I believe the use of client testimonials or endorsements is one of the most effective ways that lawyers can market themselves. I know that when I want to buy a new product, especially a costly one, the first thing I do is read the reviews online. I want to know what others think — everyone does. Client testimonials are like reviews about your product– that is, your legal services. Can you ethically include client testimonials on your website or in other lawyer marketing? If the testimonial is a truthful “soft endorsement,” (i.e. “He treated me with respect,” or “They took the time to explain everything to me,” etc.) that only describes the characteristics of your services but does not describe the results you achieved, then you can ethically post the testimonial. See 2007 FEO 4.
What fun is that? That’s like reading a review on a laptop that says, “The laptop was so nicely packaged in an easy to open, convenient brown box.” What everyone really wants to know is does the laptop work and how well does it work? Likewise, potential clients are mostly interested in whether the lawyer has achieved good results for others. The Ethics Committee has determined that discussions about results in marketing materials may create unjustified expectations and therefore, can be misleading under Rule 7.1. The Committee has issued a limited opinion, however, permitting attorneys to include case results on websites so long as there is an appropriate disclaimer conspicuously located in the immediate vicinity. 2009 FEO 16. There is no similar opinion permitting client testimonials which refer to or describe results. In January, the Ethics Committee will be reviewing an inquiry about testimonials (yes, I submitted it) and will hopefully issue an opinion that will provide guidance on whether testimonials which either imply results (He did a good job) or specify results (He got me my social security benefits) can be used, either on websites, printed marketing materials, TV commercials or radio ads, and if so, whether disclaimer language is required. If an attorney can include case results on his website so long as there is a disclaimer, should truthful testimonials mentioning results be treated any differently? I’ll let you know what the Ethics Committee says about it.
In the meantime, if you have client testimonials on your website, you might want to include a disclaimer, like the one on our testimonial page.