MIAMI, June 23, 2015 – Do you believe that lawyers in general are trustworthy? Does the thought of the industry itself generate a positive impression? Or more accurately, do they project a business image that dilutes trust?
Think about it — what is your first instinct when you think about a lawyer?
Unless you are in the midst of an important case where your lawyer easily unties the knots of legalese, you may have a less than stellar opinionh, according to recent studies.
This year, the Florida Bar did a study on the public’s perception of lawyers. They found several things:
First, lawyer ads in general have a negative impact on the perception of the state’s judicial system, with 39% saying they have a negative impact and only 6% saying they create a positive impression. The rest said ads had no effect. Apparently, the ads are doing little to help this longstanding perception.
In addition, even award-winning firms are not an exception as viewers generally did not have a positive view. As many as two-thirds of those surveyed — depending on which specific ad they were shown — said they were not likely or not at all likely to recommend the firm doing the advertising even when the award was mentioned. Ouch. Of the public surveyed, only 12% said information in lawyer ads is accurate; 36% had no opinion; and 51 percent are skeptical of information in lawyer ads.
To tackle the socially accepted skepticism of the true motives of lawyers, including the ads they run, I found a hybrid of sorts; a lawyer who stopped being a lawyer and created a business to help them instead. An “ex” lawyer that gives them a good name.
Peter Boyd, the CEO and general guru of Paperstreet Web Design, started his business at his kitchen table, literally. This kitchen table birthed a niche business that bloomed into an award-winning web design firm that now supports the unique needs of lawyers. Considering the recent findings around the impact advertising has on public perception, who better to do this then an ex-lawyer who markets law firms?
Q: How do you change such an ingrained perception?
Boyd: People do not have a good perception of lawyers’ ads or lawyers themselves. Our goal is to change that and give lawyers a good name. The change happens through education and increasing awareness of positive outcomes of law firms. This can be through pro bono work, big wins, community service and simply being good at their profession.
Q: How do you know a lawyer is trustworthy and warrants the rebrand you provide?
Boyd: This is actually an easier issue to solve. First, you can check out discipline statistics. Each lawyer has a rating by a bar organization. For public perception you can check out review websites such as Google, Yelp and Findlaw. There are additional ratings sites like Best Lawyers, US News, Champers, and SuperLawyers too. Further, you should look at the overall internet presence. Not just their own site, but social sites, quality of their posting and reviews.
We actually do this before signing clients. We want to work with clients as partners, lawyers who want to improve not only their website, but their brand.The stronger their overall brand is offline, the stronger it will be online. Basically, if they are a good business in the real world, then they will be a good business to work with in the digital world. It makes our job easier to promote good law firms versus firms who may have issues.
Regardless of his expertise with law firms, starting, running and succeeding in business is no easy task, considering that 44 percent of start-ups fail within the first three years and a whopping 60 percent fail at the six-year mark. Paperstreet Web Design has thrived for well over a decade and has more than 20 awards on design and content excellence. Boyd attributes his tenacity and method to his roots. “My parents raised me to have will power to overcome anything. When you combine will power and passion for what you do, difficulties are easier, says Boyd. ‘Running a business is mostly being a jack-of-all trades, but also having a specialty in one niche. If you have passion, a plan and time to invest, you can start a business at any age.”
Coding since the age of 10, building computers from scratch and pontificating business models since he was a teen, it appears Boyd was a unique recipe in the making, a lawyer turned entrepreneur turned specialized guru, leaving more than a few lawyers pleased.
Q: Regardless of your expertise and track-record of success, it appears changing the current view of lawyers (and law firm) and giving them a good name would be difficult, considering the recent studies on public perception.
Boyd: “When you love what you do, nothing is difficult.”
Peter Boyd is a Florida attorney who practiced in the area of intellectual property law. He has worked on more than 850 website projects since 1996. He can be contacted at