How to Avoid Inadvertently Breaking the Law When Marketing Your Law Firm OnlineThe last thing your law firm wants to do when conducting marketing activities online is to inadvertently break the law. Not only would it be embarrassing, it can also result in some pretty unpleasant consequences like sanctions and monetary fines.

Beyond knowing your state bar and ABA regulations governing attorney advertising online, you also need to be aware of federal laws pertaining to three key legal areas when doing business online:

Data collection and privacy.

To be able to market to consumers online, you must first collect their contact information. The methods you use to collect this information need to comply with current data collection and privacy laws.

Your first step should be to have a Privacy Policy posted on your website and then require visitors to your site to agree to it when you are collecting data from those visitors. This is commonly done via what it known as a clickwrap agreement — usually a box that visitors click after they enter their information that says they agree to your Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Your Privacy Policy should spell out exactly how you plan to use the data collected from consumers and the security measures you are taking to ensure their data is secure. To protect yourself from liability in case of a data breach, you should also include a Limitations of Liability clause.

Intellectual property.

You not only want to ensure your own intellectual property is protected, but also that none of your activities infringe on the intellectual property rights of others. When marketing products or services online, be sure that your brands and logos are protected with trademarks. You may also want to copyright the content on your blog or website.

In addition, you should include an intellectual property clause in your Terms of Service that details IP use expectations for your trademarks and copyrights as well as those of other owners that may appear on your website.

One of the main ways marketers infringe on IP is using protected images. There are lots of free image websites out there — or inexpensive ones for stock photography — that you should access to ensure you don’t inadvertently use copyrighted images.

Advertising

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates online advertising, including privacy, anti-spam rules and truth-in-advertising. When using email marketing, companies must comply with the CAN-SPAM Act anti-spam law, which requires that you:

  • Do not use misleading or false header information
  • Do not use subject lines that are deceptive
  • Tag the message as an ad
  • Provide recipients with your contact information, including location
  • Allow recipients to opt-out of receiving future emails
  • Promptly remove recipients who opt-out
  • Monitor the activities of third parties conducting email marketing on your behalf

The FTC has published this compliance guide for business so you can make sure your law firm is in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act.

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