In marketing terms, lawyers and law firms are about 20 years behind the cutting edge. And their mossy mechanisms for determining what is, or is not, ethical are being overwhelmed by the lightning-fast evolution of modern marketing methods like the Internet. If you want to see an example of this nightmarish struggle, check out the proposed new advertising rules in New York (not yet implemented or approved) which seem to make even the offering of a business card an ethical violation.
The Florida Bar has apparently woken up and smelled the coffee. Jordana Tishery reports in the Daily Business Journal that after nearly four years of debate, The Florida Bar board of governors
has tentatively approved a proposed rule on law firm Web sites that
would let lawyers publish client testimonials and claims about their
The proposed rule would largely free law firm Web sites from
the state’s restrictive rules governing lawyer advertising in such
media as television, radio, direct mail and Yellow Pages. But lawyer
Web sites still would have to comply with general Bar rules regarding
truthfulness and lack of deception.
The proposal still must be passed by the board of governors in a second reading and approved by the Florida Supreme Court. Read the story here. And a hat tip to Kevin O"Keefe of Lexblog for alerting us to the story.
I belong to various online discussion groups, almost all of which concern lawyers and/or marketing. On one of them recently a hot topic was whether or not the law office should charge for faxes, photocopies, overnight package delivery, five minute phone calls, and so on. Some offices charge for everything. Some charge for outside hard costs (i.e. a FedEx package) but not for in-office stuff. Some include all such costs in their pricing. If you have a choice, I much prefer the last strategy. Some of those in the discussion maintained that clients liked and wanted to have everything broken out by item — but when I talk with the administrators inside law firms, they tell me that nothing ticks off the clients more than when they receive their invoice and see that they were charged 25 cents per page for five pages of photocopies.
It put me in mind of an experience I had with a limousine company over the holidays.