I’ve only lived in the Tampa Bay/Clearwater, Florida area for slightly less than three months now, and many – many! – things down here fascinate me. My neighborhood is a playground for stray coyotes, not alligators. Dinner parties are, more often than not, potluck affairs. But there is a cultural phenomena that is apparently the norm here that I’d not seen anywhere else I’ve lived in this country – local attorneys advertising their services – and themselves – on area television stations.
I know that attorneys advertising their services has become fairly commonplace throughout the country, more so in certain areas than others. In all honesty, though, one out of every five commercials I see since moving here has been for a law practice.
And it ain’t particularly pretty.
Many of the firms are small practices, usually with two or three lawyers. They appear to specialize in either traffic violations, medical malpractice or class action suits, it seems. Not all of these attorneys – and nearly all of them are men, by the way – are particularly physically attractive, sadly. I must give props to the advertising agencies and public relations firms for coming up with some pretty spiffy and innovative ways to showcase these clients.
We see attorneys clambering up and down the Tampa courthouse steps (the shorter one always behind the taller of the two!) We see them in profile, speaking to someone, hopefully, off screen. They’re on the beach! Yes, they’re dressed in business suits and, thank God, socks and shoes, but they’re walking on the beach, heads huddled, maybe discussing one of their clients, maybe mumbling about the amount of sand they’re accumulating in their loafers. There they are, on the balconies of public buildings, with the Atlantic Ocean off in the not so far away distance. Rarely, if ever, are they shown with an actual client or even imposter client. (I’m assuming here that an actual client would be mortified to be shown with an attorney they’ve hired who has to shuck around for OTHER clients on television.) They’re at their desks now, shirt sleeves rolled up, scribbling away on a legal pad. (Boy, would I love to see what they’re actually writing: Why why why did I agree to this idiotic commercial? And how much would it cost to break up this stupid partnership arrangement? What on earth was I drinking when I agreed to do this? I feel like a moron…)
There appear to be hard and fast ‘rules’ regarding Florida attorneys who advertise on television, at least in the Tampa/Clearwater/St. Petersburg areas. They are always Caucasian; I have yet to see an African American, Hispanic or Asian law practice on television. (This leads me to conclude that these three ethnic groups have their proverbial ‘acts’ together and already know their client base. I also automatically assume that their I.Q. ranges are vastly superior to those of their white colleagues who need to troll the waters of a television screen to drum up new business.) The television fellows tend to be young/youngish; the older attorneys in their practices are either shown only in a group shot at the end of the ad, and rarely, if ever, have a speaking role. Less physically attractive partners (i.e., heavyset) are shown pretty much always in profile. And…they’re ‘just like us’! They like the beach and blue skies! We know this because they are seemingly NEVER far from white sands and clear waters! Perhaps their offices are actually Quonset huts located on the beaches of southwestern Florida!
Advertising legal services through television commercials is, I guess, a way for the myriad of lawyers down here in Florida to stand out from the crowd. They’re a ‘quick fix’ for someone who may need an attorney RIGHT NOW, particularly if you’ve just been involved in an auto accident on that death trap of a road known as I-19 and have just limped through your front door. Would I hire a law practice that advertises its services on television? Nope, not going to do it – no more than I would select a primary care physician based on his latest commercial…