Chapter 2: 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 rules for how they promote themselves, both online and offline.
Bar regulations vary from state to state. When performing SEO activities on a site, attorneys and their agencies should always consult their local bar regulations to ensure adherence to guidelines.
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/Misrepresentations
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:
- Use of superlatives, such as the best, top, most preferred/used, etc.
- Guaranteeing an outcome in a case, with or without qualifications.
- Use of generalities when advertising the geographies in which you are licensed to practice.
Additionally, in many states, even on-site optimization can be affected, making relatively minor turns of phrases can be of great importance. For example, optimizing your site for the word “lawyers” when you are a solo practitioner.
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.
Can Attorneys Call Themselves Specialists?
According to McCabe Law, “It is quite common for attorneys today to identify as “specializing” or “concentrating” in a particular field of law. The comments to the new ABA Model Rules state that a lawyer is “generally permitted” to make such representations, provided that the such statements are not false and misleading.
A statement that a lawyer is “certified” as a specialist in a given field, however, is another matter. Some states provide a process for the “certification” of attorneys who practice in particular fields.”
In general, it’s always best to consult your state bar or the American Bar Association 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 naught if you run afoul of your state bar association.