Archive for the ‘Advertising Rules’ Category

Banishing Bias When Writing for the Web

Monday, June 4th, 2012

As a web writer your goal is to reach as broad an audience as humanly possible, and to this end it is likely that you follow all the best practices for writing web content. You keep your sentences short and snappy, spend lots of time ensuring your titles and headings are brilliant and compelling, and you write with a target audience in mind. The question is—do you really know who that audience consists of or do you only have a very fuzzy idea? It is almost a certainty that your audience will vary widely in age, race, gender, culture, nationality and so on. What this means for the web content writer is that when you unconsciously use biased language, you risk alienating a certain percentage of your readers. In some cases, using biased language or writing with a clear bias can even damage your overall credibility.

Ways to Avoid Bias

First, make the determination as to whether a group-specific reference is relevant—in other words if a person’s age, race or gender is not relevant, then avoid mentioning it. If your story is about a local bank president who has won a prestigious award, then mentioning gender is probably not required. However, if that bank president is the first woman to ever win the award then gender is relevant and must be mentioned.  Next, be precise in your language—don’t use the word “girl” to refer to adult women, or the word “retiree,” when your content calls for the specificity of “people 65 and older.” Use the precise words which are favored by whatever group you are writing about.

Avoid Stereotypes and Generalizations

If you are writing a story about bad drivers and you find your own bias showing through—if your article seems to imply that all women are bad drivers—then take a step back and re-think your words. Using the words “everyone,” and “normal,” are also primary ways to tick off at least some of your readers. After all, what constitutes “normal?” And when using the word “everyone,” you may lead your readers to wonder if “everyone,” is everyone except them. Use specific words to describe a person or group, and guard against letting your personal feelings or biases about those people or groups come through in your writing.

Avoiding Clichéd Contents

Avoid using the pronouns “us, them and we,” in a way that implies you have a personal connection with your reader. By saying “We all want a good bargain when we go shopping,” you are implying “people like us,” rather than maintaining a connection with all your readers. Certain figures of speech or slang words can make your writing sound very biased without your intending it to. Suppose you write something like “This is not your Grandma’s beef stew.” Your implication is that older people are not welcome to read your article. Cliché’s can end up being very offensive to a specific group of people and can also mean that your writing is dated.

Is Bias Normal?

Bias is a natural slice of human conduct, and actually allows us to stay alive in an odd kind of way by allowing us to make choices which can rescue us from peril or defend our loved ones or livelihoods. It can also inhibit our ability to be open-minded to all those who come to our content. Much of our biases exist in our subconscious, and are absorbed through our culture or our family. We tend to assume our specific beliefs are normal and that others share our viewpoint. When writing for the web, however, let go of those biases to the extent possible, then proofread your writing with an eye toward spotting any biases you missed.

Why Eye-Catching Headlines are Essential

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Studies show that while approximately 75% of web readers will read the headline copy, only about 20% will continue reading the entire article. While these statistics can dismay hard-working web writers, there is good news for writers who have mastered the art of the headline. Compelling headlines are important in both print content and web content however their importance in web content perhaps edges out that of the printed page. Web content must be shorter than print content, concise and must be able to be easily and quickly scanned. Web headlines must also be short—although must clearly summarize the ensuing article.

The most important keywords must be front-loaded in web headlines and in the short amount of words allowed the headline must be rich with information. Remember that your headline is the first—and possibly only—impression you will make on a prospective reader.Further, this short, snappy headline which is chock-full of information must also be understandable when taken out of context. While this is not an issue in print content, web headlines often appear in search results without the accompanying article. Finally, a web headline allows the web reader to decide whether they even want to read the accompanying article so it must grab the reader by the collar and refuse to let go. If this sounds like a pretty tall order—it is!

Why Every Word Must Work Hard for Its Living

As you can see, headlines convey the essence of the story without requiring a click. We web readers are stingy with our clicks, and don’t want to waste them on anything which has no benefit to our specific situation. A great headline tells you with a fairly high level of certainty whether you will be interested in the rest of the story. The average headline is a mere five to eight words, so imagine the wealth of meaning which must be squeezed into such a tiny space.

Tips for Writing Persuasive Headlines

Many web writers only think of SEO keywords in terms of improving their story’s rating on Google. It’s important to remember that those same keywords can grab your web reader’s attention, causing them to click on the site. Asking questions in your headline can be a great tactic for stirring up curiosity and generating interest and discussion. Don’t be afraid to be a bit provocative, or even a tad shocking in your headline. Yes, you run the risk of offending a small percentage of your readers, but you may also pique the interest of hundreds or thousands more who will click on the link and read the story simply because of the tantalizing headline.

Should You Go for the Clever Turn of Phrase?

Because today’s web reader leads an incredibly busy life, remember they simply don’t have the time to study your page to determine whether it’s relevant to them or to their specific issue. The web reader relies on you—the writer—to tell them in a succinct manner whether the copy is worth their while to read, and you do this through your headlines. While a catchy or clever headline which gives the reader a good feel for the remainder of the article is great, a clever headline which is not followed by a great article can leave the web reader feeling cheated.

Specific Headlines Which Work

The “how-to” headline is one of the best ways to grab the attention of your reader, letting them know exactly what will follow. While how-to titles are extremely relevant they must nonetheless be used judiciously, and you absolutely must follow through with the answer to the how-to question or your reader will feel cheated. Try combining relevance with results in your headline and remember that above all else your readers are looking for the beneficial outcome even above a product or service.

Formal Opinion 10-457 American Bar Association Opinion On Law Firm Websites

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

The American Bar Association just released a formal opinion to address the issues of how to ethically market legal services using a law firm website, offers examples of how problems can arise from website marketing, and provides guidance on how to avoid them.

The ABA has place a copyright on the Formal Opinion 10-457 Lawyer Websites and we will not be able to provide it to you even though we have a copy and have reviewed the materials.

Here are a few things to consider from our experience. (please do additional research on your own and review the latest versions of the U.S. Supreme Court, ABA, local bar association, and state bar association ethics rules, advertising opinions and court decisions for “up to date” compliance. This is not and should not be construed as legal advice. You should seek legal advice n these matters.

  1. Be sure to review all of your current and future law firm website content for violations such as false, or misleading statements.
  2. Ensure that your website has statements that includes who wrote the content and who is responsible for the legal website’s content. (Louisiana has already adopted this so it would be wise to add this as well.)
  3. Disclaimer – your law firm website should include in the disclaimer the difference between legal information contained in your website content and actual legal advice.
  4. Confidentiality/Privacy statements – Most law firm’s do not have a Privacy Statement and they should as a general rule of thumb when it comes to websites publicly accessible via the Web. Make sure that you explain the purpose of the contact form is to provide contact information for a follow up call from your law firm. We recommend that you specifically direct individuals nor to put any case details to avoid various legal issues.
  5. User Agreement – Again, added protection since it spells out the “user experience” and what terms the user must agree to or does agree to while using your website.
  6. Confidentiality of client information and disqualification of the lawyer due to conflicts of interest also may be implicated by website communication, according to the opinion.
  7. When a website visitor submits information about their legal issue, this exchange may create a “prospective client” relationship. This may depend on whether the attorney invited submission of specific details about that person’s case or on how the lawyer responds. Should a “prospective client” relationship be created between the potential law firm client and the law firm (even if the potential client does not retain the law firm) — the lawyer may have a duty to treat the specific details provided by a potential client as confidential. The law firm may also face a conflict of interest which would place prohibitions on representing other individuals involved in the same case or other legal matters.

Again, your law firm could avoid potentially harmful legal issues by posting adequate warnings, disclaimers, legal statements in order to limit, place condition or disclaim any obligation to your law firm’s website visitors.  However, regardless how detailed your disclaimer may be, this protection may be set aside should the responding lawyer act or communicate contrary to the law firm’s website warnings.

U.S. Supreme Court Ruling That Limits on Attorney Advertising Turns 15 Years Old Today

Monday, June 21st, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 15 years ago today that the Florida Bar would be legally authorized to prohibit lawyers in Florida from solicitation accident victims or their family members within 30 days of the accident.  The ruling stated that the Florida Bar Association had substantial interests in protecting the privacy rights of accident victims and the reputations of attorneys.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion back in 1995 was unexpected in light of previous high court rulings on attorney speech.

The bar had passed the rule after conducting a two-year study which showed that many people looked unfavorably on the legal profession using such advertising.

A lawyer-referral service known as Went For It, Inc. and its attorney owner argued that the rule infringed on the First Amendment rights of attorneys and noted that the U.S. Supreme Court had protected “truthful” attorney ads since 1977.

However, a sharply divided Supreme Court reversed the lower courts and reasoned that the public perceived many attorney-solicitation letters as an invasion of privacy that reflected poorly on the legal profession. They cited citizen letters, including one that read: “I consider the unsolicited contact from you after my child’s accident to be of the rankest form of ambulance chasing and in incredibly poor taste.”

The decision led other states to pass similar waiting periods on solicitation letters.

How Lawyers Can Use LinkedIn For Ethical Marketing Purposes.

Monday, June 21st, 2010

One of the biggest mistakes most law firms make due to time restraints and the push for developing new business is the lack of responsiveness and the neglecting of current client relationships or relationships of the past. is a popular business networking tool that has a very good reputation for developing new business for law firms and solving the issue of keeping in touch with client of new and old. One of the best practices we use when using to market our clients our law firm internet marketing company is to make sure you send invites to new or potential clients. This is a great way to make sure that #1 – you make a great first impression, #2 – keep in touch with new clients or potential new clients. We find that is a very courteous and well received.

If your firm offers special seminars or educational workshops with potential clients, offering an invitation through social networking sites like can make life much easier for reaching out to your prospective clients on both an individual level and on a group level. The feedback our law firm clients consistently receive utilizing this technique is uniformly positive. Also, keep in mind that is great for finding colleagues and past clients.  Making a new connection is just like freshening up your your old client referral list.  Our clients have been able to really refine their client referral programs making and revisiting with connections on

Many of our clients used to just simply accept the LinkedIn invitations, believing that this exchange has no more relevance to their practice that the typical “meet and greet.”  However, LinkedIn is an effective marketing tool just as joining a civic group or business networking group.  Be cautious though of using LinkedIn to blindly identify and invite new clients or push unsolicited invitations in the hopes of develop a huge network of referral sources which spans the globe. I realize there are most marketing companies promoting this idea but it is a violation of the rules of professional ethics in all 50 states for your to do just that.

The best way to attract people and clients that have never heard of you before in a manor that keeps you inline with the lawyer advertising rules is to build a very robust profile and create a legal group where people may join. This is a technique that is completely permissible and will allow you to ethically market to a potential audience (now with 60,000,000 members). We typically advise our client to set up groups in which they offer potential or existing clients entry and participation.  This builds value and value enables you to demonstrate expertise and skillful application of legal services.

One of the other benefits of LinkedIn is the relatively simple user interface. This interface makes it very simple to add, edit or remove information within minutes. This application also enables attorneys to connect with new clients, potential clients, past clients, and referral sources daily with just a few minutes of effort. No more having to buy lunches or setting golf outings to make a fresh connection.  The theme of LinkedIn is business communication and everyone gets it.

To discuss some of the best practices your law firm can take to develop a strong presence and create value using LinkedIn. Call the 11 year veterans of Lawyer Success, Inc. You can speak to one of our marketing experts immediately by calling (769) 218-6099.

New York Attorney Advertising Rules Lose Ground

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Proposed ammendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct that govern lawyer advertising and communications by lawyers with prospective clients in the State of Virginia are designed to prohibit attorneys from making any in-person solicitation in all areas of law, not just legal issues stemming from personal injury cases.

A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Alexander v. Cahill on March 12, 2010 further progressed the idea that the legal industry will see even greater protection of First Amendment rights for lawyer advertising and solicitation of clients. Although the recent decision does not set aside New York’s thirty-day ban on direct unsolicited communications with potential clients in regards to potential personal injury and wrongful death actions, the Court of Appeals did however side a side many prohibitions on lawyer advertising such as the regulation of commercial speech that was purportedly false or deceptive.

To summarize, the Court of Appeals decided that a many of provisions governing lawyer advertising were indeed unconstitutional such as:

1. Client testimonials are not inherently misleading. While they could mislead if they suggest that past results indicate future performance, not all need do so.

2. Portraying a judge in an advertisement is not per se false, deceptive or misleading. What would be of concern is the implication that the attorney has the ability to influence the court improperly.

3. Banning gimmick type of ads such as humorous or “attention grabbing” features is not appropriate: “[q]uestions of taste or effectiveness in advertising are generally matters of subjective judgment.” Indeed, “[g]immicks . . . do not actually seem to mislead.”

4. An outright prohibition on the use of nicknames, mottos or trade names that imply the ability to obtain results in matter is not appropriate. The Court also noted that slogans or nick names such as “The Heavy Hitter” would indeed be prohibited even though it does not appear to be at all misleading.

Although this decision only applies to New York lawyer advertising rules, many states with will feel the pressure to uphold similar rule changes to protect the First Amendment rights of commercial speech.

Connecticut Ethics Complaint Filed Against TotalAttorneys Dismissed

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Connecticut Ethics Complaint FIled Against TotalAttorneys and Particiating Attorneys Dismissed.

Connecticut dismissed the case pending against 5 attorneys who purchased lead generation services from Total Attorneys, Inc. The state claimed that attorneys who participated in the pay per lead program offered by TotalAttorneys was actually a pay for referrals program. Attorneys in Connecticut and in 46 other states within the United States are barred by law from paying for referrals. The charge is a felony offense in the state of Connecticut.

All the attorneys that were named as defendants were cleared by the Statewide Grievance Committee. There were no further dismissals in the case but it seems likely that the other Connecticut attorneys that we named in the complaint will be cleared as well.

There were no specific details in the summary decision to dismiss the case as to why the defendants’ case and charges were dropped as of yet. A full decision is expected to be made public in the next few weeks. No comments from the committee have been released.

At this time, the state of Connecticut is the only state to hold any formal hearings on the matter of pay per lead services and advertising for attorneys. 47 states have received complaints about the participation of attorney pay per lead programs but none have taken any action.

The opinions of the attorneys who were named in the complaint have stated that the service is simply lawyer advertising and that they are not paying for referrals but rather paying for advertising that generates new client intakes.

The company TotalAttorneys manages and owns several web site for different areas of law such as bankruptcy, divorce, and dui.  Each site works independently but operates in like fashion. Lawyers can sign up to pay around $70 for leads generated through the web sites based on practice area and city. The contact information is submitted by the web site user and then delivered to the attorneys who are participating.

Lawyer Success, Inc. Reaction:

This is a slippery slope in our opinion. TotalAttorneys doesn’t appear to be charging attorneys for referrals as long as they continue to operate in their current form. The definition of a referral is when a client or patient is recommend from one professional service provider to another professional service provider with or without compensation. Does TotalAttorneys make a referral. In the case of website submission forms we believe the answer is no. We also believe that TotalAttorneys sends the leads to more than one law firm which really does not fit with the technical definition of a referral.

Click here to see Lawyer Pay Per Call costs for your law firm.

TotalAttorneys Pay Per Lead – Is it ethical for lawyers?

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

The age old rules that govern lawyer advertising is having a tough time with the development of new Internet technologies such as Pay Per Click, Social Networking, Blogging and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This new and rapidly developing form of lawyer advertising has become a hot bed for lawyer ethics debates and even litigation against companies and the lawyers who use their service.

States like Illinois and Connecticut will likely set the standard and policies affecting the remaining states that have not addressed legal ethics rules and newly developed legal marketing solutions provided for through the Web. Connecticut will likely rule in January of 2010 on whether or not services offered by non-attorneys will be able to sell leads or referrals to licensed attorneys.

Lawyer Pay Per Lead programs such as those offered by Total Attorneys ( are facing increased scrutiny and even litigation by lawyers who oppose buying referrals from non-lawyer sources. The reason for existing ethics rules that bar selling referrals from non-lawyers to lawyers is to prevent the public from making financial gains by advancing litigation.

Other companies such as Ingenio and the major yellow page companies have been ramping up their pay per performance services to include selling leads to attorneys. With law firms spending an estimated $1.5 billion dollars in annual law firm advertising each year, it is likely that “the heavy hitter” or “the strong arm” will be able to continue to operate business as usual.

Lawyer Defends Lawyer Website Advertising Claims

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

A New Zealand Criminal Defense lawyer is under heat from the New Zealand Law Society for allegedly using content on his website that claims or suggests that he can get people off drunk-driving charges. The New Zealand Attorney has since taken down the web page which allegedly made such claims.

Barrister Patrick Winkler’s law firm website allegedly made claims that he can use technicalities and/or loopholes in order to get clients off and/or keep them out of jail.

The New Zealand Law Society is considering a formal investigation over the website advertisement .

According to several news sources, Mr Winkler says that he can see how some of the elements of his no longer published web page could have given rise to certain interpretations, but he is defending his role. He says he is not in the business of handling cases involving death or serious injury and does not underestimate the pain of those who have been in serious crashes or lost loved ones in serious crashes.

At Lawyer Success, Inc. we are chosen by law firms to develop website because unlike your typical web designer, we work exclusively with lawyers. We keep abreast of the strict state advertising rules governing the practice of law. Call Lawyer Success, Inc for all of your law firm website design and Internet marketing needs. We have been in business since 2003 and have guided over 3,500 law firms in all phases of Internet marketing. Call (769) 218-6099 today for a free consultation.

New Jersey Lawyer Advertising Rules and Ethics SuperLawyers Best Lawyers Martindale AV Ratings

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

The state Supreme Court of New Jersey amended Rule of Professional Conduct 7.1(a)(3) requires lawyers to include in ads the name of the rating service and a disclaimer saying, “No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court.” The recent change takes effect immediately and it allows lawyers to mention their inclusion in Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America or Martindale-Hubbell AV rankings.

The changes take effect immediately. November 5, 2009 [See notice to the bar.]

The justices pointed out that New Jersey lawyers will want to read the rule changes carefully before using or promoting their selection by any rating services to ensure that the ads are not misleading to the public. The bottom line is that the ratings services must make an inquiry into the attorney’s fitness. The award or honor may not be offered at a price. And the ads used must describe the rating services methodology, or at least tell the reader where the description can be found.