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Marketing and Branding Blog | SilkCards

How Lawyer Advertising Ethics Affect Legal Marketing

[fa icon="calendar"] Jun 6, 2017 6:05:00 AM / by Brielle Yang

Brielle Yang

legal advertisingFrom cheesy re-enacted car wrecks to garish in-your-face class action recruitment efforts, there’s no shortage of eye-roll-inducing legal advertising out there.

Sometimes it might seem like you have to plumb the depths to keep up with the competition. To further complicate matters, the stringent ethical code of conduct dictating what you can and can’t say may feel extremely limiting at times.

However, there are plenty of creative ways to attract potential clients that will reflect well on both you and your firm.

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When Did It Become OK for Lawyers to Advertise?

Up until 1977, lawyers were outright forbidden from advertising their services. All that changed with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona. The ruling expanded upon the decision of Virginia State Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, which put forward that advertisements are a form of commercial speech protected by the First Amendment. 

As part of its decision in Bates, the court outlined the following reasons why the previous advertising ban should be considered unconstitutional:

  • Advertising renders legal service more accessible to the general public
  • It is to the customer’s benefit to have access to information provided by advertising
  • The ban placed fledgling firms at an unfair disadvantage when competing with well-established firms for business


Lawyer Advertising Ethics and Rules

When coming up with your advertising strategy, remember to keep these three essential guidelines in mind:

Be Sure to Avoid Language Suggesting Successful Case Outcomes

Guaranteeing the outcome of a case is the ultimate no-no. Given that it’s impossible to ensure a given result, any promises you make you may not be able to keep. Furthermore, what you might consider a successful outcome, your client could argue falls short of expectations.

Be Wary of Dramatizations

Using officials such as police officers and judges is not allowed. Hiring actors to portray lawyers is similarly forbidden. If you’re unsure about the content of your advertisement, just be sure to use a disclaimer.

Be Careful of Language Relating to Fees

You might want to highlight your ability to provide the same services as other firms, but at a lower cost. The problem with discussing fees is that they come in many different forms.

Once again, disclaimers should always be included to eliminate confusion.


How to Succeed at Legal Marketing Within Those Guidelines

Use a natural approach that highlights your unique persona and the pride you take in your work. You should try to sound knowledgeable without using legalese or any overly technical language. If your potential clients hear too many words they don’t understand, they’re likely to shut down and stop listening.

Also, it’s important to remember that it might not be necessary to devote a ton of money to advertising. In our social media-saturated culture, it’s easier than ever to get your name out there.

Whatever your approach, it’s important to communicate that you are approachable, trustworthy, and professional.


What Not to Do: Examples of BAD Lawyer Advertising

“We guarantee shorter sentences.”

“We offer the lowest rates in town.”

“Injured? Make someone pay.”

It can be tempting follow the tacky trends set by contemporaries. Nevertheless, attracting new clients with flashy testimonials and catchy jingles is a dubious prospect at best. If you opt instead to develop a professional image of your firm, it will be well worth the effort, and more likely to pay off in the long run.

Topics: branding

Brielle Yang

Written by Brielle Yang

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