Is It Legal for Attorneys to Buy Leads?
The American Bar Association permits attorneys to buy leads as long as they follow the pre-set rules. The truth is that most law firms need a steady stream of clients to remain profitable.
There are many ways to generate leads and buying them is one option. Of course, buying leads can often be miscategorized as it may be considered fee-splitting with other lawyers. However, it is not illegal as long as lead-generating companies follow strict ethical rules.
Is It Legal for Attorneys to Buy Leads?
It is not against the American Bar Association rules for an attorney to pay for potential clients. Attorneys and their firms can pay third parties to generate potential leads if the company does not recommend the attorney.
Rule 7.1 in ABA rules states that an attorney may not pay lead-generating companies that imply, state, or create an impression that they are directly recommending the attorney. To comply with this ABA rule, a lead-generating company might say:
‘Get in touch with us for a free consultation with a local personal injury attorney.’
However, the ad or landing page cannot say:
‘Get a free consultation with John, the best personal injury attorney in Ohio.’
The second statement implies that the lead-generating company is recommending the client pay them for leads. However, the first statement implies they are not recommending one specific attorney.
American Bar Association Rules on Buying Leads for Attorneys
According to the American Bar Association, over 40% of law firms view buying leads as their best marketing channels. Most attorneys do not know how to generate leads and collaborate with lead-generating companies to reach more prospective clients.
With over 65% of law firms spending more than 50% of their marketing budgets on online efforts, leading generation should be a priority in marketing. However, you must follow the rules when buying leads from lead generation companies.
To begin with, the lead-generating company cannot recommend or appear to favor one attorney over another. When gathering leads, the lead generation company cannot directly recommend or promote one law firm.
Secondly, the lead generation company cannot claim to have analyzed the potential client’s legal issue. Lastly, the company cannot claim that they are sending the lead to a specific lawyer who is better than all others, and the company can only accept payment in line with the rules.
Attorney Lead Generation vs. Case Referral Model
The ethics of purchasing leads are difficult to evaluate for most attorneys. While it is legal to pay for leads, can it be considered a case referral? Simply put, leads are inquiries from potential clients looking to consult an attorney.
Case referral is where one firm refers the case to another law firm because they lack the expertise, desire, or resources to work on it.
If your firm refers a case to another firm for whatever reason, the referring attorney might get a percentage of the attorney fee that the client will pay. However, there is no charge for the referral.
On the other hand, with lead generation, no professional attorney has consulted with a potential client about their legal issue. This means that while you might get hundreds of leads from a generating company, only a small percentage will translate to conversions.
There is no way of knowing whether the lead will have a valid case as the lead-generating company is only a conduit connecting prospective clients to attorneys. A lead is simply an inquiry from somebody who wants to discuss their legal prospects with an attorney.
Can Attorneys Pay for Live Transfer Pay Per Call Leads?
A live transfer pay-per-call lead is similar to online submissions made on lead-generating websites. It involves an agent taking calls from prospective clients and asking questions to qualify the lead.
Of course, the agent cannot get a lead to sign a retainer with a specific firm or individual attorney nor can they recommend specific attorneys or firms. The call is simply a transfer of inquiry from the lead generation company. Once the prospect speaks to an attorney, their inquiry can then be referred to another firm.
How to Find the Best Lead Generation Company
It can be difficult to find a reliable and trustworthy lead generation company. However, like most law firms, having a continuous flow of high-quality leads is invaluable. It helps keep you in business.
So, what should you look for in a lead generation company? We recommend looking for the following:
- Lead exclusivity
- Bar marketing compliance
- Reviews and testimonials
Researching and finding the right lead-generation partner will help you weed out unreliable companies. It also helps you find a company that understands your needs and targets the right audience.
How to Generate High-Quality Leads
If you are hoping to bring in more prospects through the door and potentially convert them into clients, aside from buying leads, there are other ways to create a direct connection between the firm and the community.
Many consumers are hesitant to fill out online forms without any idea how their information might later be used. While the internet is ideal for buying a used car, prospective clients looking for professional legal assistance are more likely to prefer a face-to-face consultation.
- Volunteering and sharing legal information at community events
- Networking through trade fairs, non-profit organizations, and business events
- Ads on radio and television
- Modern business cards and other printed marketing materials
- Boosting your website with well-written content and other SEO strategies
- Expanding your marketing strategies
While buying leads might certainly generate more inquiries, it is proven that only a small percentage of these will translate to conversions. Fortunately, plenty of experienced marketing firms can help you evaluate your current marketing efforts.
Once you have defined your business goals, most marketing firms can help you create a customized strategy and help you expand your client list. Online marketing is the future for many businesses, including law firms.
Talk to a marketing professional to help you craft organic marketing strategies as you concentrate on solving your client’s legal issues.