The ethics of legal marketing and what words never to use in advertising

Posted by Sharon Bowles on May 3, 2018 9:01:00 AM

In legal marketing

Marketing your personal injury law firm is certainly important for getting the word out that you exist and explaining your services to the public. However, marketing a law firm is very different from marketing other businesses. It is not unusual to see a product or service being advertised that is full of exaggerations and hyperbole, in order to sell themselves. A law firm is simply not permitted to engage in such tactics.

“Rules of Professional Conduct” pertain to the legal realm

Once you became a personal injury attorney, you had to agree to abide by your state’s Rules of Professional Conduct, unless you practice in California where their format is different. These rules are based on the Model Rules of Professional Conduct as set forth by the American Bar Association.

Some of these rules pertain to advertising, and cite specific concerns relating to misleading clients, misrepresenting a firm’s services, and created unrealistic expectations. Therefore, you must be very deliberate about how you market your firm and what words to be very careful about using.

Words never to use when marketing your personal injury firm

To stay in compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct, there are certain words that you should never use in your advertising materials.

  • Guarantee – Never guarantee an outcome. You know that there is no such thing as a guaranteed result from a personal injury claim. You could be 100 percent right about a case and justified in your legal actions and still lose a case.
  • Best – Any word that can be construed as misleading is verboten. How can you claim to be the best personal injury lawyer in the land? How can you substantiate that claim? Using comparative words such as “top,” “most,” “finest,” “matchless,” and “comparable” can all lead to misleading information about your firm.
  • Specialize/Specialist – Do not use the words “specialize” or “specialist” in your advertising. Just because you have devoted your practice to personal injury law, you are not automatically a specialist. Recommended usage is the words “focus” or “focused”.
  • Expert – Like the preceding words “specialize” and “specialist,” the word “expert” is very hard to prove. An expert in the legal realm would be defined as someone who knows everything there is to know about a topic, a claim that would be difficult to substantiate.

Be careful about using some words

There are some words that you can use, but you should use them very carefully.

  • Results The word “results” is a little bit too close to the word “guarantee.” Rather than saying, “We get results!” it would be far better to say something like, “Our firm has a history of favorable results.” That way you are in no way promising a positive outcome to a potential client’s case.
  • Obtain/Get – If you use the words “obtain” and/or “get,” just be careful about how you phrase them. You can say “we always try and get the best results” by your hard work and dedication to your clients, or “we work hard” to obtain just compensation. Stirring up any unrealistic expectations can get you in trouble.

How Group Matrix can help you with the intricacies of legal marketing

Group Matrix has been assisting personal injury lawyers with their marketing strategies since 1977. We know the ins and outs of what is effective and permissible. Give us a call at 1-800-986-6669 and let us help you develop a marketing plan that complies with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

 -By Sharon Bowles