Digital marketing has emerged as an attractive option for promoting law firms. However, owners must be aware of the possibility of ethical issues in online marketing for attorneys. The digital landscape allows lawyers to promote their practice through their own website, social media, paid advertising, and other channels like video-sharing networks. Posting informative content, publishing engaging posts, and creating optimized adverts helps them to get in front of relevant audiences. They hire law firm marketing consultants to create effective campaigns to win new clients. The internet has surely opened new avenues for legal practitioners. However, some professionals knowingly or unknowingly have violated the ethics of promoting a legal business. While in some cases, the line was crossed to win clients in an unfair manner, in others the mistake happened because of the owner’s ignorance. A list of possible breaches of moral-legal marketing principles is being presented here. Attorneys must ensure that they are not guilty of any of these misdemeanors while promoting their practice.
1.Displaying Misleading Information
This is the most common violation that can be committed because of ignorance. Lawyers must make sure that the content posted on all digital platforms must not in any way mislead the audience. Many times the copy created by an advertising professional can be the cause of problems. The text if it conveys information which is factually incorrect and can influence a person’s judgment will be considered as misleading. Even if “attorneys” is used in the text when in fact the firm is run by only a single lawyer, it will be treated as deceptive.
2. Claiming To Be An Expert
Lawyers cannot claim to be experts or specialists in their respective practice areas. The rules os the bar associations of many states explicitly prohibit attorneys from using such terms. This means that professionals cannot use the words in website content, social posts, advertisement copy, etc. Even if a person is considered an authority in her domain, she cannot call her an expert. There are other ways to communicate the fact to the audience. This can be done by showcasing the awards and recognitions won by the individual or the firm.
3. Making Unverified Claims
This is another one of the ethical issues in online marketing for attorneys which can occur because of carelessness. Marketers commonly use qualifiers like “best” to describe the product or service they are promoting. However, adopting the same tactic can cause problems for law firm owners. There is no government authority which rates legal practitioners or firms. This means that no professional can claim to be the “best” in his/her area. Describing someone as the best or the most experienced can be treated as making claims which cannot be verified. Professionals must avoid using such terms at all costs.Unclear
4. Client-attorney Relationship
The internet has made it possible for brands to directly engage with their audiences. However, this convenience can complicate things for legal professionals. Many lawyers use social media to engage potential clients. The channels allow them to project themselves as knowledgeable entities and build a good reputation. However, the boundaries for demarcating a client-attorney relationship cannot be clearly drawn when a client engages in an open conversation on social networks. Lawyers must refrain from answering clients’ queries on social media. In case, communication on such channels is unavoidable, it must be accompanied by a disclaimer.
5. Claiming To Offer Services In An Unauthorized Jurisdiction
Every state in the US and other federally governed territories have their own rules for allowing lawyers to practice in their jurisdiction. In most locations, it is impossible to practice without passing the bar association examination. Some states have reciprocal arrangements meaning that professionals who have cleared the tests in specified states can practice there. Lawyers must claim to offer services in only those areas where they are authorized to.
6. Claiming Wins Without Achieving Them
It will be immoral for lawyers to claim wins when they have not achieved them. Even if they are assured of victory but still have not been awarded a favorable decision by the court, they cannot say that they have won the case. Lawyers must only cite those cases where they have legally received a favorable outcome, to promote their practices.
These are some major ethical issues in online marketing for attorneys which can complicate matters for them. Legal professionals must make sure that their promotional material, as well as website content, does not project them as making baseless and unattested claims.
Sophia Dicosta is a certified Online Marketer and Website designer at Conroy Creative Counsel Ltd., A leading Marketing Agency for Lawyers & law Firms in the USA.