In one corner is a well known personal injury law firm from Wisconsin. In the other corner is also a well known and respected personal injury law firm also from Wisconsin.
A few years ago, both law firms faced off against each other in a way that lawyers had never envisioned. Here’s what happened.
Law firm #1 hired a company to start a Google Adwords campaign. It was an innovative campaign. Most lawyers simply try to use adwords to attract viewers to particular keywords like “accident,” “lawyer,” “attorney,” “Wisconsin,” and so on.
Law firm #1, Cannon & Dunphy, decided that one of the keywords they would be advertising for was their biggest competitor: Habush Habush & Rottier, Law firm #2.
“Huh?” you ask. Here’s how it was designed to work. When someone did a search for Law firm #2, an ad for Law firm #1 would show up either at the top of the page, ABOVE the organic search results for Law firm #1 or to the top right of the page.
Is that ethical? Is it right? Well, that’s what Law firm #2 asked themselves. In fact, they questioned it to the point that they sued Law firm #1. That lawsuit wound up in the Wisconsin appellate court. The 27 page decision is a must read for any lawyer who markets their law firm online.
Thanks to Ross Fishman for bringing this to our attention and for a well-written post addressing this case (and his role as a defense marketing expert in the case).
What’s the take home message for your marketing?
Here’s my recommendation. If it’s in a grey area, stay away from it. In my video success program, I am adamant that things are either black or white. There is NO stepping over the ethical line. Ever. Do you want to make case law in your state with a novel marketing idea, like Law firm #1? Or do you want to run an ethical marketing system that consistently teaches and educates your consumers and potential clients in a way that shows you are different?
You can, using video.
There are some “gurus” and marketing “experts” who talk about ‘black-hat’ methods of marketing. “Stealth marketing,” as it’s often referred to. Ad campaigns that try to game the system are ultimately revealed and the fallout from that can be bad.
As attorneys, we have an obligation to ourselves, our potential clients and to the public. If you engage in black-hat methods of marketing, you do so at your own peril. Go on, read the decision. Ross posted it toward the bottom of his article. It’s fascinating.