Solos & Small Firms

Some solos say advertising in the Yellow Pages is still worth it

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Photo of Kyra Payne by Savero Truglia.

Kyra Payne believes that when people browse through the Chicago Yellowbook in search of a lawyer, they’ll stop when they see her smiling face at the bottom of page 671 and pick up the phone.

“I’ve had people say, ‘I like your picture. You look like someone who will take care of me,’ ” says Payne, a Chicago estate-planning attorney.

Potential clients may not be sold on a friendly photo alone, but Payne still believes the Yellow Pages are a vital marketing tool for longtime solo practitioners such as herself. “I’m kind of a dinosaur,” she says. “I don’t think people are always going to look someone up on the Internet. Sometimes people just want to go old school and pick up the Yellow Pages. That’s why I continue to use them.”

Though about 80 percent of Payne’s business comes through referrals, she says she may get 10 to 15 clients a year through her one-eighth-page advertisement, for which she pays about $500 a month.

Payne has been advertising in the Yellow Pages for more than 20 years. For the kinds of clients she has, whom she describes as “mature,” it works. But like many other lawyers out there, she also has a webpage, albeit a spare one. And that seems to be how many lawyers are going—maintain an ad in the Yellow Pages, but have a presence on the Web.


“Although it may make sense in some cases for a sole practitioner to invest modestly in advertising in the print Yellow Pages as part of an overall marketing plan,” says Ian Bardorf, who runs a marketing consultancy for lawyers in Wellesley, Mass., “in today’s world a sole practitioner should never depend solely on Yellow Page placement as their primary way of advertising or promoting their practice.”

One of Bardorf’s clients is Stephen Morte of Marlborough, Mass., a civil and criminal trial attorney who used to buy full-page ads under multiple headings in the Yellow Pages. “Through the years I have slowly diminished my ad when the Internet became popular,” says Morte, who also has two separate websites to market his services. “Now I have a quarter-page ad just for presence more than anything else. I don’t see that I get any calls from it, but I keep it just in case.”

While many younger clients may favor Internet searches over Yellow Pages, the print directories continue to draw millions of inquiries for attorneys every year, though the number is declining. According to the Association of Directory Publishers, an industry trade group, a 2012 media tracking study found nearly 62 million “look-ups” for attorneys.

Landing clients through phone directories or the Web is simply a matter of cost/benefit.

“Every year I have to justify why I spend $4,000-$5,000 a year,” Payne says. “When I get calls, I usually ask, ‘How did you hear about me?’ It’s either referral or they say, ‘I saw your picture in the Yellow Pages.’ Rarely do I get a caller who says, ‘I saw you on the Internet.’ ”

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