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5 Marketing Lessons From A Criminal Attorney

February 28, 2015

I was in a car accident about 15 years ago. A lady driving a big ass car slammed into another car, which then slammed into me.

A few days later, I got an unsolicited copy of the accident report, courtesy of a local attorney. Also attached was a letter letting me know that he was available to help, should I need it.

You know, because I deserve justice, I have rights, and insurance companies want me to settle…

This was in Columbus, OH. But every city has aggressive attorneys like this. Here’s an example from an personal injury attorney in Nashville, TN, where I am now…

And it’s not just personal injury attorneys who use this type of marketing. Here’s a radio ad from a criminal attorney based in Memphis…

If you’re on the receiving end of legal trouble, you need an attorney. Because of this, you’d think attorneys wouldn’t have to be so aggressive with their advertising.

What’s the deal? Too many attorneys!

There are approximately 1,500,000 licensed attorneys in the United States. In New York state, there are 84 attorneys for every 10,000 residents. In California, there are 43 attorneys for every 10,000 residents.

With that much competition, if you don’t effectively get the word out about what you’re doing, you’re going to starve.

So let’s analyze some of this “attorney marketing.” And who better to look at than the fictional composite of every aggressive attorney you’ve ever seen on daytime television, billboards, and the back pages of phone books — Saul Goodman.

You know Saul from the television series Breaking Bad, in which he acts as the attorney (and accomplice) of main characters Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. Like the attorney above, Saul is known for his low-budget television commercials and print advertisements.

5 Marketing Lessons From Saul Goodman

1. Look The Part – When you think of attorneys, you imagine a certain look. Like doctors, you don’t want to walk into their offices and see some guy in a Hawaiian shirt and a clown wig — that doesn’t look like somebody who can keep you out of jail (or out of the cemetery).

Most professions don’t have the “uniform” that doctors and lawyers have, but we all have a uniform. If you’re going to get on stage or have any kind of professional interaction with people, you better look the part. Just because you can make your own rules about fashion doesn’t mean you should.


Think it’s a joke? The joke’s in your hand!

2. Be Aggressive And Shameless – You can’t just open up shop and expect people to find you. Timid entrepreneurs don’t eat.

“Aggressive” doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk or act like a guy from a network marketing company. It does, however, mean that you need to confident about what you’re doing and have no shame in your approach.

Cards Against Humanity wouldn’t be nearly as fun (or nearly as successful) if it were censored. If you’re going to do something, go balls out.

Nashville attorney Dick Strong took a page out of this playbook with a series of ads (like the one pictured to the right) that hang above urinals in bar restrooms.

3. Talk The Talk – You know how you go by a “tobacco” place, but without even going inside, you can safely bet that everything they’re selling is marijuana-related?

Every business has something like this — we know how the game is played. We know the “muscle massager” is nothing more than a dildo. We know nobody is actually taking a bath in “bath salts.” And we know the “oriental massage parlor” employs hookers and not actual massage therapists.

“You deserve to be paid for what you’ve gone through.”

This attracts a certain type of client, just like the tie-dye colors and photos of Bob Marley outside the “tobacco” place…

Every business has something similar. Run with it and don’t apologize.

4. Keep It Confidential – Like a good attorney, shut your mouth. You don’t have to tell everything.

Of course the diet pill you’re selling is more successful when you watch what you eat and exercise, but you don’t need to put that in the headline of your ad. I’m not saying you should lie to people, but let’s be honest that a lot of what makes things look so good is not having all the details.

For example… A woman you don’t know is wearing Spanx.

Seriously, all you attorneys reading this should do class action suit for a millions of men who have been fooled by Spanx, because wearing them is nothing more than false advertising! You take a good-looking woman in Spanx home, she removes them, and KAPOW!! — she blows up like an airbag.

I kid, I kid.

But I’m not kidding about focusing on the best parts of your offer. That’s what good marketing does!

5. Do Good Work – In the end, as long as your methods are legal and ethical, the only thing that matters is whether you’re able to do your job and clients get what they’re paying for.

Does Saul Goodman do a good job?

Good work trumps everything.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve watched Better Call Saul, you know that before Saul Goodman was an attorney, he was a criminal. Because of this, he’s familiar with criminal culture and has firsthand knowledge of what the market wants and needs.

You can’t beat having the “insider” knowledge that comes from serving your own demographic. This isn’t for everybody, but if you have the opportunity to “dance with the one who brung ya,” you’ll have a leg up on any outsiders who try to compete with you.

ABOUT THIS SERIES: I analyze the good, bad, and ugly about the marketing behind a common business or famous personality. See other posts in this series here and, if you have a request for something (or someone) you’d like me to analyze for this series, contact me via Twitter.

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