When it comes to marketing your law firm, you need to consider your ethical requirements as a lawyer. Every state bar sets its own marketing ethics and requirements that law firms must follow. However, there are common rules that apply to law firm marketing in every state. Failure to comply with these could affect your standing as a legal professional. How? Let’s take a look.
Common Law Firm Marketing Ethics Requirements
When designing a law firm website or launching an online marketing campaign, attorneys must adhere to a set of Professional Conduct Rules. Some of those rules are simpler to follow than others.
For example, most states require that an attorney’s name must appear on digital marketing material. Also, a copy of the material must remain on the website for a minimum of two years after its publication. Other rules are more complex, and you must take care to avoid any breach, whether accidental or deliberate.
Here are some of the most important digital marketing ethics rules for lawyers to follow, using examples from the Georgia State Bar:
- Make no misleading or false claims about themselves or their legal services. For example, Georgia Bar Rule 7.1a outlines this as follows: “A lawyer may advertise through all forms of public media … so long as the communication is not false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading.”
- Ensure there are no misrepresented or omitted facts in online materials. Again, Georgia Bar Rule 7.1a(1) states: “a communication is false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law or omits a fact.”
- Avoid giving those reading the communication “an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve.” This is in the words of Georgia Bar Rule 7.1a(2).
- Never post anything that “compares the lawyer’s services with other lawyers’ services unless the comparison can be factually substantiated.” Georgia Bar Rule 7.1a(3) lays out this rule.
- There must be disclaimers if there is a statement about no fees or contingent fees. This is in Georgia Bar Rule 7.1a(6).
- In many states, attorneys are also prohibited from stating they are “specialists” in a specific law field. This doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t say they practice in a specific area of law. Georgia Bar Rule 7.4 calls attention to this rule.
Taking great care with online content is vital to guarantee there’s no accidental breach.
How Can Unethical SEO Harm Your Firm’s Reputation?
SEO companies without experience in the legal field and without an understanding of legal SEO ethics can inadvertently harm lawyers and their businesses. For example:
- Presenting false or misleading information – SEO companies may not present information about past cases in a misleading way. Lawyers must never mislead clients about the potential outcome of their cases or present any false information about previous outcomes.
- Stating a specialism – Many state bars will not permit lawyers to say they are specialists in a specific area of law. While lawyers can say they practice in particular fields, they cannot claim a specialism without specific certification to prove it.
- Advertising as the “best” – SEO agencies are naturally working to present their clients in the best light possible. However, most state bars prohibit lawyers from saying they are “the best” in their cities or states.
Misleading comments on blogs, fake tweets or status updates or false client testimonials all violate the ABA Model Rule 7.1. This states that no lawyer must make misleading or false communication about himself or herself or his or her services. Even if you didn’t make the communication yourself, your SEO agency still comes under ABA Model Rule 5.3. This rule states that you will take responsibility for anyone working on your behalf. As you may imagine, if you break the rules regarding ethical marketing, you may be subject to disciplinary action. Employing an agency that specializes in navigating the ethical requirements for legal SEO is essential.
Working with An Experienced SEO Provider
Navigating the ethical landscape of law firm SEO requires special skills and experience. Maintaining compliance despite the complexity of the rules is possible. Choose an ethical SEO services provider with experience in digital marketing for lawyers to ensure your campaign achieves its goals.