There’s this thing called Attorney At Law Magazine here in Arizona. It’s a fairly slick-looking magazine I get regularly despite never having subscribed. I just got one last week, in fact. Looking around a bit, I actually realized there are things called Attorney At Law Magazine in a whole bunch of places (like California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Virginia). What’s going on?
Attorney At Law Magazine isn’t really a magazine in what I’d consider the traditional sense at all. The lawyers’ “articles” there are hardly Pulitzer Prize material; they basically make it look like the magazine just keeps realizing how awesome various rotating superstar lawyers with sexy pictures are and decides to report their awesomeness as news. Can you guess what the qualifications for joining the magazine’s elite ranks are? Paying them. It’s marketing, plain and simple.
I know it for a fact because they approached me. An incredibly nice guy with Target Market Media Publications contacted me about doing a “feature” in his magazine. He lavished me with praise. He actually read my blog, more than any person I’ve ever interviewed for a job had, in fact. He talked about my unique voice (obviously he’s a real connoisseur of blawgs), the quality of my writing (he must love run-on sentences, commas, and prepositions at the end of sentences, also sharing in my confusion when it comes to semicolons and parenthesis and hyphens), and my reputation (what the hell? no one knows who I am except for the fifty people at the county attorney who compulsively read the one super-mean post I wrote about them). He sure did butter me up.
Only at the very end did he finally tell me that I might need to pay for the opportunity to appear in his magazine. If it cost me twenty bucks a week just to have him come into my office and tell me how swell I am again, I’d probably be a paying customer. I need a cheer-up now and again, after all. When I got the price breakdown, though, my reaction was amazement that attorneys pay so much to make it look like someone else is writing about them out of the goodness of their own heart.
A brief look through the company’s website did help to put things in perspective. The perspective isn’t so great though:
With all the possibilities open to a trade magazine, why did Attorney at Law Magazine® select the legal field? The answer is simple: It is the recession-proof profession. In good times or bad, attorneys are working hard and billing out their hours. It is the one profession that is not easily affected by the ups and downs of the market.
Man are there going to be a lot of embarrassed people at Above the Law when they realize law is the recession-proof profession. Or maybe not.
Maybe it isn’t that it’s recession proof for us because we work so hard and bill out our hours unaffected by the market but that it’s recession proof for marketers because we’ll pour every last cent we have into whatever new thing comes along because we’re a special mix of greedy, desperate, and just solvent or credit-worthy enough to sink what little we have into something someone charismatic tells us will make us achieve what we all know we deserve because our parents praised us too much. I can imagine that many a Ponzi scheme and plenty of others investment scams are pretty recession proof as well, though I’d hardly say finance is the recession-proof profession.
I often wish the bar would quit protecting the public from lawyers for a second and think about stopping parasites from leeching money from its members, but I can’t really fault the people at Attorney At Law Magazine for doing what they do. They’re great sales people, or at least the guy I met was, and the same State Bar, the one that regulates me and every other lawyer in Arizona, does more or less the same thing every time some associate somewhere in the state switches firms or moves up in the world and gets a nice little photo in the back of the bar’s magazine. I don’t know if those firms pay for it, but I imagine they do. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Attorney At Law Magazine isn’t doing anything that bad, but it isn’t doing the bar as a whole or its reputation any favors. It’s just another business making money off of lawyers and hopefully finding a few deserving ones willing to shell out a pile of cash for a story about them with the promise it will bring in a few more clients. More than anything, it’s a sign that the door that’s closing on lawyers in this economy is just as much a window opening for marketers selling expensive hope. If you disagree with me, please re-read that quote above, compare it to what most real lawyers in this economy have experienced, and tell me I’m wrong.
I thought one of my high school science teachers was onto something when he told me I should wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which on fills up first, but maybe he was wrong. If you’re selling wishes to lawyers, there’s a good chance you ‘ll be wildly successful no matter how stupid your idea is. Sadly, what the lawyers are getting may not be much better than what’s in the other hand.