The Law Society of British Columbia has dedicated a section to marketing in their Code of Professional Conduct. This article looks at some key issues we’ve observed in the internet marketing of our law firm clients and their competitors. This article also discusses how to use keywords that potential clients are searching for and how to use these keywords in your website.
While the rules and regulations from the previous Professional Conduct Handbook still prevail in legal marketing practices, we believe that the Handbook’s earlier legal marketing rules were far stricter than what the Law Society allows for today.
This information is up to date as of August 2020 and is specific to British Columbia. The Law Society’s guidelines were updated in December 2019.
The Americanization of Canadian Law and Legal Practices
The first thing to note is the perception of the law and the growing divide between lawyers and non-lawyers in Canada. The trend can be summed up in one word: Americanization.
Blame it on the proliferation of American media, for good or for bad, but there is a real move toward using American terms. This is reflected at law schools where LL.B. degrees are now J.D.s. In Ontario, “Crown Prosecutors” are now referred to as “Crown Attorneys.” Increasingly, potential clients of “lawyers” in Canada look for “attorneys,” the American term, when they search on Google.
One observation applies specifically to family lawyers. While Canadian legal circles prefer to use “family lawyer” rather than “divorce lawyer,” the term “divorce lawyer” is searched for almost as often as “family lawyer.” This is so much so that Google Maps distinguishes between “family lawyer” and “divorce lawyer” as two separate categories. (Deciding between “family lawyer” and “divorce lawyer” is a topic for another day.)
Words That Cannot be Used
Chapter 4 of LSBC effectively governs what lawyers and law firms can and cannot say in their marketing materials.
In particular, you may not use the term “specialist” in your advertising unless you are a specialist as designated by the LSBC. In the past, “expert,” “expertise,” and “specialize” were also taboo, but this appears to be no longer the case, as provided for in the LSBC addendums.
Of course, any such claims have to be supported by verifiability and competence.
Can solo practitioners use “XYZ & Co.” for their practice?
Using “& Co.” or other plural forms online to suggest that your law practice is bigger, for better or worse, is known to work. The impression of a “big law firm” could help plant a more positive, stronger image in your client’s mind. That said, LSBC guidelines suggest that using the plural form is not acceptable. “XYZ & Co.” is allowed only when you follow it up with “XYZ, Barrister & Solicitor” to unequivocally point out that you are a solo practitioner.
Pushing the Boundaries, or Not?
Here, we come to a topic of real contention – but of real value for website SEO.
- Can I say that I am the “best lawyer Vancouver”?
- What’s the value in “best lawyer Toronto”?
- What are some clever ways other law firms have used the phrase “best lawyer”?
Can I say that I am the “best lawyer”?
To use the phrase, “best lawyer,” it must meet the criteria defined by the LSBC. This means that saying you are the “best lawyer” must not be:
- reasonably capable of misleading the recipient or intended recipient, or
- contrary to the best interests of the public.
Note the negation here. In the curious logic of the law, does “must not be false” mean it must be “true”? For example, in Immigration Law, “not inadmissible” does not mean “admissible.” You decide.
Why would this be something you need to decide? Let’s look at the value in being able to prefix your “family lawyer Vancouver” with “best.”
SEO value of having best on your website
In the real world, people do search online – and trust Google for “best lawyer” searches. No surprise there, of course – people want the best representation for themselves. At 140 searches a month for “best lawyer Vancouver,” we wouldn’t recommend ignoring “best” keywords.
This is more pronounced in Toronto. Every month, 390 people search for the specific term “best criminal lawyer Toronto:
Many of those searchers are needing to hire a lawyer in Toronto… and soon.
Here are some clever ways to use “best” keywords for SEO.
Ways law firms have used “best lawyer” on their websites
Several law firms, all of whom are ranking on the first page, use variants of “best lawyer.” Here are some ways to do so:
- Create a ‘best family lawyers [city]’ blog post where you discuss your professional colleagues
- Create a blog post or page article listing the best lawyer awards you’ve received in your practice
- Create a blog post that debunks the use of ‘best criminal lawyer’
Each of the three has helped law firms rank at the top of the first page for ‘best [practice area] lawyer’ searches.
Remember, the word “specialist” is bit allowed (unless you are a LSBC certified specialist in your area of law), but you can use related words, carefully, of course.
Also, using the word “best” (without claiming to be the “best”) could be useful for your website search rankings and can be done in creative ways.
We will continue to update this article as LSBC makes changes to their code.