Marketing Ethics for Law Firms - A Quick Guide
The legal profession is one that is heavily concerned with ethics and moral matters. In fact, such things are part and parcel of a lawyer’s typical day, be they a criminal lawyer, commercial lawyer, family lawyer or any other type. Legal professionals therefore have to exhibit high ethical standards in everything they do, and that includes their marketing practices.
The idea of commercial lawyer marketing might feel “grubby” to one of these well-established Sydney or Melbourne firms with dark-wood panelled offices with high book shelves and founders who died in the 19th century, but it’s a reality in the modern legal sector. Below are some key things to remember when it comes to ethical legal marketing.
Always Respect Client Wishes
Law firms are free to use the many marketing channels open to both them and other businesses, but there are additional expectations of compliance and respect that people seem to demand from law firms than regular businesses. They may expect, for instance, to still be pestered by certain spam even after they’ve unsubscribed from a mailing list. So much spam we get comes to us so circuitously that it’s hard to really get to the bottom of where it originates.
When it comes to emails from a law firm, however, there’s more an expectation that unsubscribing or opting out of marketing emails means that the law firm will respect your wishes. People choose law firms primarily based on the firm’s reputation, and more importantly the perception of public trust toward that company. If you won’t even respect an email opt-out, what else won’t you respect?
Steer Well Clear of Misleading Claims
The world of marketing is full of false claims, most of which we tend to put down to pure hyperbole. When a local restaurant claims to have the best pizza in Melbourne, or the best beer in Sydney, we brush it aside and read between the lines. However, the same leeway is not afforded to law firms. There is a stronger degree of precision and accuracy demanded when it comes to claims made by law firms, which shouldn’t be surprising given that so many causes and resolutions of legal disputes are traced to choice of language.
So, when marketing a law firm, it’s important therefore to steer clear of unverifiable or unsubstantiated claims such as having the “most talented” lawyers in the area, or being “the most successful practice” in the area. Any claim that you make has to be backed up, so if you were claiming to be the most successful, you’d need numbers on victories vs. defeats, for example, compared to local firms or at least to a state-wide average.
Avoid the Creation of Unrealistic Expectations
If you have a target audience that you’re speaking with, and they end up thinking that as long as they work with you on an injury claims case, for example, they’ll definitely win a settlement in the millions of dollars, then you are not marketing ethically. Causing clients to have unrealistic expectations on the outcome of their cases, whatever they’re about, is a deeply unethical practice, even if you temper it with words like “maybe” and “possibly.”
Law firms have a duty to maintain total clarity and transparency on not just outlandishly possible outcomes of cases, but the most likely outcomes. Not making huge claims (see above), and only running verifiable and/or reasonable testimonials are good ways to avoid this issue.
Work with a Professional Law Marketing Provider
Sometimes, it takes an expert and impartial eye to help law firms stay on the right side of marketing ethics. Instead of stressing over how to keep your own marketing ethical, bring in outside help to assist in building and auditing your marketing strategies and content.