It’s time we get real about this: lawyers need to stop listing AV Preeminent or BV Distinguished on their websites.
No one cares.
Remember Why You Have a Website
Your website is your most powerful marketing tool. Everything you put on your website needs to do its part to help prospective clients figure out whether you are the lawyer they should hire.
Peer Review Ratings Don’t Help Potential Clients
Before you entered the legal field, did you know Martindale-Hubbell ratings existed? If yes, did you understand what they meant? Most likely not. Therefore, you cannot expect a potential client to understand what that rating means. Nor should you expect that BV Distinguished would persuade a client to work with you.
Martindale-Hubbell peer ratings are not the only ratings that fit this description. There are numerous peer-review awards and memberships that lawyers treasure, but none of them make much of an impact on a prospective client’s decision. These include:
- Super Lawyers and Rising Stars
- Best Lawyers
To lawyers, these ratings are a mark of success achieved through hard work and a dedication to the practice of law. To the average person (read: client), they are meaningless.
How to Use Peer Ratings Effectively
Most lawyers use their ratings to market their services in the hope that the ratings will help draw in new clients. But using peer reviews nobody has heard of is not helpful.
If you insist on using your ratings, be smart about it. Make sure you accurately represent your peer ratings by explaining what each award means and why it is important that your clients know about them. If you are unsure how to do this, consider answering these questions on your website or other marketing materials:
- Where do the reviews come from?
- Which aspects of your practice or actions are considered?
- Who decides on the final rating or award?
- How does this review or award or membership translate into your daily practice?
Not All Peer Reviews Are Bad
I know from experience that I trust and value recommendations coming from lawyers I already know and respect. But there is a big difference between a word-of-mouth referral and a compilation of reviews from strangers.
Online reviews and recommendations can have great impact, as long as those reviews come from someone other than Anonymous. If you value peer reviews and believe they benefit potential clients, use tools such as the recommendation feature on LinkedIn. Let people see who you support — and hope they return the favor. This transparency can go a long way in establishing credibility and trust — two key traits that prospective clients search for in a lawyer.
Client Ratings May Be the Better Choice
There is a slew of websites that provide the opportunity to read and write reviews and recommendations for services rendered, including general review sites such as Google and Yelp, and lawyer-specific sites like Avvo. These reviews can make strong connections with prospective clients, as the reviews come from their peers — not yours.
You can take advantage of the strength of these reviews by highlighting client-based reviews on your site. Include a testimonials page where you publish notes of thanks from previous clients. Also include recognition that is based on client reviews instead of peer reviews. These can include your:
Of course, you may want to consider whether your past clients can properly rate your skills as a lawyer. Make sure that, if you use client reviews in your marketing, you are highlighting those reviews that get at the heart of who you are and how you practice. Reviews that fit this description can go a long way in giving prospective clients an understanding of what kind of lawyer you would be for them.
Remember to Always Focus on Your Clients
Your goal on your website is to provide clear reasons as to why a client should choose you over Joe Smith, an attorney who works in your practice area and serves the same geographic location you do. And in today’s virtual marketplace, you need to share those reasons quickly and succinctly, or else you risk losing your leads. You cannot afford to waste value time and space on your website to things that are essentially meaningless to your client base. And, to be clear, listing peer reviews is just that — a waste.
Keep this in mind if you choose to tout peer-based honors, awards, and memberships on your website. If you are going to use one or more awards, make sure you find smart ways to translate those awards into engaging messages that make real connections with your prospective clients. Because in the end, everything you do on your website is for them, not you.
Featured image: “Business concept image of a hand holding marker and write I don’t care isolated on white” from Shutterstock.
One caveat: I’ve written this post with a specific lawyer in mind — the lawyer whose main clientele is the general public. If your audience includes general counsel or other lawyers, you may find the content that follows less relevant to your practice. ↩