My Shingle – Not Illegal, but Potentially Unethical Lawyer Marketing

by Carolyn Elefant on January 15, 2014 · 1 comment

in Ethics Issues, Marketing Ethics

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Like many other bloggers, I too am a frequent recipient of offers of dubious gifts like guest posts, info-graphics or paid back-links. Usually, I simply hit delete. But this most recent proposal that came through my inbox merits a shout out because it involves a company called that works for lawyers – and engages in tactics that are both ineffective and potentially unethical.

Here’s the email – or rather the second identical email that I received from Andrew Hudson, an agent for (in my first response, I said that I wasn’t interested and would post negatively about the company if I heard from them again):

I work for 30 different attorneys throughout The United States, and I have a simple proposition that will benefit your website and ours.

One of my attorney clients would like to Place a link from his website to your website, Which will elevate you in Google’s eyes and help You get higher up in Google results.

In return, we ask for a link from your website to A different attorney client of ours.

No money exchanges hands, the links are not Reciprocal, and both parties benefit.

This is NOT a ‘black hat’ technique, or anything daily harassment form indian may That violates Googles’ terms of service.

100% straight up, legitimate, tit for tat.

Are you open to this simple arrangement?

No, Mr. Hudson, I am not open to this simple arrangement – and lawyers shouldn’t be either. First, an attorney should never allow a marketing company to “blind-market” its site on its behalf. What if the site where SpeakEasy seeks to place the link is one of your competitors or opposing counsel? That’s potentially embarrassing and could be upsetting to a client if discovered. 

Second, when a link is posted on a page and not labeled as an advertisement, it conveys the appearance of an endorsement or a recommendation. Bar rules, however, generally prohibit a lawyer from giving something of value in exchange for an endorsement – even if that “something of value” is a link to another site. (See Legal Ethics Forum for additional discussion of ethics questions triggered by reciprocal endorsements). In short, while this kind of “tit for tat” scheme may not violate Google’s terms of service, it may violate ethics rules.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 10.04.29 AMIn addition, SpeakEasyMarketing’s selling tactics aren’t any less annoying than those that it derides. The SpeakEasyMarketing site suggests that its services differ from the “daily harassment from Indian/Malaysian SEO companies and marketing vultures that waste your time” – yet SpeakEasyMarketingInc. does the exact same thing. Because despite having declined Hudson’s first link-exchange request, I was rewarded with a second. No quality control here.

Is this the kind of company that you want working for your law firm?

  • Javier

    On this subject I recommend the book “The numerati” by Stephen Baker.

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