Grand Forks Attorney Yellow Page Advertising Reflects Changing Values and Contracting Marketplace

As I noted in the prior post, I enjoyed studying the attorney section of the Grand Forks yellow pages directory. It says so much about us and our field and really our culture. As noted before, the number of firms rose in the 1980’s and 1990’s and is now falling. The advertising in the yellow pages reflects that trend, but even much more than that.

For instance in the 1960 Northwestern Bell telephone directory for Grand Forks, the attorney section of the yellow pages lists 47 individual attorney names and/or firms (some are duplicates). How many have ads and/or bold listings? Not a single one. In those days, the ethical rules prohibited that form of attorney advertising. It was viewed as “unseemly” for the profession to do that. Well, times change and so to did that value system. The first bold listing of an attorney’s name appeared in the 1978-79 edition with the honors going to Attorney Ted Maragos. The next year (1979-80) 10 attorneys had bold listings plus four in-column ads as well as two display ads. After that it was “off to the races”, culminating in the first full page attorney ad appearing in the 1990-91 edition of the directory with at least one (if not multiple ones) appearing every year since

For those of you who are curious, below are the number of law firms with display ads appearing in the attorney section of yellow pages in the Northwestern Bell telephone directory (and successor books US West and Dex) for Grand Forks. For purposes of this survey, I excluded in-column ads and duplicate ads (i.e. if the firm had two or displays ads in a particular directory (a common practice in more recent directories) they only get counted for one),

1979-80: 2

1984-85: 4

1985-86: 7

1986-87: 12

1987-88: 15

1988-89: 19

1989-90: 17

1990-91: 29

1991-92: 21

1993-94: 31

1996-97: 22

2003-04: 22

2006-07: 16

2010-11: 16

I would say that the number here lines up with the rise and fall of the number of law firms in Grand Forks. I would also speculate that more recent declines probably also reflects the beginning of the end for the old paper phone directory yellow pages as attorneys began spending more on online advertising. As for myself, I advertised with some very impressive larger display ads early in my career but my ad size has declined considerably since then with no discernable decrease in business (probably reflective of my increased referrals and a more established business model). I am now down to just in-column ads which I expect to cut even more over the next couple years as I rely more on referrals, word-of-mouth, and this website. An end of an era will soon be upon us.