Today, I hosted a Total Expert Radio show on attorney obligations to comply with the rules of professional conduct that govern law firm marketing. Our featured guests were two experts on ethics and legal marketing: Will Hornsby and Nancy Roberts Linder.
Hornsby is counsel in the American Bar Association’s Division for Legal Services, chair of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission Hearing Panel, a Cook County arbitrator and an adjunct faculty member of the John Marshall Law School.
Hornsby has written several articles and two books on technology, law firm marketing and legal ethics, and he also teaches a class on the professional responsibility of a technology-based law practice.
Nancy Roberts Linder is the Principal of Nancy Roberts Linder Consulting, a LaGrange, Illinois-based marketing consulting practice for professional service entities, primarily law firms. She consults in a variety of client development and client relationship management areas, including strategic planning, communications development, and attorney skills enhancement.
In addition, Linder has written numerous articles on lawyer marketing; designed and implemented marketing databases; advised on website design, content and usage evaluation; taught HTML to marketing support staff; evaluated marketing-related software for law firm applications; and developed curriculum to teach marketing skills to law students.
Both of my guests gave some great tips and here are a few highlights from today’s show:
- The ethics rules that exist now were written in the 20th century, and many people would argue that they reflect 19th century values, but now we are dealing with 21st century technology, so the ability to apply those rules to current opportunities for client development can create a lot of friction.
- Lawyers who use new technology are ahead of the policymakers, so they need to weigh the benefits of using that new technology with the potential risks that their may be issues or unanswered questions under ethics rules.
- Generally, issues with ethics rules will not arise from the technology itself but instead from the way you use that technology to present messages and market your law practice.
- The ethics game is largely played with semantics, and ethics rules can often rest more on how an attorneys says things rather than what the attorney is trying to say.
- There is some subjectivity in the interpretation of rules, but when lawyers understand what the rules say and how they apply they can learn how to use them to their advantage.
- Ethics rules are very nuanced and can vary widely state-by-state. Attorneys have an obligation to comply with the rules of the states in which they are seeking clients.
- Listen to the full recorded show and learn how to do the following and more: use ethics rules to your advantage; create disclaimers for your website that is seen by people in multiple states; prevent conflicts when potential clients send you unsolicited messages through your website or email; maintain client confidentiality and security when communicating online; and write blog posts that subtly promote your expertise and practice without conflicting with ethics rules regarding advertising and solicitation.