After spending years in law school studying the law, it’s quite surprising that a good number of lawyers are not very well versed with the marketing ethics set aside by their state’s bar association. Violating these legal marketing ethics has some dire consequences. Not only do you risk losing clients, time and money, but you could also portray your law firm as being unprofessional and unethical.
It’s time to review your law firm website and understand if you are committing any legal marketing ethics violations on your web pages. You’ll be surprised to find out that you’re breaking rules simply because you’re not aware of them. The legal marketing ethics rules differ from state to state, therefore, it is important to find out what applies in your state. States like New York and Florida are known to have very strict rules so keep that in mind as you read the guidelines below.
Below, we’re going to cover the common legal marketing ethics mistakes that you need to watch out for.
Misleading statements and unverifiable claims
When reviewing legal marketing content, we always come across statements that are somewhat misleading or make claims that simply cannot be verified. Some of these statements aren’t even made intentionally or maliciously. Regardless, your law firm may find itself in trouble for such unverifiable claims or misleading statements. This can also undermine your reputation and cause users to view your law firm website as untrustworthy.
A few examples of misleading/false statements that you could be having on your law firm website include:
- We are the best attorneys in New York!
- We win cases
- We are the most preferred New York personal injury lawyers
- If you win, you don’t have to pay us
- We guarantee you that you will win your claim if you provide certain information
You can post content that will beautifully market your law firm but always be sure that you can back all these claims by providing solid evidence. Another mistake that some law firms make is to discuss details of a client’s case without getting his/her approval. It’s never a good idea to promise potential clients that you can for sure win a case or that things will be easy when they work with you. Also, review the statements and claims you make regarding your pay structure and fees.
Claiming to specialize in a practice area without certification
Most lawyers study all state and federal laws and can practice almost any type of law. However, it is wrong to claim that you specialize in one or certain practice areas if you haven’t been officially certified. You may want to optimize your content by using certain keywords and assume that claiming that you specialize in that practice area will give you some traction. Depending on your state, the rules are very strict that prevent you from claiming that you specialize in a practice area or possess special know-how in a field of law.
- Don’t be quick to say that you specialize in a specific practice area unless you have a certification that distinguishes you from other lawyers.
- Stay away from statements on your website such as advising clients that they need to hire a specialist in a specific practice area in order to win the case.
It’s okay to say that you have years of experience in a specific practice area or advising clients to hire a lawyer with a good track record of winning cases in a certain practice area. Just avoid using the term “specialize” if you do not have special training or education in that practice area. It’s however helpful to note that you have experience handling certain cases and won.
Comparing your legal services to other competitors
Don’t be quick to compare yourself with another lawyer or law firms in your area if you don’t have verifiable facts. In most cases, you cannot confirm if you’re better than the competition.
The statements to avoid include:
- We are the best personal injury lawyers in Florida
- We’ve won more cases than “XYZ” law firm in New York
- We cater to our clients more than any other law firm in Florida
- We take cases that other firms in Florida refuse to take
Some states do allow law firm comparison but it’s always a good idea to avoid mentioning your competition especially in your marketing materials. It doesn’t look good for your law firm or brand. It may make you appear petty and unprofessional. Instead, emphasize more on your own accomplishments as a law firm or lawyer.
All states allow law firms to post testimonials on their websites. However, there are some strict restrictions that law firms need to adhere to when posting testimonials from their clients. For a start, if the testimonial contains any misleading claims, false statements or comparisons, don’t publish it on your page as you may be violating certain legal marketing ethics. Also, ensure all testimonials are genuine and keep a record of who wrote them and when they were sent to you. Most importantly, make sure you add a disclaimer on your testimonials page explaining that the testimonials were properly obtained, are true and come from real clients and that you do not guarantee similar case results.
Defying the solicitation rules
Attorneys aren’t allowed to chase after potential clients. There are strict solicitation rules set aside in different states. These rules not only apply on your law firm website but also on other platforms like Facebook. Twitter and LinkedIn. You’re not allowed to send messages to individuals who may need an attorney on Facebook in form of “cold calling”.
Failing to follow basic guidelines for using social media
Having a strong social media presence is beneficial for your law firm. However, make sure you understand the basic guidelines for using social media as an attorney and as a law firm.
A few things to stay away from when using social media include:
- Soliciting clients using real-time messaging such as direct messenger on Facebook.
- Talking about real client cases and people on social media.
- Making false/misleading statements and claims on social media. The content you post on social media should be verifiable.
- Posting inappropriate things, misleading statements and information that can damage the ethical standing of your law firm on social media.
Take time to understand the rules so that you’re able to prevent ethics violations when working on your online marketing strategy. Make a point of ensuring that everyone who is responsible for creating content on your behalf knows the rules and abides by them.