally…we publish The Employment Law Strategist, among other things. I gave these people a few names of attorneys I considered the best in the business.

Then I realized that these potential clients thought they could call one of these attorneys and “ask [them] to write a letter to the EEOC.” It took a while for me to explain attorneys’ fees, hourly billing, process and procedure. They truly had no notion of any of this, and these are not ignorant people; they are simply people who have never needed or used an attorney before. When I told them the average hourly cost for fine legal work, they were appalled.

My question is: Who reaches these people? How best to market to “nice, normal, everyday Americans,” working people who encounter problems that must be handled by an attorney? Where do they find out what firm to contact? Where do they begin? The Yellow Pages? Or do they type in “Anytown, USA Lawyers”? Has anybody thought about how many people know nothing about hiring an attorney?

The people in question did not even know that attorneys “specialize” — that an employment lawyer would not be the same as, say, a matrimonial attorney.

Your thoughts on this question are very welcome.

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