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Bankruptcy Attorney Advertising in the Digital Age

posted by Pamela Foohey

Yellow Pages--maybe not so much anymore. Websites, AdWords, and social media--yes, yes, and occasionally.

Little has been written about bankruptcy attorney advertising. The last Credit Slips post focused on bankruptcy attorneys' ads in the 2013 Yellow Pages and surveyed the wording that attorneys used to describe their roles as debt relief agencies. One of the comments on the post suggested that the Yellow Pages remained a fruitful advertising venue for consumer bankruptcy attorneys. But my current research seems to point in a different direction.

As part of my research regarding nonprofits' use of reorganization to deal with financial distress, over the last year, I've spoken with 76 attorneys who represented religious organization debtors in their Chapter 11 cases. Many of these attorneys' practices are predominately consumer debtor oriented. Half of the attorneys maintain practices that are at least 70% consumer debtor work. The attorneys also are located across the country--from Massachusetts to Colorado to California.

As part of the interviews, I asked the attorneys if and how they advertise their practices. The results are anecdotal, but the attorneys' experiences may signal a switch from print and television advertising to complete reliance on websites, Internet leads, and social networking sites.

Focusing on attorneys whose practices were at least 50% consumer debtor based (which is 75% of the interviewed attorneys), less than 20% advertised in the Yellow Pages or any type of print / television / radio media. Those that did often went big--varying combinations of cable TV commercial, radio shows, Yellow Pages, and flyers in supermarkets. More telling are comments about the decreasing utility of non-digital advertising. Several attorneys had or were moving away from Yellow Pages because of the cost. A third of the attorneys did not advertise at all.

Those attorneys who said they advertised online predominately maintained websites and did nothing else in the way of advertising. Besides websites, the most popular form of digital advertising was Google AdWords (attorneys referenced it by name). A few attorneys bought leads on the Internet or used referral services such as LegalZoom. Those that did seemed to find the services to be money-sucking disappointments.

The most interesting responses were references to social networking sites. LinkedIn was mentioned several times in reference to consumer debtor practices. It was mentioned even more frequently among attorneys whose practices are predominately small business debtor oriented. My favorite response was craiglist. It was brought up only once, but by an attorney who had abandoned the Yellow Pages in favor of a less expense online option.

Considering the attorneys' responses, I wonder if the utility of advertising consumer bankruptcy practices in the Yellow Pages has dropped significantly in the last couple of years? And is social media picking up some of the slack?


Yellow pages still works in rural areas of Kentucky where many lack internet connections ... also, many in these areas can't afford the cost of the Internet.

I'd be curious to see what your attorneys said about Q&A sites like Avvo and LawGuru. I've heard some consumer attorney (consumer law, not bankruptcy per se) talking about using those to get "their name out there" as well as to increase their "ratings" on some sites (like Avvo).

I will scan up the 6.... yes.... six..... full color copies that the kind solicitor sent me telling me, 1. I had been sued for foreclosure. 2. That finances shouldn't be a barrier to saving a home....3. The 6k retainer I couldn't pay, the other 4 advertisements, that warn me of lost rights, and time running out, after the eager law clerk salivates over my time barred 8 yr old foreclosure zombie servicer. After the CPFB slips me through the cracks again, and this fraudster hauling me in, as I write the motions and pleadings of a lifetime. I salivate, scream and and beg... ADAM WTF ... Cant we kill all these zombies or is Consumer Law about as real as the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. Then the law clerk calls back and offers me terms, tewlls m to get some roommates to pay them half the retainer, they will get me a free house... just as I realize, he would have screwed me anyways, legal aid calls to tell me they would love to help, but... They are too busy to staff what they have. Just as the Consumer Defense Team and every pro bono attorney in 40 counties shrieks and says??? Tarrnt County, RU kidding? You coulndnt pay me to go there. Just as the objectionists, wave V... and The journalists harumph it all.... I realize, its my lemon, I gotta make the lemonade! Ive lived here for 28 years and Im making a full blown lemonade stand!
I am write and right and its quite tight!

LOL I filed on my own with some help of a great amicus. Against the most evil you cant even right!!! about.

my experience is that filings are down, way down, in the last four years and the big bankruptcy mills are competing for marketshare leaving the small firm struggling to find work. they've bumped up advertising on the radio in print and billboards too. this past December had the fewest Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings in the previous 48 months and the mills are taking as much of that as they can. I can't speak much to online advertising other than websites, the lead sources pay the highest prices for al the key words. I feel like a sellers realtor in 2012 struggling to find sellers wiling to list their homes. the work just isn't there.
my district has roughly 30,000 chapter 7 filings. at an average of $1,500 per filing (which is probably generous) that's only a $45,000,000 market. that's tiny. it's such a a small pie and so many lawyers are trying to take their little piece and the mills have got monthly minimums to file just to keep the lights on. it's a depressing environment right now in consumer bankruptcy. not a pleasant place to practice.

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