Rate This: How to Improve Your Online Lawyer Reviews

Online attorney reviews may not be as popular as those for your local five-star bistro, but they’re growing in importance. Whether a Google Review, Facebook, Avvo, or even YP.com, what do you do if you get a very public, often frustrating, thumbs-down from a former client of the firm, or even someone whose case you declined? How do you get more good reviews?

“I wouldn’t recommend this office. I am using Jim Smith and if you need to talk to him he is never there or either on another line. They always say you need to talk to Ruth, and Ruth is always taking a late lunch. They will have someone call you back, but that never happens. So the bottom line is you can never talk to anyone who can answer your questions.”

Actual online attorney review, names changed.

This marketing blog post gives lawyers an overview of current Internet review best practices. It draws upon a keynote lecture I heard in Silicon Valley by Bill Tancer and his book, “Everyone’s a Critic,” which I recommend. A law firm is not the same as a hotel or cafe, so I’ll also draw upon recommendations from our second-to-none online marketing team here at Firmidable.

Potential Legal Clients DO Pay Attention to Online Reviews

Tancer notes that 82% of the public said they consider online reviews. And, it’s not just young Internet users. People over 55 are among the largest readers of online reviews.

Working with law firms from Maine to Hawaii, the negative reviews we’ve read online can make you want to throw your computer out the window. Before you do, let’s turn those sour lemons into lemonade.

Online reputation management services.


How To Protect Your Law Firm’s Online Image

Don’t Let a Negative Review Ruin Your Day

Anyone who works with the public is going to get at least some bad reviews.

First thing to know: An NYU study showed that the public believes when all the reviews are positive, something is not credible. It seems fake. So an occasional bad review makes the good ones seem more believable. Nice.

First thing to embrace: Instead of worrying only about what people are writing, use your reviews to improve what your firm’s clients are experiencing. That’s what restaurants and hotels (well, the good ones anyway) are doing. From the internet review above, Jim needs to find a way to better stay in touch with his clients, like establishing a time to return calls at the end of the day, or keeping an eye on what time Ruth gets back from lunch.

And, not only should you (or your marketing agency) respond to negative reviews, treat them as opportunities to explain and reinforce your law firm’s “brand.”

Your law firm can’t stop online reviews. Make the most of them.

You Should Respond to Negative Reviews

There are recommended ways to respond to a bad online review, but first this: One study shows even if you don’t respond with grace and diplomacy, a “bad” response is better than no response at all.

What’s a bad response?

If the reviewer writes terrible, unreasonable things, the owner of the restaurant or hotel could lose his or her cool and respond something like, “I remember this idiot. He was a total pig from the moment he arrived, insulting my staff, not leaving a tip while demanding…” Yikes. And yet the study shows that in such a slugfest, the public doesn’t know who to believe so the bad review and bad response cancel each other out.

But if you allow a negative review to stand unanswered, well, then it must be true.

However, if you, as a lawyer, lose your cool in responding, you could get in trouble. For example, remember the attorney-client privilege. Attorneys who wrote about details of a case – or even a potential case – have been sanctioned by their state Bar Associations. It’s easier for a restaurant owner to critique a former customer than for an attorney to critique a former client.

How Lawyers Should Respond to Negative Reviews

A law firm, like any good business, should understand its brand and mission. Your response is an opportunity to let all the other readers on the review service understand, and be impressed by, your mission to serve your clients.

A high-end restaurant understands that criticism about its high prices is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s an opportunity to publicize its mission.

“We’re sorry to read about your recent experience in finding our entrée prices to be over your budget. Our goal at Chez Pricey is to offer the world’s freshest organic ingredients prepared by the most acclaimed chefs. Some will find the entrée prices on the higher end. But many find the dining experience to be the memory of a lifetime. That’s our goal and I’m so sorry it was not what you were looking for that evening.”

The restaurant’s target audience will hopefully say, “Wow. Forget that cheapskate – I’d like to try that place myself.”

So, perhaps attorney Jim Smith, from above, or his marketing agency would reply, “I’m sorry you had this experience. At the Smith Law Firm, we spend so much time helping so many injured workers get the Workers’ Compensation benefits they need, perhaps we can sometimes be slower at returning individual phone calls than we would like. It’s our mission to stand up for the average working guy against big insurance companies, so that does take a lot of time. We will recommit to helping as many injured workers as we can, so thank you for bringing this to my attention to address.”

And, besides only writing a reply, consider also a personal phone call. Here’s an actual updated review from Yelp about our Social Security Disability attorney client in Detroit:

“I have upgraded my review from 1 star to 3 after receiving a personal phone call from Gary Bimberg, who replied to the first review I wrote. Although I wasn’t happy with everything the first time, I do think Gary is interested in winning my case a second time around. Also, although I wasn’t thrilled with some of the things that happened with my case with relationship to the law firm — I admit the biggest problem was the judge. I am glad Attorney Bimberg offered his perspective on my case and I have retained the firm’s services a second time…”

Great turnaround, including an upgrade in the Yelp star rating.

How to Get More Good Reviews for Your Law Firm

It’s known that people are usually more motivated to write about a bad experience than a good one. So how can you get more good reviews?

In most industries, sadly, good service is simply not enough.

To get the exceptional reviews and scores, your customers or clients need to feel passionately about your service. That usually takes the unexpected.

In “Everyone’s a Critic,” author Bill Tancer tells how the highest-rated locksmith in New York City made it his goal to be ranked number one. While working he makes local restaurant recommendations to the homeowners and, when done, takes an extra 10 minutes to oil any squeaky door hinges throughout the house at no extra charge. Surprised and delighted customers became passionate fans and reviewers.

Law firms can easily find that good service, or even winning a case, isn’t sufficient to generate enough passion to inspire an online review. The firm should brainstorm, on its own or with an agency like Firmidable, ways to provide additional service and even little touches that are unexpected.

Should You Ask for a Review When You Win a Case?

Alex Ludwig, a former senior account manager here at Firmidable, had also worked at an advertising agency specializing in the automotive sector. He says that many dealerships give out cards to happy new car purchasers, inviting them to write a review. From that effort, dealerships saw their positive reviews increase.

At your law firm, you can create a process for asking clients to provide reviews after they receive good results from their cases.

You can design professional standards for how you ask, when you ask, and which team members do the asking. This is all part of a comprehensive online reputation management strategy for your firm.

Tancer writes that some businesses prefer to be more subtle. Instead of individually asking for reviews, they may post signs like “Review us on Facebook” or even print out and post reviews as framed art work for the office walls – both positive and negative ones, with more of the former, of course. Nothing more needs to be said for people who like to write reviews.

And, regular reviewers are the most important reviewers. When calculating an average overall review score, many review sites will discount or even exclude ratings by people who don’t regularly post reviews. Why? The one-shot reviewer is more likely to be biased, such as a friend of the business owner who got asked for a good review as a favor.

Consider an Online Review Monitoring Service and an Agency

You can look for your reviews with a search engine, like Google, typing in “your-firm-name reviews.” If so, you should be disciplined, calendaring to do this regularly. But that takes time and you might miss some of the details that an experienced team would uncover, especially on legal niche-sites.

There are monitoring services that alert you to reviews. Some are free, but you should monitor each firm attorney and office location, so your needs can quickly add up to more than what you get for free.

You will also want to claim and verify your listings on sites like Avvo to claim your rights as the law firm being reviewed. If you’re a client of our agency, we’ll do that for you.

In general, you should consider how you want to reply to reviews. A law firm marketing agency like Firmidable can help you monitor reviews and offer guidance and models on the kinds of language you can use in your responses.

Remember the NYU study showed if there is no response, the public assumes it must be true.

If you’d like to grow your law firm with a marketing agency with the mission of understanding better than anyone else how Americans pick a lawyer, contact us for a five-star conversation.

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About the Author: Nathan Chapman

As founder and President of Firmidable, for over 30 years Nathan Chapman has been a nationally known leader, consultant and speaker on growth strategies for law firms. Nathan’s professional passion is for data-driven, holistic legal marketing driven by YOUR law firm’s measures of success—not by the metrics of a service-providing vendor. His approach has been life-changing for attorneys across the country as well as hundreds of thousands of clients helped by their firms.

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