Selling legal services is not like selling widgets.
A bevy of ethical rules and professional restraints limit what lawyers can do and say in marketing their practices.
Some rules – such as the mandatory disclosures required for solicitation letters and prohibitions on touting legal skills in unverifiable ways – are widely known. Others – like the myriad regulations and laws regarding online advertising – are more obscure.
“Most lawyers forget that when we market online, we’re not just acting as lawyers with ethics obligations to clients,” writes attorney Carolyn Elefant. “We’re also operating as ordinary small businesses that are subject to a panoply of laws governing online marketing practices. These rules continue to evolve in breadth and complexity, to address the emergence of new technology tools.”
Elefant is the founder and owner of MyShingle, which for 21 years has been a leading resource for solo and small firms. In a recent post. “Five Online Marketing Red Flags That Can Leave You Red-Faced,” she unearths some important rules you might know little to nothing about.
One example: CAN SPAM laws regarding email marketing.
“Among other things, a commercial email must identify that the content is an ad, include a valid physical address and give recipients an easy way to opt out,” Elefant writes. “A law firm’s failure to comply can trigger substantial penalties and be downright embarrassing…. Virtually all reputable commercial email marketing tools (e.g., Mailchimp, Aweber, etc…) bake CAN SPAM Act compliance into their platforms so if you use one of those tools, you should be safe. If not, check the FTC website for rules on CAN SPAM Act compliance.”
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Online Marketing No-Nos
Here are some other traps to avoid in your online marketing, courtesy of MyShingle:
- Improper Testimonials and Reviews. Examples: posting fake reviews, demanding positive reviews from employees, threatening someone who posts a bad review, and offering certain discounts in exchange for praise.
- Non-compliance with ADA. “Some basics for ADA compliance include using high contrast text and background, alternative text for images, transcripts for audio and video content and making sure the site is both mouse and keyboard accessible,” writes Elefant.
- Copyright Violations: Make sure you have the lawful right to use the images, logos and content that appear on your website.
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