Will the “Hamon” law change lawyers’ methods of communication? It is not sure.
The “Hamon” law decree on Consumption, opening up access to advertising and commercial canvassing for lawyers, has finally been published in the “Journal Officiel”. Coincidence: since October 1st, the National Council of Bars has promoted the 60 000 French lawyers actions through ads in the national and regional press as well as spots on radios (RTL, Europe1 and France Inter).
This large-scale campaign, which slogan is “You, your rights, your lawyer”, is not the first collective defence organized by the profession. However, on the basis of the new rights that the “Hamon” law has conferred them, will this advertising campaign be followed by a new trend initiated by the law firms for their own account?
Probably not and very fortunately. If we are preserved from falling into American extremes regarding law firms communications (e.g. noisy spots for Civilian lawyers in particular), it is firstly because the profession itself, though Pierre Chatel, President of the “Commission de déontologie de la conférence des bâtonniers” (Bar Chairpersons Ethic Commission) who wished, in March, 2014, a strict ethical framing of the new advertising practices. October 29th decree satisfied his desire: it specifies that these advertisements and commercial canvassing will be allowed if they display truthful information about the nature of the proposed services and if their implementation is consistent with the essential principles of the profession. They exclude any comparative or denigrating element.
It is also because law firms have neither interest in, nor desire to communicate like big brands of soda do. If the profession needs, to a certain extent, an advertising campaign on national TV or Radio channels in the context of the preparation of the future law, such initiative wouldn’t be justified for law firms. It may certainly be insufficient and even ineffective to claim qualities such as credibility, expertise, “custom-made” advice and professionalism … Its financial cost would also be disproportionate for law firms with regards to the targets to be reached and almost all law firms’ financial means. The implementation of such campaigns would therefore not be cost- effective.
On the other hand, it is undeniable that the methods of big Anglo-Saxon law firms, and their increasing presence on the French market, urge inexorably their national competitors to structure strategies of “corporate” communication in order to claim their identity and their “share of voice” on this mature market.
The big names of the Law sector did not wait the “Hamon” law to develop communication plans, to do a thorough work on theirs brand positioning and to take initiatives to strengthen their visibility and their credibility, through OpEds in the media, interventions during professional events, attending “think tanks” meetings, in France and abroad, or through advertisings published in university directories.
Gradually they have also used social networks and published newsletters or videos on their web sites. The top firms even implemented sponsorship operations or invited their clients to top of the range exhibitions (FIAC, Opera, the “Cercle Louvre Entreprises”, classical music festival, sporting events etc.).
The challenge today is to apply these methods smaller law firms that will also need to strengthen their visibility with affordable and long-term actions.
Within a more and more competitive market – the number of lawyers has increased by almost 40 % in 10 years – it is essential to promote the unique character of a law firm and of its collaborators. Building a positive and transverse corporate image increases the reasons for being chosen by future clients and collaborators. Still it is necessary to choose the most relevant means in terms of efficiency and cost.