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 .
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.