For the past year both Super Lawyers and FindLaw have been advocating about the value of being proactive when it comes to managing your reputation online. Now there's more proof to that claim.
According to a new survey from FindLaw and Super Lawyers, 87 percent of American consumers say they trust online reviews to help them choose which local businesses or services will receive their hard-earned dollars. Online reviews are an increasingly common way for people to both learn from other customers and leave comments about their own experiences. Reviews can be found for everything from restaurants and stores to finding a professional, such as a lawyer or doctor.
Trust of online reviews is especially high among Millennials and Gen X'ers (those between the ages of 18 and 51), since 91 percent of them say they trust online reviews. That compares with 83 percent of baby boomers.
So what's the best way to assert your firm in this growing marketplace? When it comes to generating a pool of reviews, a helpful approach is to ask your past and current clients. You should inform the client that the feedback they provide will help to address any shortcomings in your service and improve your practice. But be sure to avoid influencing or coaching clients you want feedback from. Keep it simple and encourage them to describe what working with you as an attorney was truly like.
To learn the full story on why consumers deem reviews so valuable and how law firms can leverage them, download the latest Super Lawyers playbook Building Real Trust in a Virtual World: An Attorney's Guide .
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.
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.