How to Build Effective, Ethical Personal Injury Marketing

Personal injury marketing can seem like a tightrope act. You need to sell your firm and your individual legal acumen to consistently generate new business, but your sales pitch must be balanced with restraint. Personal injury marketing isn’t a free-for-all. The American Bar Association and your state’s bar association’s rules govern what you can say and even where you can say it. Beyond legal ramifications, your marketing efforts tell the story of your ethics and reputation to potential clients and the public in general. Developing the ability to market your services with empathy—emphasizing relationship building—is key.

On its face, relationship building in personal injury cases serves a different goal from other areas of practice. In family and corporate law practices, for example, clients often seek long-term relationships with ongoing work. Few people hire a personal injury attorney hoping to become lifelong clients. But if your firm features multiple practice areas, clients who initially seek counsel for personal injury may be retained for other legal work. And, perhaps more importantly, a positive personal injury outcome often leads to multiple referrals to friends and family.

Here are some of the best channels your personal injury firm can use to genuinely, ethically market to prospective clients. No matter which areas you choose to focus on, Smokeball’s Leads Management tools can help you track the effectiveness of each channel, turn inquiries into clients and refine your tactics over time.

Word-of-mouth marketing

There is no better personal injury marketing than a ringing endorsement from a satisfied customer. The vast majority (92%) of consumers trust their friends and family over traditional media. But the idea of a “satisfied customer” is a tricky one for personal injury attorneys. Legal outcomes are often out of your hands, and no matter how vigorously you advocate, there’s no guarantee your clients will rave about the results. For the purposes of your personal injury marketing efforts, your firm needs to redefine success as building favorable relationships with clients that lead to referrals.

These relationships begin the moment your clients contact  you about a case and can build and evolve over months of complicated litigation and negotiation. PI clients likely are going through one of the most trying time of their lives and need assurance that their case is a top priority for your firm. Because Smokeball’s legal case management tools automatically tag and save every document and correspondence to the related client  matter, you’ll always have the details you need to provide this assurance at your fingertips. And using our Communicate portal, clients can reach out for updates or answers at any time.

Social media marketing

Social media platforms, used by an estimated 81% of Americans, according to Statista, provide enormous personal injury marketing potential. A 2021 Pew Research study found YouTube and Facebook are the most widely-used online platforms in the U.S. and are popular with the broadest cross-section of Americans. Social media posts can create buzz that gets everyone—even people who don’t immediately need an attorney—talking.

Since your PI firm can create social media videos without the time constraints of a paid TV ad, these posts are particularly effective at curating a precise image. This control is a huge bonus when targeting potential personal injury clients.

Start by embedding YouTube videos, accompanied by SEO copy that helps rank your firm in search engine results, on your firm’s website, then share on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to maximize your reach. Short blog posts that highlight settlements you’ve achieved for clients, changes in statutes and tips for handling a no-fault injury can help position you as a caring PI attorney who holds wrongdoers accountable. In your posts, omit client and case names and include a disclaimer stating that your intention is to inform, not to provide legal advice. Such blog posts are not currently considered advertising by the ABA and therefore are not subject to ABA advertising rules, but your state’s bar association’s rules may differ.

360-degree/integrated marketing campaigns

Social media also plays a significant role in creating 360-degree personal injury marketing campaigns that include television, outdoor advertising and other successful channels. A billboard that reads, “Injured? Call ABC Law” might be perceived differently if potential clients visit your website where they can see you and hear the compassion in your voice. The intimacy of videos, that ideally run no longer than 2 minutes, affords you an unmatched opportunity to connect with potential clients. Balanced 360-degree campaigns put you top of mind for anyone in your region who needs a personal injury attorney.

While a strong, relatable brand is key to any personal injury firm’s marketing, it’s especially important for fueling 360-degree campaigns that rely on memorable messaging. Maintain consistent ideas and tone across all platforms and capitalize on the strength of your personality to appear authentic. If your natural personality is bold and passionate, don’t try to affect a calm countenance in your videos; potential clients want to see that you’ll represent them with zeal.

Remember: Rules are rules

Until the 1970s, lawyers couldn’t even advertise their services, and after the landmark Bates v. State of Arizona decision, personal injury firms in particular pushed the limits of ethics, law and good taste.

Today, the vast majority of personal injury attorneys have reined in their tactics, but it’s still worth reviewing both the ABA’s rules, which tend to allow more latitude, and those of individual states. Most state bar associations also offer an ethics hotline where you can receive expert advice on marketing/advertising questions that don’t require intensive research. Regardless of your location, every personal injury attorney should follow these general guidelines:

  1. Don’t lie, mislead or use hyperbole. Keep your language simple and truthful. Avoid using terms such as “the best,” “the most,” “the fewest,” “the least expensive,” “the largest settlements.”
  2. Never pay for a testimonial. Make sure testimonials are truthful and are not misleading.
  3. Don’t directly solicit clients. Know where you’re allowed to place billboard advertising and where you’re not—right outside a hospital in some states, for example.
  4. Never call yourself an expert or specialist. If you want to underscore your expertise, state the number of years you’ve been practicing PI law.
  5. Know what you can and can’t say. Don’t use fictitious details or documents in your advertising and never include testimonials from clients whose cases are still pending.

Give back to your community

Being an active member of civic organizations or on the board of nonprofits helps you build a reputation that can lead to more clients. Touting worthy pro bono cases in your social media posts can lead to increased business and/or higher quality cases. Personal injury attorneys might be up against the misconception that lawyers are the cause of exorbitant medical malpractice insurance and general negative perceptions of tort law cases. Remind your community that personal injury law is vital to social justice: You are part of the system that helps keep corporations accountable and upholds ethics.

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