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Legal Marketing Ethics Pointers

Can I say that in my … ? When is it okay to tout your professional accomplishments? Say, in blog posts or tweets or press releases? And what about in your online bio or Google profile or listing? Or even your business card or law firm name? For this series of posts, we asked ethics expert Will Hornsby to explain some of the stickier issues and rules surrounding marketing legal services—you know, those things you’ve always worried about.

Is Your Business Card Ethical?

We do our best to go paperless, yet one small piece of paper endures: Lawyers still love to use their old-fashioned, paper business cards. They sometimes forget, however, that state ethics rules often apply to this seemingly benign form of information exchange. Today’s business cards include an email address, website, Twitter name, slogan and more, and all of these could have ethics implications. … READ MORE

What’s in a Law Firm Name?

Before you lock down that domain name and start printing your business cards, it’s wise to double check your new law firm name against the ethics rules in your home state. While you would think that the rules governing law firm names would be simple and fairly consistent, think again. There are differences from state to state that could really trip you up … READ MORE

Label Up!

Advertisements, as well as brochures and emails, often seem to be screaming out at even the most sophisticated audience: “Lawyer Advertisement!” “Advertising Material!” Of course lawyers don’t label up because they are concerned people will be confused about whether firm websites are seeking out business. They do it to comply with the state ethics rules. On the one hand, over-labeling may dilute the firm’s message. On the other hand, failing to comply with the ethics rules can lead to disciplinary action. Consequently, there is no substitute for closely reading the rules. Here are some things to watch for. … READ MORE

Can I Say That … In My Bio?

Law firm websites come in all shapes, sizes and colors, but most have a section with lawyers’ biographies—education, bar memberships, awards and, most importantly, a sampling of successful representations. Are you paying attention to the ethical implications of your online bio? Most lawyers are well aware of the basic rules that govern lawyer advertising, but the obligation to maintain confidentiality when listing a lawyer’s accomplishments frequently flies under the radar screen.  … READ MORE

Can I Say That … About My Accolades?

“Congratulations. You have been selected by your peers to be included in the directory of Super-Duper, Bestest, Leadingest Lawyers.” Your firm is delighted to have this competitive advantage and the staff goes to work to publicize your recognition. Of course, the first thing the firm does is buy an ad in the Super-Duper magazine that is distributed to your potential clients, so that your honor is not buried with the honors of the other several thousand Super-Duper lawyers. But before going forward, the grumpy in-house ethics lawyer wants to weigh in. … READ MORE

Can I Say That … About My Specialty?

You’re at a party, introduced to someone as an attorney. What’s the first thing they say? “What do you specialize in?” The problem is that we have special ethics rules governing our use of “specialization.” It’s not likely the ethics police are patrolling the party, but when using the variations of “specialization” in marketing endeavors, we need to be careful. … READ MORE

Will Hornsby has served as Staff Counsel at the American Bar Association for the past 23 years. He writes and speaks extensively on issues of ethics, technology and client development. Follow him @willhornsby and watch his video, “Ignite This! Five Ethics Rules That Should Be Incinerated,” from LexThink 2012.

Note: This material should not be construed as legal advice or the policy of the ABA or any of its constituent entities.

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