There’s nothing that makes you drop your coffee mug faster than scrolling through Facebook in the morning and seeing a negative review about your firm. It’s a wake-up call that requires immediate action to ensure your attorney reputation stays intact.
While quick action can help alleviate the burn of a negative review, lawyer reputation management is something that requires daily work from the start. After all, it’s no secret that a bad attorney reputation is a career killer.
Lawyer reputation management involves managing the narrative around your firm in the various corners of the internet, from online reviews to social media mentions. It means managing what your clients (past, present, and future) and others think about your firm by encouraging positive reviews, eliminating pain points that result in poor reviews, and building your reputation both online and offline.
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Why Do Law Firm Client Reviews Matter?
Client reviews are a two-edged sword: they can either build your reputation or threaten to destroy it. Whether positive or negative, 93% of consumers say online reviews impact their purchasing decisions. In fact, 76% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends.
You may think you can rely on word of mouth referrals alone. While some attorneys do keep their lights on thanks to a solid referral process, it’s because they have a reputation to support it. To build your online reputation, you need positive law firm client reviews.
How to Get Positive Law Firm Client Reviews
Studies show consumers who suffer a bad interaction are 50% more likely to share it on social media than those who had good experiences. Plus, 52% are more likely to share the negative experience on an online review site. The bottom line: good client experience is expected, not optional.
You’re not going to get gushingly positive reviews from every client based on providing what’s expected. You have to actively seek out client reviews.
How to Ask Your Clients for Positive Reviews
It’s okay to ask your clients what they think of you. Not sure how to go about it? Well, first and foremost, you should start at the beginning of the process and not just at the end of the transaction when they’re paying you for your services (money never makes people feel warm and fuzzy).
Here are some ideas for you:
- Ask your clients at the beginning how they heard about you. Did they read online reviews? Did they find your name on a lawyer database? Did they hear about you from a friend? The answers help you see how well you’re managing your reputation online and offline. As a bonus, they’ll help you determine how to improve your marketing efforts.
- Ask for feedback in the middle of your project. Are there things you could do differently? If so, asking in the middle of the project is crucial. You’ll catch problems at the outset, which will help you course-correct and avoid a negative experience.
- Remind your clients to leave an online review. At the end of your project, casually remind your clients that you always appreciate online reviews in places such as Yelp or Google since you’re a small business trying to grow. They’ll likely refer you to a friend by word-of-mouth, why not do so online, too?
Take Advantage of Social Media, Websites, and Online Lawyer Directories
It’s important to make the review process as simple as possible, ensuring you accept reviews in whatever way your clients prefer. There are many platforms to use for online reviews, including:
- Social media. One of the most common ways to accept online reviews, platforms such as Facebook allow you to accept reviews via your law firm’s business page.
- Google. If you want to take your business to the next level, point clients to Google. When someone searches for your name, you’ll want positive reviews to accompany your information.
- Review websites. Websites such as Yelp are often frequented by those looking for attorneys based on reviews and ratings alone.
- Lawyer directories. Avvo, FindLaw, and Justia are examples of online attorney only directories that feature ratings and reviews. Plus, some websites such as Avvo allow you to gather attorney endorsements to further solidify your reputation.
How to Handle Negative Law Firm Client Reviews
When you receive a positive review from a client, it’s best if you respond immediately. They’ve taken the time to speak out about their positive client experience, so you should take the time to thank them. In contrast, the last thing you should do is respond immediately to a negative review. Responding in the heat of the moment is a recipe for disaster.
Take Insider Christopher Tancredo. He actually received a negative review from the opposing party in his case. Rare, but not unheard of. He didn’t respond immediately to the review. Instead, he wrote to the opposing counsel and asked if that counsel was willing to accept service of process for her client and provided her with the case law for the scenario. Within 24 hours, she accepted and the review was down.
Christopher was creative, communicative, and fast. You should be, too. Here’s how.
The Best Way to Respond to Negative Law Firm Client Reviews
First things first, make sure you don’t do anything that violates attorney/client privilege. Always remember your oath of confidentiality on behalf of your client.
It’s best to create a suitable response you can use that doesn’t communicate any unnecessary emotion. Say something standard like, “We apologize that you aren’t happy with our services,” and offer to talk to them about it in private. As the attorney, you absolutely can’t go into any details of the case in a response to a review. Attorneys have lost their licenses by responding publicly with confidential information.
Some negative reviews may warrant some extra action such as reaching out to the client directly in private communication to speak about their experience. This is especially helpful if there’s an issue cited in their review that you can solve.
Some review websites also allow you to flag reviews if they are inappropriate or in violation of the site’s terms. If a review fits this bill, flag it. The website will look over the review and may remove it or ask the reviewer to consider revising it.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Although negative reviews stink, they’re a wealth of knowledge when it comes to improving your services. With each review, see what you can take away from them for the future. Did you miss a step in the client intake process? Did you fail to communicate with your client? Consider what you can do to ensure this doesn’t happen again. It will help you avoid negative reviews in the future.
As an example, Insider Dustyn Coontz was startled to find he had actual online trolls targeting his firm and tanking his ratings. No one likes to see their ratings drop like that. He quickly took an active approach. He asked for happy clients to leave reviews. He emailed a form to satisfied clients, too, asking them to review him on Google and Facebook.
While he used the bad reviews as somewhat of a sympathy play, he almost didn’t need to – just asking for the reviews is what brought his rating right back up.
How to Manage Your Lawyer Reputation
As a solo attorney or a small law firm owner, you may be attempting to build your reputation. Or, you may have a reputation that you’re simply trying to keep. Either way, you need to understand the best methods for managing your reputation. Let’s dive right in.
Strive for Authenticity
Your law firm’s reputation should reflect your core values and services. After all, what benefit is there to being seen as a tough and ruthless criminal law attorney when your firm’s focus is on mediation? As you work to manage your reputation, keep your values and firm goals in mind. When your reputation depends on trust, make sure you’re remaining true to yourself and your clients.
It’s also important to treat every person you meet with respect, whether they’re a client, not yet a client, or a client who has chosen against retaining you. It’s impossible to know where your next client will come from.
Establish Yourself as a Trustworthy Expert
To earn a good reputation inside the industry, you must establish yourself as a trustworthy expert. Clients want attorneys who are knowledgeable about how to get the best results. To be seen as a trustworthy expert, you must become one. Go to conferences, read, and stay up-to-date on trends.
Share your knowledge publicly via blogs, whitepapers, and guest posts on other blogs. When potential clients and colleagues ask questions on your social media or over the phone, do what you can to answer them. Who do you think those individuals will come to when they have a legal need? You guessed it: you.
Speaking of trust, Insider and divorce attorney Kellie McConahay was worried she might dent her trust if she asked her clients for reviews. After all, family law is delicate and she didn’t want her clients to feel taken advantage of by her request. But then she got a one-star review on Google, which was a kick in the gut. So, she started reaching out to happy clients and asking for reviews. Her ratings went up, and she even had a client tell her she was more than happy to leave her a good review since Kellie had helped her so much.
Keep Reputation-Building Activities on Your Radar
Part of building your reputation is making sure others know you exist. Beyond online efforts, there are many offline and in-person opportunities to build your reputation as an attorney. For example, take advantage of:
- Speaking engagements
- Teaching opportunities
- Event sponsorships
- Free and earned media, such as getting quoted in an article as an expert
Monitor Your Reputation Online
As we discussed above, think about responding to reviews and ensure you’re keeping an eye on your online reputation. The only way to do this is via technology and some good old-fashioned effort.
Listen By Setting Up Alerts
When managing social media, create alerts for the name of your firm and the names of everyone in your firm. You can also do the same thing in other places around the internet by using Google Alerts. Each time your name is mentioned, you’ll receive an alert. If a negative mention comes through, you’ll be one of the first to know it and you’ll be able to address it in a timely manner.
Monitor Review Websites
Keep an eye on review websites such as Yelp, Avvo, Google, and any other website your name appears on.
Consider Reputation Management Software
If you find that you don’t have the time to properly monitor your online reputation, consider using reputation management software. These tools will automatically track reviews from multiple websites, collect performance data and compile reports, send surveys to clients, and more.
Your Law Firm Reputation Matters, But Don’t Get Lost Down the Rabbit Hole
Trying to manage your online reputation may seem overwhelming. How can it be possible to control every single thing thought or said about your firm? Trust us, we know it isn’t.
While you work to manage your reputation online, remember this: your reputation matters, but it shouldn’t consume you. Fix what you can, make it right if you’re able, but acknowledge that you can’t win every time.
Learn More About Lawyer Reputation Management
Good news if you’re looking to get your marketing in shape: We offer a 10-week online course and group coaching program that features Lawyerist’s philosophies and resources. Interested? Set up a time to learn more.