Client Testimonials in a Wired World

by Barb Cashman on April 4, 2012

Here is another post on the topic of the future of solos or small firms who don’t have it in their budget to outsource a social media manager.

Ed Poll of LawBiz Management recently posted an interesting article, “Testimonials Still Are Not a Good Idea” about why he still does not use client testimonials as part of his marketing strategy.

Three of his reasons are:

  1. Clients value their privacy;
  2. Clients usually don’t want to see their name in the press; and
  3. Client confidentiality.

The fourth reason, I think, bears full text quotation: The ABA’s Position on Lawyer Advertising.

Rule 7.1 Communications Concerning A Lawyer’s Services – Comment states:

[1] This Rule governs all communications about a lawyer’s services, including advertising permitted by Rule 7.2. Whatever means are used to make known a lawyer’s services, statements about them must be truthful.

[2] Truthful statements that are misleading are also prohibited by this Rule. A truthful statement is misleading if it omits a fact necessary to make the lawyer’s communication considered as a whole not materially misleading. A truthful statement is also misleading if there is a substantial likelihood that it will lead a reasonable person to formulate a specific conclusion about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services for which there is no reasonable factual foundation.

[3] An advertisement that truthfully reports a lawyer’s achievements on behalf of clients or former clients may be misleading if presented so as to lead a reasonable person to form an unjustified expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client’s case. Similarly, an unsubstantiated comparison of the lawyer’s services or fees with the services or fees of other lawyers may be misleading if presented with such specificity as would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the comparison can be substantiated. The inclusion of an appropriate disclaimer or qualifying language may preclude a finding that a statement is likely to create unjustified expectations or otherwise mislead a prospective client.

[4] See also Rule 8.4(e) for the prohibition against stating or implying an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official or to achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

This leads attorneys to a number of questions: What about client reviews in Avvo? Recommendations on LinkedIn? Are these client or colleague statements essentially lawyers advertising? Vincent Buzard thinks so.

What about the prospect of the client writing the review on their own, and it being in violation of 7.1 as described in paragraph [1] above?

Avvo’s legal guide about “client testimonials” is very interesting. Does an attorney have a duty to censor or edit a client’s review? What about colleagues who “recommend” you?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: