The truth is that lawyers are always looking for new clients. But since legal marketing is a tough market with so many different options available to potential case leads, some attorneys are forced to think outside the box.
This is where the idea of attorney lead generation comes into play. While the ethics of paying for leads weighs heavily on every attorney’s decision-making process, there is a need to bring out the truth and set the record straight.
So, is it legal for lawyers to pay for leads? The simple answer is yes! Read on to learn why it is both legal and ethical for lawyers to buy case leads.
Case Referral Model vs. Attorney Lead Generation
Legal lead generation is usually miscategorized since a lot of attorneys are so used to the case referral business model.
In the case referral business model, one law firm closes the case lead but ends up referring it to another law firm because they don’t have the resources, expertise, or desire to work on the case.
For instance, rather than negotiating with an insurance company for settlement or taking the case to court, they will simply refer it to another law firm that is better equipped to handle it.
In such cases, there is no charge for case referral, but the referring attorney will take a percentage of the attorney fee paid by the client.
However, the lawyer lead generation concept is a different thing from that. In lead generation, nobody and no legal professional has ever spoken to the prospect or heard their legal situation. It means that nobody actually knows whether or not the prospect has a valid case.
With the case referral model, an attorney will contact the client and listen to their legal situation. Then as somebody with legal expertise, they will decide that the client has a valid case and sign them up. From there, they will go ahead and recommend the client to another law firm to handle the case.
On the contrary, a lead is just an inquiry- someone who only wants to discuss their legal situation with an attorney. In this case, the lead generation company only serves as a conduit through which the consumer finds a reliable and trustworthy attorney to speak to about their legal issue.
Is It Legal for Attorneys to Buy Leads?
The simple answer is yes. According to the American Bar Association Rule 7.2, lawyers don’t commit any crime when paying other people to get potential clients.
In fact, the rule is so clear and says that attorneys are at liberty to pay other parties to generate client leads, such as internet-based leads, as long as the primary lead generator doesn’t recommend the attorney.
Payment to the lead generation company must also be consistent with rules 1.5(e), and the lead generation company’s communication must adhere to rule 7.1.
To comply with rule 7.1, an attorney must not pay a lead generation company that states or implies a reasonable impression that it is recommending a particular lawyer or making a referral without payment to the attorney. The company must also not analyze the client’s legal needs before deciding which lawyer should receive the lead.
In simple words, the rule says that as long as the legal lead generation company doesn’t specifically recommend or make claims about the legal qualifications and expertise of a particular attorney and discloses to the lead that lawyers receiving the prospect have paid to participate in the exercise, buying leads is absolutely legal and ethical for attorneys.
For instance, the hook on the ads being run by the lead generation company can be:
“Call us now to get free case evaluation with a local car accident attorney who will determine if you have a valid claim.”
However, the call-to-action can’t be something like:
“Get a free case evaluation with Jones Law Firm… The most respected car accident attorney in New York.”
The second statement would mean that the lead generation company directly recommends Jones law firm against the ABA rules.
Can Lawyers Pay for Live Transfer Pay Per Call Leads?
Approximately 90% of online generated leads require the prospect to fill a form and submit it. It is just like someone who has visited an attorney’s website and completed the “contact us” form.
So, what happens if the lead comes through from a pay-per-call campaign and the call has to be transferred to an appropriate attorney? Do the rules still apply, or does everything change?
Well, the truth is that a live call transfer is no different from a lead form submitted online as long as all the rules stipulated above are met. In this case, the call center agent receiving or transferring the lead can ask a few questions to qualify the lead but can’t get the lead to sign up an agreement.
The call center agent can’t say things like, “we are going to transfer you to law firm XYZ because they are the best attorneys for your case.” Such a statement would give an impression that the agent recommends a particular law firm to the client, which goes against ABA rules.
If a conversion happens, then the law firm that received the lead could make a referral to another law firm, but that rarely happens in lead generation because, in lead generation, there is only the transfer of an inquiry.
Choosing the Best Legal Lead Generation Company
As an attorney, it can be pretty difficult to choose a lead generation company that is reliable and trustworthy. Keep in mind that you need a company that guarantees a continuous flow of highly qualified case leads to avoid incurring losses.
Therefore, there are some qualities you should be looking for in your lead generation partner. These qualities include:
- Bar marketing compliance.
- The exclusivity of leads.
- Measuring performance.
While many companies claim to be good at attorney lead generation, finding a reliable partner who understands your law firm’s needs and knows how to target the right people in a continually evolving legal marketing environment can be quite challenging.
Fortunately, taking time to research the right partner will automatically pay off in the long run.
Let PALO Help You Grow Your Business
Attracting highly qualified leads to your law firm may seem like an uphill task, but with PALO, you get to relax and focus on what you can do best; represent your clients in court.
We are a recognized pay-per-call agency offering performance-based legal marketing services that leverage the power of the internet to deliver a steady flow of highly qualified case leads to our clients.
So, are you ready to scale and push your law firm to the next level? Contact us today and let us help you realize your dream.