How Lawyer TV Ads Became a Billion Dollar Industry

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If you’ve turned on the television in the last four decades, you’ve seen lawyers ad nauseam. Given their prevalence, it’s hard to imagine that there was a time when legal ads were illegal.

“It used to be unethical to advertise,” Texas attorney Jim Adler said. “The bar could sue you and strip you of your attorney’s license. And that was a crime, too.”

When Adler opened his own business in 1973, he was not allowed to advertise for new clients. But everything changed four years later.

arizona-lawyer-newspaper-ad-1976.jpg
This 1976 Arizona newspaper advertisement for a law firm would lead to a Supreme Court ruling allowing attorneys to advertise their services.

CBS News


In 1977, the landmark case of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona involved a small print ad that a Phoenix company had dared to place in the local newspaper.

This opened the floodgates for a great change in the legal profession.

Lawyers like Adler started running ads:

“I’m better than a mean lawyer – I’m Jim Adler, the tough, smart lawyer!”

It was not a decision Adler took lightly. “Would that be appropriate?” What would my friends say?

Correspondent Conor Knighton asked: “Have you been pushed back by your colleagues?”

“Oh yeah. I was an outcast. People couldn’t believe I was advertising.”

But Adler couldn’t believe how much he work. “It was amazing,” he said. “I went to a channel, and the phone started ringing nonstop.”

Today, Jim Adler & Associates has over 300 employees across Texas. Its advertising budget has also increased. Adler’s “Texas Hammer” commercials are big productions, and he creates versions that air in English and Spanish.

Jim Adler (the “Texas Hammer”) wielding a big, big hammer:


Jim Adler – We Stand Tough 30s (Houston 1) through
Jim Adler and Associates on Youtube

Lawyer Trish Rich works with law firms to ensure their ads meet ethical requirements. “In the United States, television advertising for lawyers is a billion-dollar-a-year industry,” she told Knighton.

She sees the ads as providing a service: “For most Americans who only hire a lawyer once or twice in their lifetime, they often don’t know any lawyers. connecting large numbers of Americans to legal help when they need it.”

Today, you have the choice between many aids.

“Competition for customers has grown increasingly fierce over the years,” Rich said. “And so, that really inspires a lot of lawyers to get more and more flashy with their advertising.”

Bryan Wilson, the “Texas Law Hawk”, was born in 1986, which means he grew up in a world where legal advertising was commonplace. “Jim Adler would be standing on a halfback and he’d have a hammer and he’d break something,” Wilson said. “The more excited he was, the more I liked it. And so, that’s kind of what I was thinking: what if I exaggerated with a video?”

Introducing Bryan Wilson, the “Texas Law Hawk”:


Bryan Wilson, Texas Law Hawk: Commercial 3 through
Bryan Wilson on Youtube

Wilson’s exaggerated advertisements feature jet skis and motorcycles. But the most notable difference with its predecessors? He never paid a penny for a TV commercial; his ads are all online.

Wilson said, “Most of my clients are my age or younger. I usually won’t have someone in their 60s. They usually haven’t seen my videos!”

But millions of people did. Wilson’s ads have gone viral on YouTube.

Knighton asked, “Do people want ‘funny’ in a lawyer?”

“I think they’re going to understand that there are two sides to me,” Wilson replied, “and that’s why I include in my videos at least one segment, usually, where I speak normally.”

All legal advertising, whether online or on-air, must comply with restrictions put in place by each state bar association.

Kentucky attorney Darryl Isaacs of Isaacs & Isaacs appears in this 2018 Super Bowl against Commercial Insurance Company Zombies, with the help of a dragon:


Super Bowl 2018 Commercial Video – Zombies Vs. Dragon and the Hammer through
Isaacs & Isaacs Personal Injury Lawyers on Youtube

The Kentucky Bar handles their Hammer, while the Alabama Bar regulates theirs. There is a bizarre amount of “hammer lawyers”!

Including a second in the same family – Jim AND Bill Adler. “DOUBLE THE HAMMERS, DOUBLE THE JUSTICE!!”


Jim Adler Double Commercial Trouble through
Zervando Zermeno on Youtube

To date, Adler says his company has spent more than $100 million on advertising. That works!

Which means these types of ads aren’t slowing down anytime soon.


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Story produced by David Rothman. Publisher: Remington Korper.

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