Is Your LinkedIn Profile Violating Attorney Advertising Rules? Depends.

Linkedin Logo NeonThe vast majority of lawyers have a LinkedIn page. Or if they don’t, their marketing department will make them create one eventually. Some use LinkedIn to build their profile and network, others to promote success, articles and speaking engagements. But is a LinkedIn page lawyer advertising and, if so, what must lawyers do to be sure they are on the right side of the Rules of Professional Conduct?

Rules 7.1 to 7.5 of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct govern lawyer advertising and solicitation. Some states, like New York, provide very detailed rules about what an advertisement may or may not include (or what it must include), how long it should be retained, etc.  In fact, whereas Mass. R. Prof. C. 7.1 contains only two sentences, its New York counterpart is more than three pages long.

Because of the more specific requirements in New York, an important issue for lawyers there (and other states with similarly detailed attorney advertising rules) is whether their individual profile on LinkedIn constitutes attorney advertising. If it is advertising, the attorney would have to comply with requirements like labeling the content “Attorney Advertising” and preserving a copy (of each iteration) for at least one year.

Last month, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York Committee on Professional Ethics issued a formal opinion that stated that a LinkedIn profile does not constitute attorney advertising unless it meets each of five criteria:

  • It is a communication made by or on behalf of the lawyer;
  • The primary purpose of the LinkedIn content is to attract new clients to retain the lawyer for pecuniary gain;
  • The LinkedIn content relates to the legal services offered by the lawyer;
  • The LinkedIn content is intended to be viewed by potential new clients; and
  • The LinkedIn content does not fall within any recognized exception to the definition of attorney advertising. Formal Opinion 2015-7.

The NYC Committee report noted that it had come to a different conclusion that the Professional Ethics Committee of the New York County Lawyer’s Association (“NYCLA”), which had concluded in March 2015 that “[a] LinkedIn profile that contains only one’s education and current and past employment does not constitute Attorney Advertising[, but] [i]f an attorney chooses to include information such as practice areas, skills, endorsements, or recommendations, the attorney must treat his or her LinkedIn profile as attorney advertising and include appropriate disclaimers pursuant to Rule 7.1.”NYCLA Ethics Op. 748 (2015).

For practitioners in Massachusetts, the New York debate may be academic. There is no question that Massachusetts lawyers may advertise on the internet. See Mass. R. Prof. C. 7.2(a) (“Subject to the requirements of Rules 7.1 and 7.3, a lawyer may advertise services through written, recorded or electronic communication, including public media.”). And, even if an attorney’s LinkedIn profile were considered to be “advertising” in Massachusetts, the only requirement that the lawyer must comply with is the same requirement that runs through all of the Rules of Professional Conduct: honesty. See Mass. R. Prof. C. 7.1 (“A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.”). But this, of course, is the norm in all facets of legal practice. See, e.g., Mass. R. Prof. C. Preamble, 2.1, 3.3, 3.9, 4.1, 8.2, 8.4.

Thus, at least here in the Commonwealth, a lawyer who scrupulously insures that his or her LinkedIn profile is truthful and not at all false or misleading – including with respect to statements that the attorney is a “specialist” or “certified” in a particular field of law, see Mass. R. Prof. C. 7.4 – is within the bounds of our governing Rules.

© 2016 SHERIN AND LODGEN LLP

Legal Marketing Stats Lawyers Need to Know

Using market trends to inform your law firm marketing efforts is a must for solos and small firms that have limited budgets and resources to market their firms.

Google recently aggregated research from FindLaw and its own inhouse data to provide a look at the legal market trends that should shape your legal marketing initiatives:

74% of prospects beginning a search online end up contacting the office via phone. (FindLaw U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey 2014)

87% of people who contact an attorney go on to hire an attorney and 72% of them only contact one attorney. (FindLaw U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey 2014)

96% of people seeking legal advice use a search engine. (Google Consumer Survey, Nov 2013)

38% of people use the Internet to find an attorney. (FindLaw U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey 2014)

62% of legal searches are non-branded (i.e., generic: “Phoenix divorce attorney,” etc.). (FindLaw U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey 2014)

74% of consumers visit a law firm’s website to take action. (Google Legal Services Study Sept 2013)

25% of people researching legal topics visit YouTube during the process. (YouTube Internal Data 2012)

85% use online maps to find legal service locations. (Google Legal Services Study Sept 2013)

69% use both a smartphone and a PC for research. (Google Legal Services Study Sept 2013)

31% of all law firm related website traffic comes through mobile search (FindLaw Aggregated Hosted Site Data 2014)

71% of people looking for lawyer think it is important to have a local attorney. (FindLaw U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey 2014)

So what do you need to do to convert leads based on these facts? Here are a few action steps:

Provide multiple contact options — phone, email, online chat, etc.

Provide a mobile-friendly version of your website.

Have an intake system that allows consumers to reach your firm on the first call and intake specialists trained to convert consumers into clients.

Concentrate on local SEO to ensure your website shows up well in local search.

© The Rainmaker Institute, All Rights Reserved

Three Steps to Leverage LinkedIn for Your Law Firm

I have yet to find an attorney who could not benefit from having their profile on LinkedIn. It’s the number one online network for white-collar professionals.

Whether you want to connect with non-competing attorneys, non-legal professionals, or potential clients, the demographics on LinkedIn speak for themselves:

  • The average age range of a LinkedIn user is 30 to 49

  • 44% of LinkedIn users report an annual income of more than $100,000

  • 50% of members have a college degree

  • 28% have a graduate degree

LinkedIn members are highly educated and affluent. Is this a demographic you would like to reach? For most attorneys, the answer is obvious.

The first step to using LinkedIn is to create a comprehensive profile. Use your entire bio in your profile and be sure to include your keywords in it. In other words, use the exact keywords that you believe prospects or potential referral sources would use to find an attorney with your skill sets.

For example, if you are a business attorney in Omaha it might sound like this:

“John Doe is a Omaha business attorney who works with small business owners and CEOs of mid-sized companies to create comprehensive operating agreements, buy-sell agreements and employment agreements. His Omaha business clients appreciate the fact that John is an attorney who has a strong business background, having owned and operated two different companies, including a high tech company with 25 employees.”

Next, go to the See Who You Already Know on LinkedIn page and import your email contact list. This makes it super simple to connect with people you already know who are also on LinkedIn. In addition, based on your contacts, LinkedIn will suggest relevant contacts for you to connect with on the site.

Then search LinkedIn Groups and join those where your clients and prospects are. Create content — blog posts, free reports, articles, etc. — that will attract their attention. You can also start your own group and invite contacts to join.

The key to utilizing LinkedIn effectively is to be involved and be consistent. You need to commit to investing at least 30-45 minutes every week to log in, post an update or a link to your blog, reach out to your contacts, answer any questions that are sent to you, and make yourself visible. Simply setting up a profile on LinkedIn will not lead to more referrals any more than a having a business card will automatically get you new business.

© The Rainmaker Institute, All Rights Reserved

LinkedIn For Lawyers: The Publishing Tool

Jaffe

There is no question that LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool that can potentially turn online connections into real-world clients. That won’t happen overnight, however, and those efforts will only thrive with proper care, maintenance and pruning.

Writing Your LinkedIn Profile

Most likely you already have a basic profile, but one of the biggest obstacles lawyers face is distinguishing themselves online. Bios sound the same from one attorney to the next, and, while they might showcase a long list of achievements, they often don’t say much about the person and how he or she is a problem solver. It’s important to remember that your profile is your front door to the world. Spruce it up, and lay out the welcome mat.

Need some tips when writing your LinkedIn profile? To reach influencers, gain a following and develop a reputation as someone “in the know,” use actionable language, and try to be more lively and specific. Identifying clearly how you provide a solution will make it infinitely easier for potential clients to understand what you do and why you are the perfect fit for their job. If you think revising your online profile will easily drop to the bottom of your “to do” list, schedule it on your calendar.

Blogging on LinkedIn

With a progressive profile in place, you’re now ready to harness the power of LinkedIn. In addition to providing opportunities for connecting with colleagues, friends, and potential prospects; joining groups; and posting, LinkedIn has recently unveiled a new publishing platform. It was designed to provide users with a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use, blogging tool. For those who work at law firms that do not have blogging resources, or if you want to prove the viability of a blog before adding it to your law firm website, using LinkedIn publishing is a good option.

To help you use the blogging platform, LinkedIn provides a built-in template that comes up when you click on the orange “Publish a post” icon at your home screen. From there, it is easy to add a photo, draft an engaging headline, drop in the text and click Publish.

Blog posting through LinkedIn allows you to share quality content on a regular basis with a built-in audience and group of followers. You can share posts with specific groups or individual connections. Another bonus of the LinkedIn blogging tool is that the pages encourage two-way conversation and discussion. Each post is equipped with social-sharing buttons, so it’s easy for other users to share, like, repost and retweet across all social networking platforms. Unlike cumbersome email campaigns or formal alerts, you can easily point and click your way to becoming a thought-leader on specific topic. And, the tool catalogs all your posts in one area for easy reference.

LinkedIn Blogging Best Practices

Successful bloggers publish at least twice a month, and more frequently to accommodate new developments or interesting news. Content should be relevant, entertaining, engaging and brief. It should include a call to action. If at all possible, it should tell a story. But most importantly, you should write about topics that affect your clients and help to position you as a valuable resource.

In fact, according to Bloomberg’s Big Law Business Report, there seems to be a sea change among in-house counsel about how to handle client development. Fancy dinners and tickets to sporting events might be nice, but it’s also important to show that you have your finger on the pulse of the market and are watching (and can report on) trends. Blogging ticks this box.

It is also important to note that, as lawyers become more and more proficient on LinkedIn, they also need to be aware of the various state bar rules. While the ABA has not yet published comprehensive guidelines on social media usage, some state bars have, including New York.

In fact, in March 2015, the New York County Lawyers Association Professional Ethics Committee released an opinion recommending that attorneys in New York with LinkedIn profiles that include information about their practice areas, skills, endorsements or recommendations – essentially, anything more than the straightforward biographical information in their profiles – should now include attorney advertising statements at the end of the “Summary” section of their LinkedIn profiles, similar to “Attorney Advertising – Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.”

While this doesn’t mean that LinkedIn should be abandoned as a powerful networking tool, it just will require that attorneys periodically monitor and review the content of their LinkedIn profiles for accuracy and compliance with bar guidelines.

The Confluence of Content and Social Media

Lawyers and legal marketers seem to have an ever-growing number of marketing tools and tactics at their disposal. Technology has provided us with a number of new avenues to reach our desired audiences, but just using these channels is not enough. They have to be leveraged strategically.

Lawyers should take the time to populate their LinkedIn profiles with quality information that positively reflects their personal brands. They should also make it a habit to continually update their profiles to capture recent successes, promotions, organizational affiliations, pro bono activities and published articles. Finally, with the LinkedIn publishing tool, lawyers can maximize the benefits of the social network by crafting and distributing relevant thought leadership materials to a targeted audience of engaged professionals.

ARTICLE BY

How Attorneys Are Using Social Media in 2015 [INFOGRAPHIC]

The Rainmaker Institute

According to the ABA’s 2014 Legal Technology Survey Report, attorneys are using social media marketing more than ever before, with solos and small firms leading the way in engaging on social media networks, blogging and website development.

According to the ABA report, LinkedIn is by far the most popular social media destination for attorneys, with 99% of large firms (100+ attorneys), 97% of mid-size firms (10-49 attorneys), 94% of small firms (2-9 attorneys) and 93% of solos having a LinkedIn profile.

Solos dominate Facebook, with 45% reporting participation compared with 38% of small firms and just 21% of large firms. Larger firms appear to favor Twitter, with 36% saying their firms maintain a Twitter presence compared with 16% of mid-size firms, 13% of solos and 12% of small firms.

When it comes to blogging, 24% of law firms overall report having a blog and 39% of attorneys say they have obtained clients from blogging. In comparison, 35% of attorneys say they have obtained clients from their social networks.

So according to the data, blogging delivers more clients than social media but fewer lawyers are engage in blogging than social media. (Opportunity!)

This infographic from MyCase.com details how attorneys are using social media in 2015:

How Attorneys Are Using Social Media in 2015

ARTICLE BY

OF

Social Media Marketing for Lawyers: What It Can Do for You, How to Do It Right

The Rainmaker Institute

Many attorneys I talk with want to know if social media will deliver real value for the investment in time and effort that it takes to develop and implement a social media marketing program.

Social Media Marketing

Here is what I tell them:

Social media will help you build trust, but it will not make a “bad” reputation better. Social media is a meritocracy – if you’re good, people will know it. Conversely, a bad experience will also get talked about. Building trust is crucial for attorneys, and social media helps you build trust by providing a robust platform for sharing your particular insights and knowledge. Once people trust that, they will use you and recommend you to others.

Social media will get you leads, but it will not turn them into paying clients. People who follow you on Twitter, are a fan of you on Facebook or interact with you in any way on a social network have indicated an interest in what you have to say. These are leads. To capitalize on them and turn them into paying clients, however, requires effort on your part in following up.

Social media will give you visibility, but it will not replace a good client experience. Social media is a 365/24/7 world, allowing you to engage with prospects at any time, and they with you. You must be vigilant about responding to posts and questions the same way you would in responding to a prospect that calls or emails you. Every point of contact is an opportunity to make a great impression.

Social media is the fastest way to build your sphere of influence, but it won’t happen overnight. Your sphere of influence is defined as how many people know (1) who you are, (2) who you help, and (3) why you are different.  If you only have 20 people who know enough about you to send you the right referrals, then you are severely limited in how much you will be able to grow your practice.   Social media is a long-term play, and you need to commit to spending the time and money (either yours or hiring someone else) to achieve success.

ARTICLE BY

OF

Common Social Media Profile Picture Mistakes

Consultsweb Logo

How you present yourself on social media can either draw clients to you, or send them packing.

What’s the first thing you notice about someone’s social media account? Their profile picture. There are over 645 million active Twitter users, 829 active daily users on Facebook, and over 200 million users on Instagram. Profile pictures are the first thing any of these users will see when your account is searched or suggested on social platforms, so it is vital that your picture send the right message.

Do’s and Don’ts of social media profile pictures:

DON’T make yourself so far away that the person has to play a strategic game of “Where’s Waldo” just to identify you.

Where's Waldo

DON’T filter your picture so heavily so that the viewer can’t even imagine what the original looked like.

Filter 2

DON’T pose like you’re on the cover of a magazine. There is a time and a place for glamour shots, but your professional profile is not it.

Model

DON’T set your profile image as a picture of you and your spouse. Marriage is a beautiful thing, but this is your profile, not yours and your significant other’s.

Spouse

DON’T make your profile picture your firm’s logo. While it is important to gain exposure for your firm, your profile picture isn’t the ideal place to do so. A profile picture should personalize you as an attorney. You can, however, put something like a logo as your cover photo so that it is the background to your profile image.

Logo

DON’T leave your image as the default, such as the signature Twitter egg. Doing this will not only look impersonal, but also come off like you didn’t care enough to put in the effort to change the photo.

Twitter egg

DO follow these guidelines for profile pictures:

Profile Picture

  • Crop the picture so it is an up-close, professional shot of your face.

  • Make sure it is well-lit and that you’re looking directly at the camera.
  • Smile! This can showcase how personable you are and also be inviting to the people who see it.
  • Don’t have anything directly behind you; it is ideal to have professional head shots in front of a green screen.
  • Your profile picture needs to be large enough that it can be recognized without actually having to click on the image. Be mindful of general size requirements across social media networks.

ARTICLE BY

OF