Over on Attorney at Work there is an article entitled “Legal Marketing Ethics Pointers” that is a compilation of various posts by Will Hornsby, the ABA’s ethics guru. He basically points out that ethics rules might not be given the consideration they should in today’s Internet and social media marketplace. He covers emails, domain names, slogans and more, including business cards, advertisements and other materials like brochures, biographies and claims of expertise, accolades and specialization.
I commend his various posts to every law firm as a caution against certain practices that could get a firm responding to inquiries from their state bar. Here’s a synopsis of just some of what Hornsby covers in his various posts:
- Business cards. Although one might think this area is pretty mundane, what with just a boring business tool. However there dangers lurking there as some states treat them as a form of advertsing, especially if you put a slogan or a website address like “www.TheBestLawFirminTown.com” on it. Even Illinois requires a disclaimer even if you are a certified specialist in your field. Hornsby includes other issues regarding how you use them, and staff cards;
- Bio content. Special dangers are involved in the use of prior client successes, whether you use the client’s name or not; or whether the representation is public or not. You should always get a client’s consent before using your representation in your marketing materials;
- SuperDuper Law Directory. These directories whether truly “peer review” or not, can cause ethical problems for sure. Some states rules are more restrictive than others (of course), so it is especially important to check yours out. It includes how you can use the “honor” of being selected, and what you can say and how you can say it. I love what Hornsby has to say about this “Strangly, yo may be listed in Super-Duper, but it doesn’t mean you can you are super-duper”; and
- Specialization. Be careful here too, as in telling someone at a cocktail party that you “specialize in” could be a violation of the rules. Obviously, if you are certified specialist in a practice area, that shouldn’t be a problem, but how you say it could be in some others. I’ve always recommended that lawyers say they “focus in” or “concentrate in” a particular practice area, and apparently that isn’t a problem according to Hornsby. But, remember check your state rules.
Some good advice from the true ethics guru.