We have taken our Ethics in Legal Marketing CLE Webinar on tour! If you missed us at the Bucks County Bar Association and the Lehigh County Bar Association, we are taking it to the Ohio State Bar Association next week!
We all know why you need to market yourself and your law firm – to grow your legal practice, put your law firm on the map, and make more money.
Don’t Skirt the Rules
Why ethically? Obviously, because the rules of professional conduct require it – but also because it builds trust with other attorneys, professionals, and the marketplace, and (BONUS) because you can avoid malpractice claims and other headaches.
Legal marketing became permitted in the 1970s (read more on that here) with ethics rules, of course. Today, while still held to a higher ethical standard, attorneys and law firms are allowed to market in print and digital formats.
So, how do you make sure your marketing strategy with your website, social media, blogs, email and direct mail marketing, presentations, media relations, and advertising is not skirting the ethics guidelines?
First, let’s look at your website.
Don’t make representations about your firm that are untrue (ex: referencing a team of attorneys when you are a solo practitioner).
Use real images of your law firm on your website, or stock images that reflect your firm (ex: photo of 12 professionals with arms crossed when your firm is a team of two – you and the most amazing paralegal ever).
Avoid unverifiable facts (ex: Top bankruptcy lawyer in ESQuisite Village).
Now, let’s look at, arguably, the most important part of your website. Your bio. When was the last time you looked at it? Just like the rest of your website, make sure your bio doesn’t:
- Imply future results
- Reference the quality of your legal skill
- Include unverifiable facts
- Exaggerate information
They can be used on your website, social media, advertising, email, and direct mail marketing. How can you be sure your testimonials are not violating the rules of professional conduct?
Video testimonials are best. They are also time-consuming and you need clients willing to participate.
Photo testimonials are great. Again, will your clients be willing to participate? Unlikely. Especially if you are a bankruptcy or criminal lawyer.
Written testimonials are good. And most lawyers are already using written testimonials.
When using written testimonials, CYA and use the client’s full name or initials – it cannot be anonymous. You cannot pay a client for a testimonial, and we advise you don’t incentivize testimonials either (a free book or a gift card). When we work with lawyers and law firms to request testimonials, we advise the lawyer to request they review the testimonial before the client posts it on Google, AVVO, Facebook or other sites. This will ensure the testimonial doesn’t violate ethics rules. When you request testimonials to use on your website or social media, keep a paper trail – especially if you are going to be using intials to “identify” the client.
Now, let’s talk trigger words.
Expert. Certified. Specialist.
Unless you received a designation from a bar association or equally legitimate source, DO NOT USE THOSE WORDS.
YES. Certified as a Specialist in Workers’ Compensation Law by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Section on Workers’ Compensation Law.
NO. Named the Most Expert Attorney Ever by Elite Law Firms Magazine.
YES: Named among the 2022 Super Lawyers…. (with language regarding the award methodology – of course!).
Stay tuned for our next blog talking about ethics in your social media, email marketing, advertising, and direct mail marketing! In the meantime, reach out with any questions.