Here is a website founded by lawyers that aims to assist other lawyers in more effectively utilizing the web in a “white hat” way. One of the founders, Anthony Castelli, an Ohio personal injury attorney, also recently authored a post about the practice of purchasing Google Adwords (could be Bing or Yahoo as well) using your top competitors names as keywords.
He makes the argument that this causes confusion between the law firm that someone is search for and the one that simply bought its way to prominence. I’m not sure I agree. It seems to me that if my firm name shows up in organic search results, that trumps the obvious paid ads listed elsewhere on the page. The other option, is for the other firm to also by the keywords for the offending the law firm. See how they like being on the other side.
But I like the larger purpose behind this website, the “Circle of Legal Trust” because ultimately, visibility on the web should be based on legal competence, value to visitors and passion for the law.