I follow Susan Carter Liebel on Twitter. She’s the creator of Solo Practice University, a website that’s supposed to be “the #1 web-based educational and professional networking community for solo lawyers and law students.”
Yesterday, I noticed she put up the following with a link: “Adam Gee teaches you How To Market To Bikers in his newest class.” Intrigued, I clicked the link. I couldn’t find anything about the content of the course though, so I went to Adam Gee’s page at SPU. There, I saw the following under his syllabus:
Marketing to Bikers: Developing a Motorcycle Practice
* Indirect Marketing Techniques
* Direct Marketing Techniques
* Blogs, social media and books
I think SPU is a great idea, and Adam Gee may be a hell of a lawyer. For all I know, he may even have some serious biker cred. However, what Susan Carter Liebel wrote, along with that little portion of the syllabus on Adam Gee’s page, worried me a little bit.
I’m a biker. I ride ten to twenty thousand miles each year, and I’m very active in a variety of bikers’ groups. I volunteered for MROs and went to swap meets before I started law school. Brown & Little, P.L.C., wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye. My friends are bikers, so I often get to see lawyer advertising not from the perspective of another lawyer, but from the perspective of the target demographic. It isn’t pretty.
Lawyers saturate the biker market. Most lawyer advertising aimed at bikers is not well done. I cringe every time I see a pamphlet showing a couple of guys with neatly-trimmed goatees wearing neatly-pressed leathers as they lean on their spotless, stock Softails. Do they really think they can just add some flames and an angry eagle to their ad and they’ll be ready to take the motorcycle community by storm? Never mind, I know the answer.
Lawyers also start special wings of their firms claiming to offer bikers free breakdown assistance or legal advice regarding discrimination. They give out special cards for bikers to carry in their wallets in case something happens. When there’s discrimination or a stranded biker, you can usually hear the crickets chirping on the phone line. When a biker gets seriously injured by another motorist, however, the lawyers pounce. Good thing the biker joined their card-club; those pesky ethics rules about solicitation are normally a drag. Do lawyers actually think bikers can’t tell the difference between a gimmick and someone who genuinely wants to help? Never mind, I know the answer.
Attorneys finagle their way into every event bikers attend and every product bikers buy. They’re like vultures. They see the promise of riches and throw money at bikers, but most bikers see through their crappy advertising. Bikers know who the outsiders are, and they generally aren’t swayed by a back page ad. Weekend warriors and people who aren’t in a club or an MRO may not notice the lack of authenticity, so the poser biker’s lawyer will probably find himself sitting across a desk from a poser biker in an initial consultation, each pretending they’re the genuine article. I guess that’s okay, but it’s too bad lawyers have to insult the intelligence of a group of good people with ridiculous advertising in order to find a playmate for a session of biker make-believe.
Whether you believe me or not, I’m not complaining about this because bikers are my market. Sure, my firm does market to bikers, but it’s mostly just to the extent necessary to help good causes that need sponsors. We also do get clients from our involvement, but there’s one big difference between that and the way most lawyers market to groups like bikers.
I get biker clients the way I get clients from my family and friends. It isn’t based on some slick ad or some sham club I’ve convinced people to join. When a friend who happens to be a biker knows someone in need of a criminal defense lawyer, they refer that person to me because they know and trust me. Lawyer advertising in the biker market doesn’t take away my slice of the biker pie any more than another lawyer advertising in my mom’s Christmas letter would convince my brother to send a DUI referral elsewhere.
Lawyers study their markets as if the people who compose them are animals. They infiltrate organizations to take their targets’ hard-earned money. Their goal, because of the very nature what they’re doing, is to take more than they give. They aren’t in it to make friends or help a cause at all. And we wonder why we’re hated?
I understand that’s how marketing in general may work for a lot of lawyers, but I wish we had a little more self-respect. This is supposed to be a profession, isn’t it? Lawyers can get some of the low-hanging fruit by exploiting a group of people, but that doesn’t mean they should. It’s embarrassing. Are attorneys so greedy, stupid, and helpless that they need to pay someone else to study insular groups of people and teach them how to make friends with and influence those people? Never mind, I know the answer.
I hope SPU isn’t wasting its time sending freshly-minted solos into meetings to peddle their new biker helpline or hand out pamphlets with lots of flames and skulls, but I honestly have no idea what SPU intends to teach about bikers. If it’s something to make lawyers more effective at handling motorcycle-related cases, more power to SPU. If it’s a superficial study of what most bikers like (hint: a good time, and boobs) and don’t like (hint: authority) intended to show money-grubbing lawyers how to make friends and persuade bikers to hire them, I’ll be disappointed. Please, SPU. Do it right. The biker world doesn’t need any more law firms with mascots.
The only consolation for me in all of this is the fact that attorneys, probably far more so than bikers, are studied as a group and targeted by marketers. What I view as exploitation by us may be more likely to end up being exploitation of us. Most biker marketing isn’t going to send a single biker to a shady lawyer hoping to score a quick buck from a new group of suckers, but the same doesn’t seem to be true of marketing to lawyers. Lawyers looking to exploit bikers are probably going to find themselves getting a dose of their own medicine, medicine that actually seems to work on them. Attorneys will buy anything. That must be why many lawyers think they can get clients with half-baked ideas.