There are some legal publishers that have for years been engaging in annoying and intentionally confusing marketing practices that prey upon private practice lawyers at firms with deep pockets.

One in particular purports that “your client asked us to contact you on their behalf to place an ad in an article in which they will be featured.” I cringe every time this company is mentioned to me.

The lawyer feels like they can’t say no when asked to buy an ad, while the in-house counsel only provided a list of the outside lawyers with whom they work to the publisher, which then uses those lawyer names as its ad prospect list. Shady to say the least.

I’ve asked this publisher for its circulation numbers many times without success.

Often the lawyer who agrees to do the ad is asked to provide a quote in the story. They are among several lawyers/firms in the article, which isn’t great visibility.

The profiles of the in-house counsel are mostly “puff pieces” and the publisher is strategic about who they select for them – knowing that if they select at in-house counsel at a big corporate company, they are likely to have a big outside legal team at top firms that can pay for expensive ads.

I have a feeling the subject of the articles were unaware that when they gave the reporter/publisher the names of the outside lawyers with whom they work that they would be contacted to take out an ad on their behalf. They likely thought it was under the pretenses of giving a quote about them.

The ad itself is basically a tribute ad congratulating the client on being profiled or on your long relationship – not really substantive or smart marketing.

If you agree to do the ad (reluctantly), I’ve been immediately and repeatedly asked for full payment.

Also these ads are very expensive – even the smallest one is several thousand dollars – so really think about whether they are worth the cost and whether they will bring any ROI to you and your firm. (PS – they won’t).

I now tell my clients all about this company’s long history of backing firms into corners, and to forward these emails to me where I decline these expensive ads (or at least negotiate best price).

I always suggest we decline the ad opportunity and instead have the lawyer call the client and say they’d like to use the ad funds toward client development for their team or training programs for attorneys, which is money much better spent!

Trust me your client doesn’t care if you do one of these ads and doesn’t know what’s really going on behind the scenes! What they care about is whether you are doing really great legal work and whether you are responsive and keeping costs down.

Don’t be afraid to ping your marketing person about this and if you are close with your client, them as well. Don’t assume that your client wants you to do the ad on their behalf either as these publications make it seem – it’s all part of their shady marketing practices.

Please contact me if you’d like to discuss a situation like this in more detail.