Ethical Considerations of Pay Per Lead Advertising for Lawyers
Pay Per Lead advertising is a newer form of online advertising for lawyers. Pay Per Lead (PPL) is similar to Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. With pay-per-click ads, the lawyer pays the advertising agency only when someone clicks on their online ad. In contrast, pay-per-lead ads usually operate by presenting the consumer with a form when they click on an ad. The lawyer only pays the ad agency if the consumer fills out the form, or takes other action as directed by the ad.
Lawyers are bound by many ethics regulations dealing with lawyer referrals to get legal clients. There is some debate as to whether PPL advertisement can be considered lawyer referrals, and courts have not issued any major decisions regarding PPL and attorney referrals.
Recently however, the New Jersey Committee on Attorney Advertising issued an opinion regarding pay per lead advertising for lawyers. The Committee commented that PPL ads for lawyers are not inherently unethical. However, PPL ads still need to conform to professional standards for lawyers (i.e., they can’t be false or misleading, or result in an impermissible fee sharing arrangement, etc.).
Necessity and Risks of Generating Leads for Lawyers
It is without question that generating leads is a necessary part of maintaining a successful legal practice, especially for smaller law firms. However, there are some risks associated with pay per lead ads for lawyers. The main risk is that some advertising agencies may engage in deceptive practices, such as providing a false or bogus link.
For example, The New Jersey opinion arose after an investigation found that one pay per link agency engaged in advertising practices that were “misleading” according to the Rules of Professional Conduct for Lawyers. It’s clear that lawyers need to be alert when it comes to pay per link ads, which are still a new phenomenon.
The Need for Diverse Channels when Finding Leads for Lawyers
Even with newer options like pay per link ads, lawyers have an important need for diverse channels for generating leads. One method that has become popular is to create a legal blog, which might generate leads for an attorney’s personal website.
Another method is to utilize attorney-client matching services such as LegalMatch, which directs clients to attorneys in a manner that conforms to professional and ethical standards. Online attorney client matching has the potential to generate leads for lawyers while eliminating or reducing the need for PPC or PPL advertising. This can save the attorney much time and resources in the long run.