Even if you’ve never been skydiving, you can imagine how thrilling it is! On your first jump, you’re strapped to an experienced instructor who does all the important stuff, like forcing you out of the plane against your will, deploying the parachute and steering you to a safe landing. After a couple tandem jumps and a day of on-the-ground training, you can jump solo.
On your first solo jump, two instructors usually jump with you for guidance and support. You waive them off just before you pull your parachute. Then you look up. Make sure the canopy inflates properly and the cables are not tangled. If something goes wrong, there’s nobody there to help and you don’t have a lot of time for solutions. It’s nothing but you, the clear blue sky, and a couple hundred square feet of nylon. Whether you’re a new or experienced jumper, chances are you are relying on a professional parachute rigger to help you get back to Mother Earth safely.
Generating leads for attorneys is not like skydiving, it’s like rigging a parachute. The lawyer buying leads is the skydiver. So while you, as a legal lead generator, may not be under the same scrutiny as the end user, you don’t want to see your end users hit the ground any more than a parachute rigger wants to see the results of a bad rigging.
Here are a few tips to ensure your legal lead generation activities are safe and compliant. But know this: each state bar association has slightly different rules regarding attorney advertising, so before you generate legal leads, check with your own attorney to make sure you are fully compliant with applicable statutes, rules and regulations.
1. Avoid False or Misleading Marketing Messages
This should seem like a no-brainer, but there are countless examples of websites promoting legal services that are obviously misleading. Some websites contain false testimonials. Some ads talk about “our firm” or “our attorneys” even though the ad is run by non-lawyers. Others fail to make required disclosures or omit important information.
To ensure you are not making false or misleading statements, make sure you can substantiate each and every statement in your advertisement (this includes the entire content of all websites and blogs). And remember your role. You’re a marketing professional, not an attorney. Don’t imply that your “WorldsGreatestLawyers.com” website is a law firm (and you’ll want to change your URL).
2. Do Not “Refer” or “Endorse” Attorneys
In most states, attorney referral services must be registered and approved by the state bar association. Most lead generators want to avoid being deemed a referral service–most wouldn’t even qualify. That means your advertisements cannot directly or indirectly endorse or recommend any attorney. Words like “best”, “experienced”, “certified” and “top” all imply an endorsement and should be avoided.
3. Don’t Make Promises
If you are marketing for a single lawyer, you may be able to talk about that particular attorney’s accomplishments as long as you don’t give viewers the impression they can get the same result in similar cases. But you’ll probably be marketing for a broad base of end users. Therefore, do not talk about accomplishments, cases won or funds recovered for clients.
4. Learn to Love Disclosures
Your website or other advertisements should be marked as “Attorney Advertisment” (some states require specific phrasing, so check your local rules before launching a new campaign). It’s also good to mention that lawyers pay a fee to participate in your advertising service. Do not take a fee from the prospects. While you’re at it, reinforce the above rules by stating that you do not endorse or recommend any lawyer or law firm in your area and that you are not a lawyer or law firm. If you are generating leads for a lead aggregator, they should be able to give you exact disclosure language for your marketing materials.
5. Obtain Proper Consent
By now, you’ve heard all about the recent changes to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) requiring prior express written consent from consumers to whom you or the end user call or text. If you are not obtaining proper consent, lawyers who use your leads are at risk for TCPA violations, including class action lawsuits. Think class action attorneys won’t sue a fellow attorney? Think again! And when that happens, guess where the attorney will be looking.
And don’t be fooled into thinking the legal vertical is like other verticals. Companies that have made that assumption have learned an expensive lesson. Attorneys invest several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain the privilege of practicing law, so most attorneys are in it for the long haul. Just like the parachute rigger, you want your end users coming back time after time. If you don’t want to invest the time and energy to do it right, or if you just want to make a quick buck, legal lead gen (or better, legal call generation) isn’t the vertical for you.