Ethics: Can Lawyers Hand Out Business Cards?
Networking is one of the best ways to forge relationships and bring in new clients or customers. But what do you if your industry governs the way in which you network, specifically whether or not you can hand out business cards?
This is a question that many lawyers find themselves asking at some point in their careers.
Can Lawyers Hand Out Business Cards?
Lawyers can in fact hand out business cards. However, there are certain rules that you must follow in order to uphold legal guidelines and maintain your license and reputation. Failure to do some, could put your career and your livelihood in jeopardy.
Lawyer Ethics and Business Cards
Lawyers are held to a high ethical standard when it comes to their work and their marketing. There are a few simple rules to follow that will help you make the right decisions when faced with a networking or marketing dilemma.
- Be truthful: Represent your business properly. If you are a solo practitioner, it would be unethical to have “& Associates” in your firm name.
- Be honest: Never make claims that you can’t validate. Many states have rules governing terms like “expert” or “specialist”. If you don’t qualify according to your state’s definition, do not place it on your business card.
- Be clear: If you are not licensed to practice law in the same state that your firm is located, this must be communicated on your business card. In addition, if you do not have an office, your business card should clearly state “By appointment only.”
- Be factual: Stating claims like “Best” or “Top” is unethical without anything to back it up. Unless you have won awards in your field, leave these titles off of your business cards and other forms of client communication.
- Be kind: Defamation is no laughing matter. Avoid making any negative statements about another law firm or attorney. Focus on what you do well, not what others do poorly (even if it’s true).
The “Don’ts” of Handing Out Business Cards
While you can and should always have business cards at the ready, there are a number of things that you can’t do when handing out business cards, networking, or marketing. This includes:
- Soliciting strangers: You may never solicit from someone you do not know.
- Speaking poorly of other attorneys: Verbally bad-mouthing another firm is considered defamation as well.
- Making false claims: Never state that you can do something you can’t, and don’t make offers (such as discounts) that you will not honor.
- Don’t hand out business cards without being asked or asking.
- Don’t hand out your card before establishing a connection with the individual.
- Don’t take their business card and add them to your mailing list (unless they ask).
- Don’t spend 5 minutes searching for your cards. Know where they are and have easy access.
The “Do’s” of Handing Out Business Cards
There are a few best practices when it comes to handing out your business cards:
- Always have business cards on hand. Every time you step out of your home or office is a networking opportunity. Be prepared.
- Keep your cards up to date with contact information, website, services, etc. A card with items crossed out or additions in pen looks unprofessional.
- Store your cards in a safe place where they won’t get crumpled or dirty.
- Make a connection with a person before handing them your card.
- If offered, accept the other person’s business card and put it in a safe place. This will show them that they are valued.
When it comes to business cards and networking in general, if you abide by the above stated rules and guidelines you will maintain your license, your reputation, and your ability to do what you do best… helping others.