As is with any business, attracting new customers is an integral part of growing any law firm. However, it’s important to follow some basic ground rules to ensure you don’t get yourself on the wrong side of the law.
There’s no question that technology has changed legal advertising and marketing in a major way. Not long ago, plastering partner attorney faces on giant billboards, TV commercials and in print media was the only way to get your firm’s name out there. While there’s still a place for such traditional advertising in the modern world, nowadays all you need is an internet-connected device to market your business internationally. Social media and marketing content marketing have taken the world by storm, and most lawyers have taken advantage of these powerful tools to connect with potential clients.
Before using your preferred advertising strategy, it’s important to note the rules and regulations that govern lawyer advertisements and follow them to the letter.
In this article, we’ll cover a few important rules and regulations that you need to abide by. That said, you should also familiarize yourself with the specific laws governing your particular jurisdiction.
Rule #1: Never say you’re an “expert” (even if you are)
In this industry, it’s common to come across lawyers who oversell themselves. As a general rule, you should avoid calling yourself an expert unless you have the certification to prove your credentials. A lawyer should avoid calling themselves a specialist in a particular practice unless they have received certification in that particular area.
In California, for example, for you to be considered an expert in a particular area, you should have practiced law for a set number of years, with a portion of that being dedicated to practicing in your specialty case type.
Rule #2: Avoid making intentionally misleading or false statements
When conducting legal advertising, you should not provide false information such as lying outright or enticing clients to sign up for your services by providing false statements regarding the fees you charge and the services you offer.
Even if you have the figures to back this up, using superlatives such as “the best” or “the most affordable” can be construed as providing false information, which can get you in trouble with your local bar association or the American Bar Association (ABA). Instead, you should provide useful information to potential clients. For example, you could state that you provide a free consultation if this is true.
Moreover, you could be found guilty of breaking advertising rules if you provide information that’s accurate but you leave out information that makes a statement inaccurate. For example, if you state that you provide free consultation, but you limit this free consult to 5 minutes and charge a client for the remainder of the time, that’s interpreted as providing false information.
Rule #3: Identify whether you need an office address
Nowadays, it’s possible to conduct business entirely online thanks to cloud-based technology. If you run a legal practice online, it can help to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations pertaining to lawyer advertising rules in your particular jurisdiction.
In Florida, for example, you need to have a physical location in the same place if you want to advertise your legal services.
Rule #4: Solicit testimonials the right way
Testimonials are arguably one of the most powerful methods of advertising. When done correctly, testimonials have the potential of bringing in more business. However, it’s important to abide by the rules and regulations.
For example, it’s unethical to pay for positive testimonials on your website. Instead, you should only request past clients to write a testimonial which they should do on their own accord without you providing any monetary incentive or otherwise.
Rule #5: Don’t solicit your services directly
There’s a thin line between advertising your services (which are allowed by the ABA) and unethically soliciting for services. These 2 methods are used to retain existing customers or reach a new client base. However, they differ in how they work.
Attorney advertising is used to communicate the services that are provided by a lawyer, while attorney soliciting is a form of advertising that’s targeted at a particular group which can be against bar rules.
Rule #6: Keep copies of the advertisements
Different jurisdictions have different rules governing how long you should keep copies of the advertisements. In the state of New York, for example, you’re required to keep copies for 3 years from the moment the advertisement went live and copies of ads on the computer for an additional year.
If you’re a lawyer who wants to keep up with the competition or even perform better, then it’s time to embrace digital advertising. Before you do though, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the strict rules governing advertising to avoid breaking them unknowingly.
By following the set code of conduct regarding legal advertising rules, you’ll be setting your business for takeoff by attracting new clients in an ethical way that won’t draw the ire of your bar association.