Need a lawyer? Then you might want to try a restaurant in Little India, in the east end of Toronto.
For the past month, the Lahore Tikka House's customers have received bills that end with a small ad for Azam Murji, a high-profile criminal lawyer in the South Asian community.
For Mr. Murji, it's a great way to target clients in that community. "You want to be creative when getting the message out to the potential clientele," he says. "Nowadays, it's really about being efficient in targeted marketing."
Advertising in the legal community has evolved considerably since 1987, when the Law Society of Upper Canada allowed lawyers to start marketing their services.
It used to be that lawyers would just place an ad in the Yellow Pages. No longer. Lawyers are increasingly opting for other ways to spread their name among potential customers. They're accepting speaking engagements, appearing as guests on call-in radio shows and sponsoring tournaments.
"Law is just like any other business, that's why many choose to advertise," said Russ Howe, president of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association.
In Mr. Murji's case, the idea of having his name printed on the bottom of bills came from the restaurant's owner, Alnoor Fayani, as a favour to his long-time friend. "There are a lot of people in my community who don't know where to go when they need a lawyer," said Mr. Fayani, adding that his restaurant doesn't charge Mr. Murji for the ad.
"He has already defended clients for free, so I want my customers to know they can trust him," said Mr. Fayani, who insists that promoting Mr. Murji's practice is not advertising, but rather a way to serve his community.
Mr. Murji hasn't kept tabs on the effectiveness of his marketing campaign, but noted "the restaurant caters to about 500 people in a given day."
The sprawling immigrant market has been a gold mine for lawyers. From 1991 to 2001, the number of South Asians, for example, has nearly doubled, with more than half living in the Toronto area, according to a 2003 report by Statistics Canada.
And as competition among immigration lawyers has grown stiffer in recent years, many firms have stepped up their efforts to reach out to them.
"Immigration lawyers have to do more to distinguish themselves in the eyes of the clientele," said Janet Bomza, chair of the Ontario Bar Association's immigration section.
Ms. Bomza's firm has sponsored a golf tournament. She has considered the possibility of sponsoring South Asian festivities and film festivals. "You never know what will work," she said.
Advertising has paid off for Ms. Bomza. About a year ago, an American investor interested in immigrating to Canada called her firm after seeing its ad in a magazine while at an Indian restaurant in California.
Likewise, Max Berger, an immigration lawyer who has dealt with Somali refugee cases, has diversified his ad campaign. An occasional guest speaker on a Tamil radio station, Mr. Berger has sponsored several ethnic sports events, among them this week's soccer tournament in the Somali community.
"There's nothing creative about this," Mr. Berger said.
While the Law Society of Upper Canada places no restrictions on where lawyers can promote their services, it requires the ads to be tasteful.
"I think that taste or bad taste is a very subjective thing," Mr. Murji said. "If it's done in a way that commands respect, it gets the attention of potential consumers."