Academic journal article Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues

Attorney Ads and Consumer Purchase Intentions: The Effects of Certification Claims and Sex of Source

Academic journal article Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues

Attorney Ads and Consumer Purchase Intentions: The Effects of Certification Claims and Sex of Source

Article excerpt


An experiment was conducted using a mock-up of print advertisements for attorneys. A sample of 309 consumers viewed the ads. The independent variables were attorney certification credentials and attorney sex. The dependent variable was consumer purchase intentions. Results indicated a main effect for certification credentials. That is, the positive wording (board certified) and negative wording (not board certified) of attorney board certification credentials in a print ad significantly influenced subjects' purchase intentions. A significant main effect was also found for the sex of the attorney as subjects indicated greater intentions to patronize the female attorney than the male attorney. Additional analysis of the data based on the sex of the subjects suggested that females were concerned with certification credentials much more when the advertising attorney was male. Implications for public policy and advertising practices are discussed and directions for future research are suggested.

Key Words: Attorney, consumer purchase intentions, advertising, services marketing, sex, board certification.


Consider the following scenario: while at a stop light, your vehicle is rear ended by another driver. Your vehicle is severely damaged and you sustain serious injuries requiring on-going medical treatments. The subsequent police investigation of the accident reveals that the other driver was under the influence of alcohol and had no insurance on his vehicle. Faced with voluminous medical bills and a plethora of legal issues, you consult the local yellow pages in search of an attorney. Among the myriad advertisements for legal services, you notice that some ads feature statements that read, "Not Certified by the State Board of Legal Specialization," while others proclaim, "Certified by the State Board of Legal Specialization." How does such information influence your decision on which attorney to contact? Such a question warrants further investigation because nearly one quarter of states require that certification statements be included when attorneys advertise their specialization.

To consumers searching for legal services, board certification statements in attorney advertisements may be confusing and/or misleading. Because such purchases are often highly involving, consumers of professional services (e.g., legal counsel) have a greater need for purchase decision criteria (Hill, Garner, and Hanna 1992). Yet, consumers typically do not have a well developed set of evaluative criteria for legal services due to purchase infrequency (Hill and Neeley, 1988). In light of possible confusion and an under-developed decision criteria for legal services among consumers, the disclaimer that a lawyer is "Not Board Certified" is thought by some attorneys to adversely influence consumers' purchase intentions (Kilbourne, 1990; Texas Bar Journal, 1998).

Now consider another situation relevant to how consumers may perceive attorneys in their search for legal representation. In your search for legal counsel, you examine a number of advertisements, each of which contains photographs of the attorneys from each firm. The photographs appear quite similar, depicting attorneys in professional attire and posed in an office setting. A difference one may note while perusing the ads is that some of the ad photos depict female attorneys while other photos show male attorneys. From this situation, a key question arises, that is, would the sex of the attorney be an influencing factor among consumers seeking the legal services and if so, how?

This study considers both of the above situations, where attorney certification credentials and attorney sex appear as components of attorney advertising. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to answer the questions, "What are the effects, if any, of advertising certification claims and the sex of the source on consumers' intentions to patronize an attorney? …

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