Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference for Lawyers?

There are different definitions of advertising and marketing. Obviously, both share the same goal — to get more clients for your law firm.

Advertising is really a subset of marketing but I look at advertising and marketing as two different methods of getting the message out.

Thus, the important distinction for lawyers when considering advertising, marketing, or both is time and expense. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Advertising vs Marketing — Advantages vs Disadvantages


Advantage: Advertising is easy and requires less of your time – just hire an advertising agency.
Disadvantage: Advertising is more expensive.
Predominant Types of Media: TV, radio, billboards, newspapers, magazines, direct mail, online “Yellow Pages” & your law firm website.
Example: Hire an advertising agency and decide on a budget for your TV advertising campaign. To make your TV advertising campaign more effective, lawyers should use billboards. Plan ahead to decide how to answer calls.

TV commercials

Billboards like this one make TV and radio commercials work better by increasing branding
billboard car accident HURT911

Magazine advertising works well when targeting niche groups. We advertise a niche
website, in a motorcycle magazine.Magazine advertising personal injury lawyer


Advantage: A marketing campaign can cost very little money.

Disadvantage: Marketing may require the lawyer to spend much more time.

Predominant Types of Media: Attorney business cards, holiday & birthday cards, events & giveaways, and social media.

Example: A marketing campaign can consist of as little as giving out business cards to thousands of people or much more. I started my law practice by just giving out business cards with 1-800-HURT-911. Now, I have a partner and we set up a tent at motorcycle events where we meet with people and give out T-shirts and many other giveaways. This involves a lot of our time but only costs approximately $15,000 per year. In exchange for a T-shirt, we capture the name, address, and date of birth to send greeting cards in the US mail using an automatic system. We also advertise in a motorcycle magazine.

Tent with lawyer advertising where we give out T-shirts and other giveawaysHURT911 Tent Canopy

You can see several motorcyclists at the event holding our yellow bags with giveaways

Types of Advertising For Lawyers

There are two types of advertising and a hybrid of both. Branding, Direct Response Advertising, and a mix of the two create the hybrid.


Q. What does branding mean for lawyers?
A. Branding involves an investment of money in advertising to brand your law firm’s name in the minds of potential clients.

Q. What does branding do for lawyers?
A. Branding makes it more likely that a potential client will want to call you instead of your competitor. Once branding begins to take effect, a lawyer will have an “unfair” advantage over attorneys without a brand.

Billboards are the most effective method of promoting your brand. Everything you do should always promote your brand.

Q. What is the disadvantage of branding?
A. Nothing really. Branding can cost more money but doesn’t have to.

Branding typically doesn’t make your phone ring.  It doesn’t immediately generate business but generates business in the long run by improving results from advertising media. It typically takes two years to see results from branding.

To demonstrate, consider a personal injury lawyer advertising on billboards. Billboards will create recognition of the lawyer and bring “top of mind” to potential clients. People who are injured will be more likely to call that lawyer when they see the lawyer’s TV commercial. But how many people will call the lawyer because they remember seeing the lawyer’s billboard?

Most attorneys and larger law firms don’t have a name that is brandable. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is not brandable so they brand the name “Skadden”.

Donald Drumpf rebranded his name into TRUMP, creating an empire. A good choice since it’s short, memorable, impactful, and implies power. TRUMP was branded like a trump card which ranks above other cards and is a valuable resource that one can use to gain an advantage.

The more brandable a name is, the less money it will take to brand the name and the less time it will take.

A more brandable name is easier to trademark and is a more powerful trademark. The 1-800-LAWYERS® trademark includes 1-800 because LAWYERS is a generic word and cannot be trademarked. HURT911® is a much more powerful trademark because it does not include 1-800 because HURT911 is not a generic word.

Direct Response Advertising

Q. What is Direct Response Advertising?
Pure Direct Response Advertising is an advertisement using a call to action to elicit a direct response to the advertising message. An example is a late-night TV commercial asking people to call a numeric phone number within the next 5 minutes to order something.

Q. What is the disadvantage of Direct Response Advertising?
Direct Response Advertising is short-lived. There is no benefit after the first 5 minutes of seeing a TV or radio commercial which doesn’t have any branding.

Direct Response/Branded Advertising Hybrid

Q. What is Branded Direct Response Advertising?
This type of advertising combines branding with Direct Response Advertising. It is this type of advertising that most lawyers use.

This is usually a TV or radio commercial asking clients to call the lawyer’s phone number or sometimes go to the lawyer’s website but includes some branding of the lawyer or law firm.

With lawyers, the branding usually consists of an attempt to:

  • Brand the law firm name like Jacoby & Meyers;
  • Brand the firm as “The Hammer” or a similar slogan; or
  • Brand a 1-800 vanity phone number.

Q. What does Direct Response Advertising with branding do for lawyers?
Hybrid advertising provides an immediate benefit with calls received within 15 minutes after airing the TV or radio commercial but provides the added benefit of branding so viewers may remember it and will be more likely to call when they see it again.

Some lawyers advertise on TV for a few months, stop for a few months, and continue this cycle. This is a bad idea because you prevent branding from building up and lose any branding benefit from the previous cycle.

Differences by Types of Media


Advertising involves media such as TV, radio, billboards, newspapers, magazines, direct mail, online “Yellow Pages” & your law firm’s website.

Most advertising campaigns use a combination of media to reach the widest audience possible. For instance, billboards are often combined with a TV advertising campaign. This is called cross-branding and is very effective.

Billboards are a true branding media and are not effective when used alone for direct response advertising without a vanity phone number. However, billboards will provide a good ROI by substantially increasing increase the effectiveness of direct response media. Billboards will brand whatever you put on them.

Large law firms usually spend their advertising budget on all of these types of advertising media.


Marketing involves the use of  Attorney business cards, holiday & birthday cards, events & giveaways, and social media.

Again, marketing should involve a combination of all of these types of marketing media.

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Philip L. Franckel, Esq. is one of the Personal Injury Dream Team™ Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York; He has a 10 Avvo rating; Avvo Client's Choice with all 5-star reviews; Avvo Top Contributor; and a former Member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Franckel is well-known in New York for representing motorcyclists and created the motorcycle awareness campaign BE AWARE MOTORCYCLES ARE EVERYWHERE®.