Lawyer Advertising Ethics & Bar Regulations
Attorneys in the United States are bound by a set of regulations that govern how they operate their practice; these are known as bar regulations. These rules govern many activities, but as it relates to marketing, attorneys must follow very specific rules12 for how they promote themselves, both online and offline.
Bar regulations vary from state to state and when performing SEO activities on a site, attorneys and their agencies should always consult their local bar regulations to ensure compliance.
Reviews in Law Firm SEO
Soliciting reviews is one key area where attorneys need to be careful. Many bar associations have rules against directly asking clients for reviews of a law firm. Other associations may be more lenient and allow attorneys to ask for reviews only after clients are no longer working with the firm.
Common Lawyer Marketing Ethics Violations
As we mentioned, each state has its own set of guidelines that lawyers should follow. Here are some of the rules that show up consistently in some shape or form, no matter where you practice law.
Unverifiable Claims or False Statements
As it relates to advertising, making claims that are difficult or impossible to substantiate will be restricted by bar associations.
Some of the following are common phrases or characterizations that fit into this category:
- The best in, at, or with.
- Guaranteeing an outcome in a case, with or without qualifications.
- The most preferred or used law firm in a geographic area.
Basically, any time an attorney makes a broad or sweeping statement that cannot be backed up by hard evidence, there is a good chance a state bar association won’t allow it to be used in advertising.
Making Comparisons with Other Law Firms
It’s common in the traditional world of marketing and advertising to see comparisons drawn among products and services. After all, companies are constantly trying to one-up each other to gain market share.
For lawyers though, that kind of language in marketing is frowned upon. For example, saying you’ve won more cases than such-and-such firm or saying that you spend more time with clients than your competitor is language you simply cannot have in your marketing.
Testimonials from Clients
Testimonials are allowed in all states. However, there are some important caveats to this for lawyers. Some bar associations, for example, do not allow attorneys to directly solicit their clients for reviews, a restriction that encompasses testimonials.
Others allow them, but with stipulations: the reviews must be real, must not guarantee similar results, and may not be acquired by providing compensation of any kind to the client. This could be in the form of monetary compensation or otherwise (i.e., gift cards, concert tickets, or other gifts).
Many state bar associations have become more lenient on law firms when it comes to online advertising, because many aspects of online marketing strategies can happen naturally without a law firm’s influence. For instance, people can leave reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook regardless of whether an attorney asked them to do so.
It’s always best to consult your state bar whenever you or your agency are planning a new campaign.
Chapter ROI by Chris Dreyer, CEO of Rankings.io
Play by the rules and do your due diligence before publishing. SEO is a powerful driver of leads, but the hard work that you put into it will be for nothing if you run afoul of your state bar association.