I don’t need to tell you that the best way to generate more referrals and new clients for your law practice is through word of mouth. This tried and true method of law firm marketing has worked for lawyers and law firms for as long as there have been lawyers. The difference is that this used to be the actual word of mouth where two people physically near each other gave personal recommendations. Today online reviews and a Google search are the new word of mouth method. These days word of mouth is digital. People head online and leave reviews or posts on social media about their experiences. By understanding this method of communication, you can better manage your online reputation.
Why Should I Care About Online Reviews?
Search engines use online reviews to help rank search results. While it isn’t the only factor considered, it’s in the top three. So if you want a better online presence, you need to rack up more positive reviews. People head online to read testimonials before making a purchase. If you want more prospective clients to seriously consider your law firm, you need to have positive online reviews. Both negative and lack of reviews are a deterrent. Now to the important question, how do you get more positive reviews?
Rules of Professional Conduct
Before I get started, I think it’s important to mention the rules of professional conduct. You need to review and abide by these rules for your state bar. Online reviews are considered a form of advertisement. For most jurisdictions, you’re allowed to ask for reviews, but it needs to be a simple request. Offering anything of value in return for the review may or may not be permitted. But for those jurisdictions that allow it, you’re required to disclose that the review is a paid endorsement.
You also need to keep client confidentiality as the priority. Remind your clients not to include anything that may unwittingly compromise that confidentiality. Ultimately, it’s more about the quality of the reviews you have. So you may benefit more from asking a handful of clients that you know will give a quality review than asking all clients and ending up with low-quality reviews.
Choose Your Platform
Focus on asking clients to post their reviews on one or two platforms. You want to create a strong presence in one or two review sites, rather than a handful of reviews everywhere. Yelp will push hard to get your business. Before you sign up with them, understand that Yelp’s business model is to make money. You will be stuck in a hamster wheel that only increases in price as you pay to hide negative reviews.
One of the most important places to have client reviews is on Google. It’s the first place many potential clients go, and Google uses these reviews as a part of SEO ranking. Google My Business is the box that shows up on the right side of the screen of the search engine results for local businesses. Your law firm is a local business, and your firm’s company card will show up here. It should include reviews along with your firm’s phone number and address.
There are several lawyer niche websites that have lawyer reviews. You’ve probably heard of Avvo Law Directory, Lawyers.com, or Martindale. These websites tend to rank high on SEO so it can be helpful to have positive reviews on these high-profile sites.
There was a time when having Facebook reviews was paramount. I’d argue that this is slowly fading away. Facebook removed the ability to give a star rating, so now it’s recommended or don’t recommend it. You’ll get a stronger ROI from the first two locations.
Make the Review Process Simple
When you ask a client for a review, you need to make it easy for them. Include links to where you want people to leave their review in the request. That way, it’s as simple as possible for them. This will increase the likelihood of them following through with the review.
Limit the options to two different sites. This gives clients a choice; in case one isn’t possible. For instance, they may not have a Gmail and are unwilling to create one. You need another place for them to leave a review. Do not give more than two options. This can be overwhelming and will spread the reviews out too thin.
Choose the Right Time
You need to time your review request so that your client is more likely to leave a review. Ask clients that are most likely to give you a positive review.
Ask the client for a review after you have completed the current service for them. You want to ask soon enough afterward that your service is still fresh in their mind, but not so soon that their legal needs are still pending. Trying to ask past clients that are from too long ago won’t deliver effective results. Your law firm reviews will sound bland and vague, which will make the reader question their legitimacy. Avoid asking clients whose case was emotionally charged or of a sensitive nature.
Sample Request Language
To help you get started, I’ve provided some sample language. You should adapt it to fit your specific needs
I want to thank you for putting your trust in me and my firm to assist you with your legal needs. We hope that you don’t have to face another similar experience. Your online review can help someone in a situation similar to yours. I would truly appreciate you taking the time to let others know about your experience with our firm.
Please visit one of the following sites to leave a review or comment.Attorney
A Word of Caution When Responding
It can be incredibly frustrating to work hard trying to get positive reviews, only to find a negative one pop up. Your initial reaction will be emotional. Don’t give in to the emotion. All too often, attorneys get trigger happy and fire off a response before thinking through their actions.
Sample Positive Review Response
It’s important to respond to positive reviews too. Here is a sample response you can adapt for your firm’s use.
Thank you for taking the time to write a review and leave feedback on our performance. We welcome feedback and appreciate that we were able to meet your expectations.
Negative Online Reviews
I myself received an angry phone call from an attorney to whom I gave a less than a five-star review. I didn’t rake them over the coals, but I wasn’t five stars happy. An attorney from the firm, not the one I used, called me within hours of posting my review. He didn’t bother to introduce himself; he just began yelling at me as soon as I answered the phone. I hung up the phone and immediately went back to amend my review and include this attorney’s actions in my review.
This is how not to handle your bad reviews. I didn’t rate them the worst possible at one star, and this attorney flew off the handle, going out of his way to call and yell at me. This only succeeded in getting his firm even worse review. Not all of your business reviews are going to be five-star positive from satisfied clients. That’s ok. If they were, people would assume they were fake.
A better way of handling the situation would have been to call me and find out why I was less than five star happy. He could have turned the situation around, and I would have amended my review to be more positive.
Not only did this attorney hurt his online review score, but he also ruined any chance of me recommending them to anyone. Consider this when reacting to online reviews.
The best thing to do is to create template responses when you’re not upset. Then copy and paste them in. Include a sentiment acknowledging the reviewers displeasure and encouraging the dissatisfied client to contact you. Then follow through with the communication when they do.
Sample Negative Review Response
We sincerely thank you for taking the time to leave a review. We appreciate all feedback as it helps us improve our service. While we hope for nothing but glowing reviews, feedback like yours helps take our client’s experiences into consideration. We’d like to hear more about your experience and the issues you’ve mentioned in your review. Please contact [attorney] at [method of contact] so we can further assist you.
Fake Online Reviews
There will be a time when you encounter black hat reviews. These are fake reviews that are made by bots or people who were never clients. Unfortunately, you can’t really do a whole lot about them. But what you can do is acknowledge them for what they are. This reputation management ensures you present a professional impression.
Thank you for your review. We do not have any record of you being a current or former client. However, we welcome all feedback that is productive and constructive.
Increase Your Online Reviews
Start focusing on increasing the number of reviews by creating a proactive and systematic approach and following through with your plan. Even if you already have several great reviews from happy clients, , you’ll need new reviews as time goes on and your current reviews become old.
Reviews matter for your law firm but they should only be one part of your online marketing plan. This is one piece of the marketing puzzle. You should also have a plan for your social media, blog, and other brand awareness tasks. I can help you create engaging content for your law firm. This includes engaging social media posts, informative blog posts, and optimized website copy.