The New Word of Mouth: Lawyer Ratings and Reviews

The days of marketing your law firm in the Yellow Pages are long gone. More than 3 decades ago, along came the internet and suddenly the way we used to do nearly everything, including marketing law firms, changed in the blink of an eye. Technology ushered in a new age and traditional legal marketing techniques went out the window – or did they?

After all, the best legal marketing is word of mouth. Referrals from colleagues and former clients have always been the most reliable source of new clients, and the internet didn’t change that. After all, as I’ve said many times before, the online is simply an extension of the offline. The medium doesn’t change the message; it simply changes the method of delivery.

These days, referrals originate both online and off. Of course, you’ve probably already mastered how to encourage offline referrals, but the online world is a different story. Navigating the ever-changing online landscape can be daunting for the inexperienced. Fortunately, there are experts available to help. In fact, this very topic was discussed earlier this year at the ABA Techshow in Chicago. During this presentation, “The New Word of Mouth: Lawyer Ratings and Reviews,” Gyi Tsakalakis and Erin Gertenzang offered lots of great tips on obtaining favorable online ratings and reviews from your clients.

Below you’ll find the visual notes from that session along with some of our favorite tips (click to view larger image):

The importance of online reviews

At the outset, the speakers stressed how important the online world is when it comes to marketing your law firm. Legal consumers are no different than any other type of consumer: they shop for services just as they shop for products, and these days, they throughly research their options online before making a purchasing decision.

For example, more often than not, potential clients will run Google searches or search for law firms on Facebook. As the presenters explained, that’s why online reviews are such an important part of their decision-making process. The sites with the best search engine optimization (SEO) often incorporate client reviews into the results. So it’s important to learn about – and understand how to use – the different sites where lawyer reviews appear.

The importance of monitoring online mentions

According to the presenters, an important part of maintaining a successful online presence is to carefully monitor online review sites, lawyer directories, and online search mentions of you, your law firm, and other lawyers in the firm. Conduct online searches using terms related to you, your practice areas, and your law firm, so that you’ll learn where your potential clients will end up when searching for a lawyer in your area. Build out your law firm’s profile on the social media and lawyer directory sites where you expect potential clients will visit, such as Yelp and LinkedIn.

Finally, consider paying for ad campaigns so that when potential clients search for a law firm, they’ll be nudged in your law firm’s direction, landing on the sites over which you have direct control, such as your law firm’s website. Because when your law firm’s website appears at the top of search results for your practice areas and geographic region, it can sometimes make all the difference.

How to get and augment positive reviews

The speakers offered a number of great tactics to increase the number of positive online reviews of your law firm. First and foremost, invest in customer service and your relationships with your clients. Listen to your clients and provide empathetic responses to their concerns. The presenters emphasized how clients often include in their online reviews commentary regarding how they were treated by their lawyers rather than the outcome of their case. But, the fact is that you can’t always control the results of a case. The good news is that you have lots of control over your client’s experience when working with you and your law firm.

Another thing you can affect once a case is over is whether or not your client will leave an online review or provide a testimonial for your website. One way to encourage positive reviews is to make sure to survey your clients at the close of their case and ask for feedback – and make it easy for them to provide it. Ask clients what it was like to work with you so that they’ll focus on client service rather than their case outcome. Then, direct happy clients to review sites in your closing letter or email. Then augment positive reviews by featuring them on your website and including them in your law firm’s newsletter. Don’t let good reviews go to waste; make the most of them!

How to handle negative reviews

Of course, not all reviews are positive. Bad reviews happen, even to the best of us. If a former client leaves a negative review, the presenters suggest that you take a deep breath and cool off before responding. Then, decide if a response is warranted. If it is, first and foremost, make sure that you don’t reveal any confidential client information when replying. Otherwise, you may run afoul of ethics regulations.

Next, consider owning the mistake, depending on what it is that the client is upset about. Finally, be aware of the optics of your reply: future clients may read it. That’s why it’s important to let the client know that you understand the concerns raised and are interested in discussing it further. Suggest taking the conversation offline so that you can fully discuss and respond to the issues raised. Turn the negative review into an opportunity to show future clients that you are an empathetic and responsive attorney who cares about your clients and their concerns.

Interested in learning more? You’ll hear about lots of additional actionable legal marketing tips when you sign up for our upcoming webinar with speaker Gyi Tsakalakis, Turning More of Your Law Firm’s Online Traffic Into Fees. But make sure to reserve your spot today! The webinar is filling up quickly!

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