Television, the Internet, and other forms of electronic communication are now among the most powerful media for getting information to the public, particularly persons of low and moderate income; prohibiting television, Internet, and other forms of electronic advertising, therefore, would impede the flow of information about legal services to many sectors of the public.
RPC 7.2 (Comment 3) (2016).
Few professions are as heavily regulated as law when it comes to advertising in the United States. However, attorneys in Washington State have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to advertising in accordance with the applicable ethics rules. See RPC 7.1–7.5. This piece addresses the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) applicable to digital marketing of legal services.
Under the RPC, Washington attorneys are prohibited from the following sorts of advertising:
- advertising that misrepresents either facts or the law (RPC 7.1);
- advertising that makes a true statement that is still misleading (RPC 7.1(2));
- advertising that states a lawyer can reproduce past outcomes in future cases (RPC 7.1(3));
- advertising that compares a lawyer favorably to other lawyers without justification (RPC 7.1(3));
- advertising stating a lawyer can inappropriately influence a government official (RPC 7.1(4) and RPC 8.4(e));
- claims of special certifications without basis and attribution (RPC 7.4); and,
- generally, direct contact with most potential clients to seek employment (RPC 7.3).
Thus, many attorneys feel that they can engage in general television and radio advertisements, a basic website, and little else. When considering the high costs of print, radio, and television advertising, many attorneys forego it all together. Similarly, many avoid it because it appears cheap and schlocky.
However expensive traditional media may be for advertising, there are cost-effective options available to attorneys wishing to seek new ways to bring in potential clients. Inbound content marketing, focusing on informative content that attracts potential litigants or other potential clients, works hand-in-hand with the algorithms that guide Google’s search engine results. As attorneys publish more information on their practice areas, they become more likely to be found via a Google search, now the primary means that consumers search for professionals.