Groupon for Lawyers: Does this marketing strategy make sense — or cents?
Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author and are not endorsed by the WSBA. The WSBA encourages members to thoroughly review the Rules of Professional Conduct and WSBA Ethics Advisory Opinions when engaging in any type of marketing and in setting fee schedules.
If you need assistance, call the Ethics Line (206-727-8284 or 800-945-WSBA, ext. 8284) to consult with the Professional Responsibility Counsel. The Ethics Line provides confidential, informal guidance as to your own prospective ethical conduct.
• Are daily deal sites a form of paid referral?
• Does an attorney engage in fee splitting with a non-lawyer?
• Are trust accounting rules satisfied?
My personal conclusion is that daily deal advertising is ethical — so long as safeguards are taken.
But is it a good idea?
Attorneys will take home only 25% of the purchase price of a service offered on a daily deal site. Sites require a 50% discount from the “shelf price,” then the site takes half of the discounted price as a marketing fee. For one attorney, this worked out to $13–26/hr for the work performed. This deep discount is far below the value of a service, so the marketing will be a success only if it leads to other work. This could come either as additional work for the same client or through referrals.
Restaurants sometimes complain of “low-quality” bargain-hunting customers. A St. Louis attorney who marketed $99 will packages via Groupon found this not to be the case. (View the ad here). In his experience, clients who found him via Groupon returned the respectful treatment they received from his law firm.
Attorneys may believe their dignity will be undermined by a marketing media associated with discounted donuts and beer tastings. But, as I argue in the NWLawyer article, this attitude is at tension with the goal of making services accessible and affordable. In my view, the tastefulness of a Groupon ad should be judged by its content, not the company it keeps.
What are your views on the ethics and appropriateness of daily deal marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Greg McLawsen. Greg is an attorney at Sound Immigration where he practices immigration law. His practice focuses on representing families in the immigration system and defending individuals from deportation in immigration court. Greg is the Solo & Small Practice Section Young Lawyer Committee Liaison and Vice Chair of the Washington Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)’s New Members Division. He can be reached by email or at (425) 998-7046.