Clio’s blog post is handy, but the Don’ts section should start with a directive to lawyers to “check the legal marketing rules applicable in your jurisdiction.” I can’t tell you how many times I see lawyers and law firms who breach the rules. This is usually because the marketing companies they have hired haven’t got a clue that said rules exist and must be followed. If they did, they would not create website title tags like “Best Personal Injury Lawyers in Vancouver B.C. – [law firm will remain nameless],” and they would stop creating AdWords campaigns describing lawyers as experts and specialists in a given practice area.
Digital marketing professionals are hired to design ads that will capture typical search terms used by potential clients. If a consumer is looking for legal counsel, of course, they want “the best”, “the expert” or “the specialist”, and their search queries are likely to be framed along the lines of “best family lawyer [place name]” or “expert criminal lawyer” or “M&A specialist.” Hence, the rise of verboten terms in legal search and display ads as well as in website title tags and meta data. Marketers are trying to match search queries to their ads usually without realizing there are often marketing rules in place that govern professional service providers and that breaching these rules can have serious consequences.
If you are a Canadian lawyer reading this, you can find your legal marketing rules on your provincial law society website (they are usually with the professional code of conduct materials). While it’s quite true that Canadian law societies have not been vigilant about enforcing these rules, they are rules nonetheless that lawyers are professionally obligated to follow and if your marketing company is oblivious, you may be inadvertently breaching them.
Every jurisdiction has its own social media rules, but there are some broad similarities: In the U.S., most states’ rules align with the ABA’s model rules of professional conduct. In the U.K. and Europe, advice on social media from the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) and the Law Society of England & Wales also broadly aligns with what the ABA says.