The 10 Commandments of Online Advertising

If you’re reading this, I suspect you are already familiar with Groupon, LivingSocial, and woot! – services that promise subscribers “deals of the day” from local businesses.  Admittedly, the discounts are tempting – often 50% off featured services or products.  And if the offer comes from a restaurant, hotel, or retailer, why not take advantage?  It’s all good stuff.  Customers save money and participating businesses can build their brand, find more clients, and “book more revenue.”   No wonder lawyers want to jump on board!  But before you sign on with a deal-of-the-day Web site, know and understand the ethics framework:

From – What hath the Web Wrought? Advertising in the Internet Age

The 10 Commandments of Online Advertising – Material Misrepresentations, Illicit Fee Sharing, Impermissible Referral Fees, Conflicts, and Confidentiality

  1. Stick to the facts:  “Lawyers are generally permitted to pay third parties to communicate information about their services on the Internet as long as the communication does not misrepresent a material fact and is not otherwise materially misleading.”
  2. Give details and do the math:  Accurately describe your proposed services in the online offer and how you calculated the claimed discount.
  3. Specify the jurisdictional limits of your practice.
  4. Explain that your ability to provide the promised services depends on whether or not a conflict of interest exists.
  5. You may not pay others for online recommendations or referrals.  (It is permissible to pay for the actual cost of online advertisements.)
  6. Give no impermissible rewards:  “Offering services on a deal-of-the-day Web site will violate Rule 7.2(a) if a lawyer is compensating the Web site as a reward for having made a recommendation resulting in employment by a client or securing the lawyer’s employment by a client.”
  7. Carefully scrutinize the payment procedure!  If the terms of service require you to pay a fee based on the work derived from the advertising or the number of retained clients, then the payment arrangement violates RPC 5.4.
  8. Paying a fixed fee for “hits” or “clicks” on an ad is permissible, provided the fee:  (a)  is not related to any particular work derived from the online advertising or (b) is not based on an actual referral or retained client.
  9. A lawyer-client relationship exists as soon as the potential client purchases a voucher for your services on the deal-of-the-day Web site.  Run a conflict check at the earliest possible opportunity and be prepared to issue a refund if you cannot undertake representation.
  10. “Even if a lawyer-client relationship is not created, a deal-of-the-day customer ‘who discusses with the lawyer the possibility of forming a client-lawyer relationship’ before or after purchasing a deal is a prospective client who is owed certain duties of confidentiality and loyalty under RPC 1.18.”

Read the full article here.

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis

5 Ways to Increase Your Visibility on the Web

What can you do to increase your visibility among search engines and drive traffic to your Web site? Search engine optimizationIncoming links?  Obviously both help, but the former requires special expertise. The latter involves persuading others, which isn’t always easy.

So how about a solution that is completely within your control and doesn’t require paying for links or hiring a consultant?

Complete Online Profiles

The first stop on your journey should be completing online profiles that point back to your Web site. The most popular free site is LinkedIn.  Others include Avvo, FindLaw, JD Supra, Justia, Lawyers.com, Lawyer Profiles from ConsultWebs, Legal Match, LLRX, Martindale, MyLegal, and Naymz.  A word of caution: know what you’re getting into when you sign up for these services.  Some are free.  Some are not.  Be mindful of advertising and solicitation rules – you may be required to use disclaimers or opt out of certain features entirely (such as lawyer rankings or client testimonials and endorsements). On the plus side, many of these services allow you to share more than just biographical information.  By posting articles, pleadings, forms, and presentations or displaying blog posts and tweets you can take full advantage of your profile. While you’re at it, don’t forget to complete your Google Profile and Google Business Listing.  If others request permission to reproduce or reprint your material, require proper attribution, included a link back to your Web site or blog.

Engage in Social Media

If you haven’t joined social media yet, I hope you do.  It’s fantastic IMHO.  If the King is Facebook, the Queen is Twitter.  I won’t try to reinvent the wheel here.  Instead, visit the Mass LOMAP blog (our law practice management counterparts in Massachusetts). Once there, click in the Search box in the upper left hand corner and enter “Facebook” to find all their great posts on setting up a Facebook business page.  You can also learn a ton from the ABA book, Social Media for LawyersSave some bucks and get it at a discount through the Professional Liability Fund.  From the PLF Web site, select ABA Products.  Once at the ABA Web store, enter the PLF discount code.  Mashable is also a wonderful source for how-tos and breaking news on all things social media.  

Try Social Publishing

Social publishing could easily fall under online profiles or social media, since the whole idea is to set up a profile, then share with others. No matter how you slice it, sites like YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, Scribd, and Docstoc are great places to post photos, videos, PowerPoint presentations, articles, and related content. When your items are published, share them via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.  LLRX also welcomes contributions.

Keep it Free and Local

Are profiles or online listings part of your state or local bar association memberships?  Specialty legal organizations?  Bar sections or committees?  If yes, take advantage! 

Blog!

Obviously you’re a blog reader, or you wouldn’t be here.  But are you blogger?  It takes time and effort, but the best way to raise your visibility is to give search engines what they crave: frequently updated content. That’s what this post is all about – giving you as many avenues as possible to get your material out there.  Tough to do using your Web site, which can be static by comparison.  But a blog fits the bill quite nicely.  You can read more about the process here and compare blogging services here.

Always Keep Ethics in Mind

If you’re not fully informed in the premises, read:

Monitor Your Online Reputation

Now that you’ve jumped in with both feet, you should keep tabs on yourself.  Sound a bit strange?  It won’t if you’ve Googled yourself before.  In addition to the occasional Google, Yahoo!, or Bing, search, sign up to receive alerts whenever your personal and/or business name is used.  Google and Yahoo! both offer Web monitoring services.  Don’t overlook Social Mention, which monitors over 100 social media properties including Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, and YouTube or BoardTracker which searches and tracks threads on forums and message boards.  

Good luck!

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis