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Your Law Firm’s Online Reviews

“Software is eating the world.” What an interesting quote to contemplate. What do you imagine when reading this quote? Marc Andreessen certainly provides a brilliant description and vivid imagery of the modern business landscape in this quote. As the inventor of the Web browser, co-founder of Netscape, and co-founder of the venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, Andreessen offers a unique insight in these five little words that few others have.
The reality in today’s world is that most attorneys spend much of their time on a computer, tablet, or smartphone—and so do their potential clients. Technology is literally taking over lives as we become more dependent on it. The majority of the public now uses software when searching for legal representation. The rise of powerhouse sites like Avvo, FindLaw, and Lawyers.com is a testament to this. Of course, you may hear a radio ad, see a TV commercial, or even hear about a law firm through wordof- mouth—but, most people want to verify what they’ve heard in ads or referrals, and they turn to Google.
What reputation does your law firm have on Google? Google your law firm name and see what the search results say about your firm’s reputation. Is it five stars? Three stars? One star? Do you even have any reviews? It is those little star ratings that will weigh heavily in the mind of your potential clients when they are making their decision about representation. According to one recent study, 88% of consumers use online reviews to determine whether a local business is good. Which means, the presence (or absence) of those five stars can make (or break) much of your business.
Below we will explore four easy steps your law firm can use to better manage its online reviews. Please remember to ensure that all activities that you engage in related to reviews or marketing fall in compliance with applicable Bar regulations and guidelines.

Step 1: Get Listed!
The first thing that must be done—get your law firm listed! The reality is there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of review sites, but probably less than 30 really matter to your practice. These review sites can be separated into three categories:

  1. The majors
  2. Legal
  3. Local

Every law firm in the U.S. should be listed on the majors:

  • Google My Business
  • Yelp
  • Facebook
  • YellowPages
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Citysearch
  • Yahoo! Local
  • Bing Local
  • DexKnows
  • Insider Pages
  • Judy’s Book
  • MerchantCircle
  • Foursquare
  • Manta

Likewise, every law firm should also be listed on the most popular legal review sites:

  • Findlaw
  • Avvo
  • Justia
  • Lawyers.com
  • Nolo
  • Martindale
  • LegalMatch
  • HG.org
  • SuperLawyers
  • LawyerCentral

Finally, each metro has its own local directories. Moz and BrightLocal have put together some good lists for you to use. Some of these local sites may not support reviews, but it’s still a good idea to get listed on them.

Step 2: Get Building!
Build your online presence by keeping your firm’s website up-to-date, and your social media continually updated with fresh content. Social media platforms can be a good place to highlight your strengths, positive case results, and awards you have won. You can even share reviews or comments satisfied clients have left.
Make sure your firm information like office hours, contact information, and Web address is listed accurately in online review sites and other platforms such as Google and Yelp. It is a good idea to connect your website via hyperlink on each platform so potential clients can easily go straight to your site.

Step 3: Get Marketing!
People are not looking for the first law firm they see, they are looking for the best. While it used to be about being the best website and the first ranked in a Google search, having the Internet at our fingertips has changed things. In the old days, word of mouth or advertisements were the best way to get business. Now, when potential clients are looking for a law firm and receive a recommendation, they will most likely search sites for reviews. Even someone using a generic search term such as “law firms” will likely be influenced by the results with four or five stars in the review section.
Potential clients are seeking reinforced perception of your firm when reading online reviews. The goal is to make sure your advertising efforts are consistent with your reviews and show that other clients are pleased with your work. Building positive reviews that display in search results is key in getting more business to walk through your door.
As tempting as it may be, never pay for reviews! There are several reasons for this. First, it is unethical and illegal, especially if they are not actual clients. There have been lawsuits brought against businesses in the past for fake reviews, costing companies thousands of dollars. Also, never use incentives or anything that could be seen as a bribe in obtaining reviews. While actual cash may not flow from hand to pocket, the cash value does. If you offer coupons, free services, or discounts, you are simply bribing for a review and you are breaking the FTC’s and Google’s policies.
Instead, you should kindly ask your clients to leave reviews for your firm. This should be a natural process and something the client wants to do based on the quality of representation they received from your firm, not through incentives. By providing a link either through email, social media and/or your website, you are making it simple for your clients to review your firm. When asking your clients for feedback, timing is critical. Ask clients to leave a review after their cases have ended with positive results. Ask them to pull up your firm’s profile on their mobile device while in your office or send them an email with a link and ask them to leave a review.
As you gain more positive reviews, remember to promote them. As your clients permit, you can post them to your Facebook page, tweet them from your Twitter account, or link to them from your website.

Step 4: Always Control the Narrative
You should know what is being said about your law firm at all times— whether it is pleasant to hear or not. The best practice you can follow in managing online reviews is controlling the narrative. So how do you do this when others are posting reviews about your law firm for anyone on the Web to see? You should interact with all of the comments. When you receive a great review, thank the reviewer and respond with how much you enjoyed representing them or working with them. When a negative review is posted, you need to respond. Remember, potential clients are reading the reviews, which means they will also see your responses. Here are some important tips to remember when responding to unfavorable reviews:

  • Don’t let the outside world see you sweat or become angry.
  • The client is almost always perceived as right on review sites, even when they are wrong.
  • Always stay professional and positive.
  • Do not get defensive. Stay calm.
  • Correct facts, not opinions.
  • Own the issue if something did happen.
  • Share what has been done to avoid future problems.
  • Turn it around by highlighting your strengths.

Potential clients won’t necessarily know any history or facts behind a bad review, so the biggest mistake you can make is acting defensive and upset. You need to remember to use empathy and thoughtfulness. Apologizing for a mistake or a miscommunication acknowledges something went wrong and lets potential clients see you care.
Most people reading reviews of your law firm will not expect 100% positivity. We live in a world of imperfection, and clients don’t expect you to be perfect. People want to see your reaction to what others say about you, how you carry yourself, and if they feel heard by you. By responding to all reviewers in a thorough, meticulous way, you are able to control the narrative and show that you are willing to take that extra step for your clients.
Reviews can become your worst enemy or your best friend. Make the choice to let them impact the way you manage your practice in a positive light. If you work diligently to improve and/or gain reviews, your practice has the potential to increase its online presence and caseload.

Eric Welke

Eric Welke is a Marketing Consultant as ConsultWebs.com, where his role is to create, implement and manage digital marketing solutions for our law firm clients, with a focus on business growth and sustainability.

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Filed Under: Featured StoriesPersonal Development

About the Author: Eric Welke is a Marketing Consultant as ConsultWebs.com, where his role is to create, implement and manage digital marketing solutions for our law firm clients, with a focus on business growth and sustainability.

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