Canadian Lawyer

September 2019

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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BACK PAGE OPINION 54 www.canadianlawyermag.com Marketing for the solo Promoting your practice isn't as simple as slogans and search engine optimization RECONCILING STRATEGIC marketing with the Rules of Professional Conduct can be a journey through a landmine without GPS. Just ask personal injury lawyer Brian Goldfinger after a run-in with the Law Society of Ontario over questionable marketing. "This has taken a massive toll," says Goldfinger. "I feel like my reputation has been tarnished and a lawyer's reputation is certainly very important." In 2018, Goldfinger found himself in a hearing before the before the Law Society Tribunal, bewildered by what he feels are trumped-up allegations of improper and misleading marketing. Among Goldfinger's alleged misdeeds are advertising a special- ization without the LSO's certification and using the term "golden touch," which implied superiority over other lawyers. "Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined when I started my own practice back in 2008 that this would happen," says Goldfinger. "The rules are ambiguous to say the least and they leave room for lots of interpret- ation." While Rule 4.2, or the equivalent rule in other provinces, is worth reading and rereading, Goldfinger cautions junior lawyers to take great care against competing lawyers with a grudge, a law society determined to show it is tough on marketing misdemean- ours and the vagueness of the rules. "The area of advertising remains grey and the law society has been struggling for decades and they've only ramped up the heat now in the past year or so." The rules require that lawyers keep their marketing and advertising in check to ensure, for example, that: past successes are carefully framed, testimonials lack emotional appeals and no offer of second opinions are made. And while I appreciate the honourable intent of 4.2, the rules strike a moderate, and even boring, tone in the consumer marketplace. Clever and economical, Caryma S'ad combats this without breaching the rules by using a series of innovative and captivating digital illustrations to market herself through a fresh medium. "I love art and I think that it has uses beyond its apparent value. I think it is a way people can absorb information," says the second-year Toronto criminal lawyer. "It's a way to reach people in the age of me. You can get information quick and it is easy on the eyes." Beyond digital marketing, S'ad sees the bigger picture in profile building. "Any endeavour has the potential to be a marketing endeavour," she says, citing networking and even her recent bencher candidacy. "I conducted myself in such a way that if it did draw attention to myself or my firm it wouldn't be off-putting," she says of her bencher campaign and pro-Statement of Principles stance. "That wasn't the primary motivation or purpose for running, but anything has that side effect and it has been a boost in terms of getting to talk to people who perhaps didn't have me on their radar." Recognizing that this is a conservative profession that values the tried and true and appreciating that the law evolves over time, it's a challenge to position myself as a fresh and earnest advocate. When a potential client calls, I speculate that they are more likely to hire a battle-scarred lawyer with a proven track record over a freshly minted lawyer like me. S'ad is notably unfazed by the comparison. "I focus on the advantages of being a young lawyer," she says. "Sure, you may not have the wealth of experience at your disposal and certain things might take longer, but especially when you're starting without a client base, you have more attention you can devote to a file." Alex Jeremic, a solo immigration lawyer operating under Anchor Law in Toronto, complements his website — which he calls his "storefront" and which was his most signifi- cant single expense when starting up — with traditional networking. Jeremic's marketing is strategic and moderate given the obvious constraints of a sole practitioner. "I am cautious because, if it leads to more, I wonder if I could accommodate people or whether they would find me and I would have to turn some or many of them down," he says. Jeremic also utilizes a listserv shared among Toronto's immigration lawyers to raise his profile and find contacts. From navigating the rules to positioning oneself as able to work a file to managing client inquiries, marketing for the junior sole practi- tioner is not for the faint-hearted. "The area of advertising remains grey and the law society has been struggling for decades and they've only ramped up the heat now in the past year or so." Ted Flett became a sole practitioner in the fall of 2018, practising employment law, wills and estates and civil litigation. Ted can be reached at ted@tedflettlaw.com or visit www.tedflettlaw. com.

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