Lawyer Advertising: How to Enhance Your Presence Online
By Nicole Black
The question small firm lawyers should be asking isn’t if you should have an online presence, but where you (and your firm) should be marketing online. The days of relying on yellow page advertising are long gone, thanks to the rapid growth of mobile devices and e-commerce. The most effective lawyer advertising opportunities are found online, and law firms spend lots of money specifically targeting potential clients. But there are vital lawyer online advertising rules you should follow before publishing your next ad.
Below are five tips that will keep you ethical in all your online promotions and advertisements.
Think Before You Post
When you interact online, pause and think before clicking “post.” Always remember that the internet is forever. You can sometimes alienate others without even realizing that you’re doing so—especially in today’s political and social climate. It’s easy to get pulled into a heated debate online that may significantly affect your firm’s reputation. Avoid these situations by pausing for a brief moment and re-reading your post. Determine if it’s potentially offensive, hurtful, or can be interpreted in a way that might reflect poorly on you or your firm. This applies even if you’re posting in a “private” forum or group. The bottom line: always think before you post!
Abide by Your Local Law Firm Rules
You should also understand the specific attorney advertising rules for online advertisements. According to the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Rule 7.3, you can advertise your services, but you cannot solicit them. The main difference is that advertising promotes your law firm generally. For example, creating a broad online social media and SEO marketing strategy.
On the other hand, soliciting means that a targeted ad or sales tactic aim’s toward a specific group or individual who needs your legal services. An example would be consistently sending social media messages or emails to a particular person to promote or “follow-up” on their interest in your service. As long as you follow the ABA’s Rule 7.3, you’re good to promote your law firm’s services.
Retain Copies of all Digital Posts and Print Ads
Your jurisdiction’s lawyer advertising rules may also require you to retain print and digital ads and posts for a specific period. For example, you may need to preserve or maintain copies of your firm’s blog content and social media posts for at least one to three years after publishing. This may also include all online social and web correspondence. As always, this depends on your area’s legal requirements.
Don’t Forget Your Ethics
When you interact online, don’t leave your ethics at the door. If you’d rather not say/do something offline, follow the same moral benchmarks for your online interactions. Before engaging online, thoroughly understand your jurisdiction’s ethical and attorney advertising rules. In general, you can post information promoting your law firm’s awards or accolades from a publication—for example, a “best of” award from your city’s local newspaper.
You can also list your firm’s hourly and fixed pricing rates and memberships for professional associations. Specific identifying details may be required, such as mentioning the name of at least one lawyer in all law firm advertising.
Avoid posts that trigger lawyer advertising rules or other ethical issues. For example, you cannot post testimonials for pending cases, attorney advertising with made-up law firm names or lawyers, or ads with fake legal documents. In addition, trade names may not be allowed in digital ads and social posts. When unsure about a post, err on the side of caution and avoid posting. Better safe than sorry when it comes to your law license.
Pro tip: Always check your local attorney advertising rules in your area for more specific information.
Take Off Your Lawyer Hat
Sometimes lawyers take themselves too seriously. Sure, the work is essential. Yes, lawyer advertising rules and ethical obligations need compliance, but removing your lawyer hat will help you stand out from the crowd when you interact online.
Interact authentically and share a few personal details to be more relatable and memorable. Don’t be all business all the time. Occasionally, share a hobby, talk about your family, or share photos of some of your favorite meals. This will foster a connection with others, and you will likely end up top-of-mind the next time someone needs a lawyer.