The call to action, or CTA, is the paragraph in your legal blog post that urges readers to reach out to your law firm:
“If you or a loved one have been hurt in a motorcycle accident in central Illinois, show that you’re not joking around by hiring the personal injury attorneys at Foster, Wallace, and Davidson today.”
Unfortunately, CTAs have become so ubiquitous that there’s some evidence that readers don’t even look at them, anymore. Even if this is true, though, just because living readers skim right past a CTA doesn’t mean a CTA is useless – they’re still great places to boost your site’s search engine optimization (SEO) by adding the internal links that you didn’t manage to squeeze into the rest of your post. Of course, there’s a caveat to cramming internal links into a CTA: It dilutes the power of each internal link in the article, and it can even penalize your site.
If this makes a CTA sound more like a minefield than a blog paragraph, bear in mind that these are just SEO implications – the CTA is also where many amateur legal bloggers run afoul of their state’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
5 Ways Advertising Rules Can Impact a CTA
Of course, each state has its own set of Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys, compounding the complexity of an already nuanced issue. However, despite the wide variety of ethical rules in the U.S., their impact on the online marketing of your law firm can be wrangled into 5 categories:
- Disclaimers that are required on all advertisements,
- Contingency fee disclaimers,
- Disclaimers in certain practice areas,
- Disclaimers when comparing legal services, using client testimonials, or alluding to past successes, and
- Specialization or certification disclaimers.
When it comes to the CTA in a legal blog, the ethical rules that are most often implicated are 3-5 in the list above: Practice area disclaimers, legal service comparisons, and specialization disclaimers.
Practice Area Disclaimers
Some fields of law have their own have their own rules for ethical advertising online. These fields of law tend to be in the realm of tax or bankruptcy law, which often have to comply not only with the legal rules of professional conduct, but also with certain rules from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or with rules of ethics from the accounting field, as well. Typically, these advertising rules come from IRS Circular 230, which requires an express disclaimer that the information presented can’t be used to avoid penalties under the tax code, and that it doesn’t promote particular transactions.
While the rules of Circular 230 don’t reach past the field of taxation law, attorneys who maintain legal blogs that deal with the intricacies of U.S. tax law need to comply with the Circular’s mandates. The CTA, a standardized footer, or the post’s byline are all places that this can be done.
Comparing Legal Services
Because the whole point of marketing your law firm online is to convince people to hire you, it can be tempting to say, whether expressly or through implication, that you’re simply the best out there. However, the ethical rules in many states lay out strict guidelines that can easily trip you up, especially because those rules can implicate both client testimonials and prior successes in the courtroom.
When you include a client testimonial on your firm’s website, it can be seen as an insinuation that potential clients can expect a similar result. Similarly, trumpeting your firm’s prior successes in your legal blog can make readers think you’ll automatically win their case, as well. However, because all cases are different, these expectations are often too strong, and actively creating them in your legal blog can be seen as misleading. Therefore, the rules of professional conduct in many states require a disclaimer to rein in those expectations. Including a disclaimer – typically in the vein of saying that “prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome” – in the CTA of a legal blog post can do the trick.
Finally, and most importantly, claiming that you are a specialist in a particular field of law is widely frowned upon by the rules of attorney ethics in many states. Unfortunately, it is also the easiest mistake you can make in a legal blog post.
By simply referring to your firm as “specialists in personal injury law” rather than “a personal injury firm” in a CTA, you can find yourself and your firm facing severe reprimands from your state’s bar association.
Professional Legal Bloggers Can Help
Making a mistake in a CTA in a legal blog post is very easy, and very serious. Avoiding it takes an understanding of your state’s attorney advertising rules and constant vigilance.