Law Commercials: Pitches that Last

By Hal Boedeker | Sentinel Television Critic
Posted September 14, 2009

Mark NeJame makes news as an Orlando criminal defense attorney on high-profile cases. But recently he realized he needed to raise his firm's profile.

He credits a Facebook admirer for prompting his move into TV advertising two months ago.

"When her daughter got into an accident, she called another lawyer," NeJame said.

She wasn't aware that NeJame's firm handles personal injury as well as family law, immigration, commercial and civil litigation.

"I needed to get the word out," NeJame said. "We've clustered some commercials around news segments. Many people know me from watching the news. I didn't want to get lost in the herd of everybody else."

There's quite a herd out there. Frequent commercials have made some attorneys household names and bolstered stations' bottom lines.

Legal advertising has held up well for local stations during a difficult economy, WESH-Channel 2 General Manager Jim Carter said.

"It has grown in comparison to other categories," he said. "Automobile has been challenged through this economy."

But legal commercials aren't an easy route to fame. "You'll see people come on and leave very quickly," Orlando lawyer John Morgan said. "These guys find out advertising isn't cheap, and the bills come real quickly, and the cases don't turn for 12 months."

Morgan said he spends nearly $20 million a year on advertising in Florida.

A 1977 U.S. Supreme Court ruling first permitted lawyer advertising. In Central Florida, the practice now manifests itself in the form of TV and radio ads and large billboards.

A lot of 800 number referral services have joined the ad rush, forcing firms to differentiate themselves. Bogin, Munns & Munns stresses personal, positive messages, lawyer Ryan Munns said. "Sticking to your marketing plan and advertising plan is important," Munns said.