A pair of recent lawsuits alleging that a law firm manipulated search engine results to steal a rival firm’s web traffic has shone a spotlight on a modern-day battleground for lawyers who generate most of their business from everyday consumers.

In one of the cases, filed in Illinois federal court in late August, criminal defense and family law firm Motta & Motta alleged that another firm, Dolci & Weiland, used website tagging and headers to confuse search engine results in a way that directed prospective Motta clients to Dolci. Outside of the online search-related allegations, the Motta case also involves a less technological allegation of unfair competition—specifically that the Dolci & Weiland firm co-opted a Motta employee who then steered potential clients away from Motta and toward Dolci & Weiland.

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