How Will you Prove You're the "Best of the Best"?
Capturing the Trustworthiness of Online Reviews
There's a preconceived notion out there that attorneys fashion a high opinion of themselves. Whether it's the law school they attended or their win/loss record in cases, the stigma exists. Interestingly enough, in a recent Thomson Reuters study, attorneys in small law firms ranked being "the best of the best" third out of 14 priorities when it came to goals that were most important to them.
But how do you go about being thought of as the "best of the best"? What are some of the things you can do to make your firm stand out? We took a look at three ways to position your firm to be recognized.
Charitable and pro bono legal work provides opportunities to meet people with very different backgrounds and interests whom you may not otherwise meet in your daily life. Fundraising for charities, serving as a board member for a nonprofit and the like will connect you with local business leaders and increase your connections. These networking opportunities may also have the added benefit of generating business for you.
Be Visible to Neutral Third Parties
Your legal accomplishments don't just look good on paper, they are powerful third-party validations that build consumer trust and differentiate your firm from the one down the street. When an unbiased, reputable organization gives your firm its stamp of approval, it can quickly benefit your reputation. Third-party validations such as selection to a Super Lawyers list are among the preeminent ways of bolstering your reputation.
Share Your Accomplishments With Others
One of the strongest and least expensive ways to broaden your firm's footprint is to promote legal achievements and accolades. Chances are you have recognitions to tout such as certifications, recommendations, scholarly writings and awards. You've earned them, but are you promoting them? Download our playbook Leveraging Your Legal Accolades to learn more about spreading the word about legal achievements to maximize your visibility.
Being the "best of the best" is one thing-however telling the world is another. Make sure you do both.
Pro Bono Work is One Reason to "Love Your Lawyer"
As a Super Lawyers or Rising Stars list selectee, you are among a unique group of attorneys who withstood the rigor of our patented selection process to earn a prestigious honor. That doesn't mean your reputation is perpetually perfect, especially in the world of online reviews.
As the playbook Building Real Trust in a Virtual World: An Attorney's Guide discusses, the importance of trust in the online world is paramount. FindLaw's 2015 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey recently found that 67 percent of consumers use reviews as major criteria when deciding on an attorney.
People you don't even know can leave an online review for all potential clients to see, so some initial apprehension to this idea is understandable. The good news is that people want to leave positive reviews. The same survey found that 57 percent of legal consumers left online reviews and of these, 81 percent were positive. It is very likely you will receive good feedback from your clients.
So how do you get started? First consider the time and place to pose the question.
Just Start Asking
First off, keep in mind that some states prohibit the solicitation and use of ratings, reviews or recommendations. Attorneys are responsible for ensuring that they comply with their individual states' ethics rules.
Assuming your state allows you to do so, when should you request a review? Some attorneys wait until the final termination letter to request feedback. Others may request feedback at the height of the case, or soon after receiving a successful judgment but before sending out the final bill and termination letter. The decision on when to ask is really up to you based on the kind of connection you developed with the client.
In any case, you should seek an honest and detailed appraisal. Reviews can help you provide reliable information to consumers who are considering your firm for legal representation.
Turning a Negative Into a Positive
Though the goal is always a positive review, the occasional bad one happens as well. Luckily there are ways to mitigate the damage. When you do receive a poor review it's important to respond in a professional manner. Think about how potential clients will react if they read your response. You want to show them you are caring and empathetic, that you understand there is merit in criticism and that you appreciate any feedback that will help your firm.
Consumers are interested in your response to bad reviews. In a survey done by Phocuswright, 78 percent of respondents said they trust management more when they respond to criticism. Remember that not all reviews are bad, but handling the less than positive ones is an opportunity to show the caring side of your firm.
Ultimately reviews are about your online reputation and how consumers judge your firm when they're looking for their next attorney. But this isn't the only factor when considering how trustworthy a lawyer is. For more information about keeping the legal consumer's attention, download the playbook: Building Real Trust in a Virtual World: An Attorney's Guide.
It seems that everywhere you turn unofficial holidays that highlight certain groups of people like authors, vegans or even Star Wars fans are fast becoming commonplace. Now lawyers have a holiday of their own: "Love Your Lawyer Day".
This day, designed to promote a positive and respected image of lawyers and their contributions to the community will be recognized today.
So maybe you'll spend this special day reconnecting with some past clients, grabbing lunch with fellow colleagues or even spreading some goodwill in the community. At Super Lawyers, we wanted to take a minute and celebrate two of our selectees conducting exceptional pro bono work.
Steve Lessard - Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP - New York, New York
As touched on in the 2016 New York Metro Super Lawyers Magazine Lessard did an internship with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, primarily advising service members about their rights under "don't ask, don't tell," a policy prohibiting homosexual and bisexual military personnel from disclosing their sexual orientation.
"People who really felt that they had nowhere else to turn could turn to us and get some answers," says Lessard. The work was also personal.
"I am gay. I lived in the military under 'don't ask, don't tell' and felt like I wanted to be able to help individuals in the same situation I was in," says Lessard. "I've always had an affinity for causes for the LGBT community and an affinity for causes for veterans in general. Being able to marry those two has been nice."
Lessard is now a senior associate in the tax group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, where he does about 200 hours of pro bono work per year. He was recently honored for that work with a 2016 President's Pro Bono Service Award from the New York State Bar Association.
Megan E. Watson - Berner Klaw & Watson LLP - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Watson, whose daytime caseload focuses on custody, support, divorce, abuse, special education and adoption cases, didn't even have her Bar identification number when she took on her first pro bono case at the firm, helping a low-income Hispanic woman wrestle custody of her kids from her abusive husband. Since then, she's served as a child advocate in a number of dependency and custody cases. In one, she repeatedly met with therapists, school professionals and a girl's parents before making recommendations about custody and schooling, which the judge approved. The pre-teen, who is only three years younger than Watson's own daughter, is now doing well and earning better grades.
"To be a child advocate, and to do a good job with that, is probably more social work than it is legal." Being a mother of two, Watson says, has helped her catch details that might otherwise go unnoticed. "You have to be able to connect with them. The reason I keep getting appointed is because they know I'm going to go to the school, I'm going to speak to any professionals that I need to speak to, I'm going to meet multiple times with the kid. You have to develop that relationship."
We hope all the attorneys out there have a special "Love Your Lawyer Day". Be sure to check back with us throughout the day on Facebook and Twitter as we'll be sharing updates on how others are celebrating.