Reputation Defenders

Why Lawyers Need Online Reputation Management

Why Lawyers Need Online Reputation Management
Brad Withers
Reputation Defenders Team
18 min
Reputation

Why Lawyers Need Online Reputation Management

Managing online criticism is an important aspect of lawyer reputation management. You can take control of your lawyer's online presence by using effective, ethical strategies.

1. Identify the current online reputation of lawyers in your firm.

The first step in managing your legal practice's online reputation is putting yourself in the client's shoes. What do people say about your firm online? How does it compare to what you'd like to convey?

Do it in an inappropriate mode so that your surfing history doesn't affect your research. This way, you'll see how Google views your firm based on your actual behavior.

Google knows you're connected to the lawyers in your firm. If you log into your Gmail account while researching your firm's online reputation, you might notice that some emails are marked "From:" your domain name. These are messages sent from clients to the lawyer handling their cases. Google uses this information to determine whether the lawyer is trustworthy.

If you use your regular browser to conduct your research, Google will give an inaccurate picture of the reputation of lawyers within your firm. Instead, it will show the same information that everyone else sees—the public record.

How to use incognito mode

Incognito mode is a powerful tool that allows you to browse the web without being tracked by third parties. You can use it to surf anonymously and even make purchases online without worrying about your identity being stolen. Incognito mode doesn't just protect against data theft; it also protects you from getting caught doing things you shouldn't do.

The best way to learn how to use incognito is to try it out yourself. Open a new tab in your browser, type a URL into the address bar, and press Enter. Using Firefox, you'll see a small padlock icon next to the URL. This indicates that the site you are browsing is safe. However, if there isn't a padlock, it could mean that the site is tracking your activity. To prevent this, go to the menu bar, select "View," and check the box labeled "Show All Cookies." Now you can see what sites are storing cookies on your computer.

You can also use incognito mode to make purchases online. When you're ready to purchase something, type in the name of the product you want in the address bar hit enter, and follow the prompts. Once you've finished shopping, close the tab and exit the browser. Your credit card won't be charged because you still need to complete the transaction.

Search ideas to begin your law firm reputation management research

When doing your lawyer reputation research, you want to look up similar law firms in your practice areas. You want to save time looking up lawyers irrelevant to your practice area. And you don't want to spend hours researching every single lawyer within your practice area. Instead, use Google to find out what people are saying about the lawyers you're interested in. This way, you'll know whether those lawyers are reputable and trustworthy.

Type your law firm's name. Then type each lawyer's name separately. If you see anything negative, it might mean that someone else has had a problem with that particular lawyer. But don't worry; there's no reason to panic. Just keep searching until you find something positive.

Look up the names of your lawyers. There's nothing wrong with checking out the backgrounds of your fellow lawyers. It's important to do so. After all, would you only want to hire a doctor if you know his medical history? So why would you hire a lawyer without finding out his background?

For example, I looked up "William Peacock attorney," "William Peacock lawyer," and "Law Office of William C." I found some good things about both William Peacock and Law Office of William C.. Still, I didn't find anything about William Peacock himself.

2. Improve your lawyer's reputation by asking for positive reviews and responsibly handling negative ones

A potential client recently reached out to me about a legal issue. He wanted to hire me because he liked my background and experience, but he needed to figure out how much I'd charge him.

I've been practicing law for over ten years and have handled hundreds of cases like his. But I don't do anything fancy; I take care of what needs to be done. So I told him to find someone else.

He didn't want to hear it. Instead, he asked me why I wouldn't recommend him to anyone.

The truth is, I needed to know more information to recommend him. And since we're talking about money here, I needed to know how much he could afford.

So I did some research into his situation. I learned that he owned a small business and had a lot of debt. His credit score was low, and he owed $10,000 in unpaid taxes.

When I looked up his attorney profile on Avvo, I saw that he had received several complaints. Some people said he was rude during a consultation, while others complained that he took too long to respond to emails.

One person even wrote that he was "unprofessional."

The anatomy of reviews that improve your lawyer reputation

Reviews matter. They're one of the most powerful tools lawyers use to build trust online. But not all reviews are created equal, and some aren't even worth reading. Here's how to make sure yours stand out.

1. Make it specific.

If you ask for a general review, you'll likely receive something like "I'm happy with my experience." This isn't useful information because it doesn't help you understand whether you're providing value to your clientele. A better approach is asking for a review highlighting exactly what you did for your client. For example, you might say, "Please provide feedback about our work together," rather than simply asking for a "review."

2. Don't just ask for positive reviews.

You don't need to ask for negative reviews, either. If someone had a bad experience with your law firm, chances are they'd prefer to keep it private. Asking for positive and negative reviews gives insight into what people think about your practice. You can use this data to identify areas where you could do better.

3. Avoid generic phrases.

A generic phrase such as "best attorney" or "greatest lawyer" is too broad. Instead, try something more specific, like "best divorce attorney" or "most effective criminal defense lawyer." These terms are easier to evaluate and give you a clearer picture of what you offer.

Does the anonymity that review sites offer harm law firm reputation management?

Review sites are often considered a great way to build trust among potential customers. However, some lawyers worry that the anonymity review sites offers could hurt their legal practice. While there are many benefits to having reviews posted online, including increased visibility and credibility, some lawyers fear that anonymous reviewers may be less honest about their experiences.

For example, one lawyer told Lawyerist he had received several negative reviews from people who claimed to work for his competitors. He found out later that those reviews came from someone else entirely. Another attorney shared how she was contacted by a competitor who wanted her to write positive reviews about him. She refused because she did not want to give the impression that she worked for him.

The anonymity of review sites also makes it easier for clients in certain industries to be more specific in what they say about their experience. One attorney told Lawyerist that he receives a lot of complaints from people who are unhappy with his divorce attorneys. They complain about things like billing practices, lack of communication, and poor customer service. But since the clients need to know who wrote the reviews, they cannot provide specifics about why they feel dissatisfied.

Another attorney told Lawyerist he gets a lot of feedback from former employees who are disgruntled with his workplace culture. Again, however, he needs to find out who left the job. So while he knows the problem exists, he must figure out how to fix it.

In short, lawyers shouldn't ignore the benefits of review sites but should also recognize the risks associated with anonymity. In particular, lawyers should prioritize reviews that include more specific details over generic ones.

How to get reviews that simplify your law firm reputation management

Lawyers are often asked about how to manage client complaints and reviews online. But what happens when you don't even know there's a problem? You could lose clients because no one told you about the issue. Or worse, you could lose clients because you didn't do anything about it.

In fact, according to the American Bar Association, lawyers are the least trusted profession. And while many attorneys are aware of the importance of managing online reviews, only some take action. Some studies show that less than half of lawyers use social media monitoring tools like Lex Machina to track online reviews.

A recent survey found that nearly three-quarters of respondents had received a complaint or review online. However, fewer than 10% took action to address the complaint or review. This is why we recommend proactive steps to help protect your lawyer's reputation.

Customize this sample of an email requesting a review

Dear,

I am writing to review my experience.

You are probably familiar with Yelp, Avvo, and Google Reviews. These sites allow people like yourself to post online reviews of businesses and professionals. They provide ratings and comments for each listing, allowing consumers to find out what others think of the business.

Please take a moment to fill out one of these forms. It would make a difference. You can do it here:

Thank you again for taking the time to complete this survey. We greatly appreciate it.

Sincerely,

What to do if clients don't help you build your lawyer reputation with reviews

A client recently asked how she could convince her friends to write reviews about her law firm. She wanted to know what she needed to say to persuade people to write positive reviews. I told her it was challenging and that most lawyers are reluctant to give out their contact info. But, I did offer some tips.

The first thing to remember is that real testimonials come from actual clients. They represent your best opportunity to show off your legal expertise and demonstrate why you're the right attorney for them. If you want to encourage clients to review you online, you must provide them with a legitimate reason to do so. For example, ask them if they ever had a problem with your work and whether they felt you helped them solve it. Then, tell them that you'd love to hear about their experience. This approach permits them to speak freely without worrying about hurting their feelings.

Next, let them know that you value their opinion. Tell them that you appreciate feedback from satisfied clients and hope they'll take the time to write a review. You can even send them a link to a form where they can submit their testimonial anonymously. Finally, remind them that they can always change their mind later. If they decide to post a negative review, they can delete it.

Can you offer rewards for reviews that boost your online reputation?

There are many ways businesses try to influence consumers' opinions about their products and services. One way is to pay people to write positive reviews. Some states prohibit companies from paying for positive reviews, while others allow it. In some cases, companies must include a disclaimer stating that they did not receive payment for the review.

The FTC recently updated its guidelines for endorsements and testimonials. Under the revised rules, endorsers cannot promise something unless they know it's true. They also need to determine how much money they received for endorsing a product.

Keep track of new reviews to stay on top of your law firm's reputation management.

Lawyers are often surprised to find out that third parties are monitoring their online presence. These sites are called review aggregators, and they allow people to post comments about lawyers anonymously. They are useful tools because they provide information about how well a particular attorney is doing in the eyes of the public. However, it is important to note that these sites do not necessarily represent clients' opinions.

Google and Bing offer free alerts that notify you whenever someone posts negative feedback about your practice area. For example, I recently received a notification that one of our attorneys had been accused of practicing law without a license in California. This information is extremely helpful because it allows us to respond quickly and effectively.

Check your Google and Bing search results every few weeks to ensure everything has stayed the same. If you notice anything suspicious, contact the site owner immediately to ask why they published the comment. Most sites will take down the offending material within 24 hours.

How to handle negative reviews in a way that builds a positive lawyer reputation

Reviews are a necessary part of the legal profession. They help lawyers build trust with clients, provide feedback on how well the attorney performs, and allow consumers to make educated decisions about whom to hire. However, it's important to understand that even the best, most attentive, and most empathetic attorneys will eventually receive a negative review.

Lawyers deal with stressful matters, and while many people think that success means achieving the best possible outcome, the reality is that the law is an uncertain business, and there are no guarantees. Some cases are so complex that the best outcome is not known at the outset.

Clients, being human, may place unrealistic demands on their lawyers, expecting them to do things that aren't realistic or possible. A client may want to sue someone but realize he needs to learn more about the case to file suit. Or, a client may demand that his lawyer take a position contrary to what the law requires.

With a sufficient volume of reviews, the overall tenor and tone of the reviews paint a fairly accurate picture of a particular practice. But any single review may need to catch up. For example, a client might write a glowing review because she feels like her lawyer did everything she asked him to do. However, if another client writes a scathing review, it could reflect poorly on the entire firm.

So, how does an attorney respond to negative reviews? First, don't panic. Instead, see the review for what it is – just another piece of information you can use to improve your practice. Second, consider whether the reviewer's experience was typical or exceptional. Third, ask yourself why the review is negative. Was the reviewer dissatisfied with the quality of work performed? Did he feel that the attorney didn't communicate effectively? Were the fees too high?

Finally, remember that negative reviews are inevitable. So, rather than focusing on the negative review itself, focus on how you can learn from it and improve your practice.

Guidelines for responding to negative reviews

Negative feedback is inevitable in the legal industry. But how do you handle it professionally without coming off like a jerk? Here are some tips to keep in mind when dealing with negative reviews.

Do Not Engage In An Argument With The Reviewer. Trying to argue or defend your lawyer's reputation will look unprofessional to potential clients and signals that you are more concerned with defending yourself than providing the best client-centered experience possible.

Apologize For Any Substandard Customer ServiceThe Client Experienced. Apologizing for any substandard customer service the client experienced will show the public that you care about client satisfaction. Mention Any Improvements Your Firm Has Made Since That Situation Occurred. It shows the public that you care about client satisfaction. Request That Person Contact You Privately To Make It Right. Requests that person contacts you privately to make it right. This demonstrates that you take responsibility for your actions and want to make things right.

The rare case of blogs that aim to bring down a lawyer's reputation

In April 2018, a San Francisco jury awarded $2.5 million to former client Crystal Cox, who claimed that attorney Marc Randazza had defamed her. She sued him for defamation and sought punitive damages. Cox maintained that Randazza posted false information about her on his blog, ripoffreport.com, and social media.

The court found that Cox failed to prove actual malice, meaning that Randazza did not act with knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for truth or falsity. But it upheld the award anyway, saying that Randazza's conduct was "outrageous" and "reprehensible."

Cox appealed, arguing that she deserved punitive damages because Randazza acted with malicious intent. In August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that Randazza's behavior warranted punitive damages. The appeals court remanded the case to the district court to determine what amount of punitive damages would deter future misconduct.

But the Ninth Circuit didn't stop there. It went further, finding that Cox was entitled to recover some of her legal fees under California law. The court ruled that Cox could collect reasonable attorney fees incurred in defending herself against Randazza's s lawsuit.

3. Master social media and community management to establish your lawyer's reputation

The legal industry is still relatively young compared to many others. As such, it only sometimes has established practices and procedures to protect clients and attorneys. This makes it easy for potential clients to discover what happens behind closed doors.

If you want to build up your online presence, consider building your reputation on one social network. By doing so, you'll be better able to promote yourself across different platforms.

For example, if you've been practicing for a while now, you may already have a good reputation within your local area. However, if you have little experience outside your city, you may not have built a strong enough reputation to attract clients.

By choosing one social network over another, you can ensure that people see your best side. This way, you won't have to worry about hurting your overall reputation.

How to choose the best social media platform for your law firm reputation management

To choose a social media platform for your legal practice, consider these two factors:

  1. Where do your ideal clients already hang out? If you serve business clients, LinkedIn is the obvious choice. But if you think about it, you can reach active people on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or even Pinterest.
  2. Think outside the box. Some platforms are better suited to reaching certain types of consumers. For example, if you represent residential real estate buyers and sellers, consider yourself something other than Facebook. You could try TikTok, which is growing in popularity among young adults.
  3. Remember to consider how much work you're willing to put in. And remember to let your clients know what you've found.
  4. Finally, make sure you understand the rules and regulations for each platform.

How to build your lawyer reputation from scratch with a new social media profile

Once you choose your platform, it's time to build an audience. You want people to trust and protect the reputation lawyers in your law firm have. But how do you start building that audience? There are many platforms out there, each with its own unique culture. Some platforms are better suited for certain posts, while others are better for others. For example, LinkedIn is great for networking and sharing professional information, whereas Facebook is best for connecting with friends and family. So what type of post works best on which platform? And what does that mean for your brand?

Every social media platform has its unique culture. Things that work on one site won't necessarily work on another. For instance, LinkedIn is great for posting about your career, but it only offers a little space for personal posts like those found on Facebook. As such, you'll likely spend more time crafting your messages on LinkedIn than on Facebook.

Therefore, take some time to learn about the platform you've chosen. Study the rules, read up on the etiquette, and see what works best for your brand. Then, once you're comfortable, start creating content that fits into that platform's culture.

How to combine social media with community management for an even stronger lawyer reputation

When you build a social media profile, you build a community. You connect people with similar interests and passions. You make it easy for them to find one another. And you provide a forum where they can interact.

But what happens when you grow your audience beyond just friends and family members? What about those interested in your practice area but need to know someone else practicing there? Or maybe they've heard something negative about your type of work and want to learn more about how you handle difficult situations.

In short, you have a lot of potential clients out there. But you might need to learn how to reach them.

That's why it's important to think about building a community around your brand. This could mean holding regular live chats with your followers, hosting Q&As, offering free legal advice, or providing expert insight into a particular topic.

You can use these opportunities to help your audience understand your brand better while also helping them solve problems and improve their lives.

4. Accelerate law firm reputation management with PR tactics

Law firms are often criticized for being too focused on billable hours and revenue. But there are many ways to show clients that we're doing good work while still making money. One of those ways is to build our legal reputation.

But how do we go about doing that? A few years ago, I wrote a blog post, "How to Build Your Lawyer Reputation From Scratch." In it, I described some basic steps anyone can take to build their lawyer's reputation.

Today, I've updated my original article to reflect what I think are the most effective ways to leverage PR tactics to help us build our lawyer reputation. So let's dive into four areas where you can use PR tactics to help build your lawyer reputation.

  1. Show Up Where People Are Already Looking For Lawyers
  2. Reach Out To Influencers Who Can Help Promote Your Firm
  3. Get Interviewed By Top Publications And Podcasts
  4. Partner With Trusted Businesses

5. Bullet-proof your lawyer reputation as much as possible by building owned assets

Law firms have long known that owning their online presence is important for their legal marketing strategy. But there are many ways to do this, and some methods work better than others. There are no guarantees in law practice reputation management, but building owned assets, like your own website and email lists, is still critical.

Social media platforms can change their policies or even shut down altogether. Publications, where you've regularly published or interviewed can change their editorial strategies. When you simultaneously develop owned social media accounts, your lawyers can develop reputations independent of other companies agendas. This gives you the ability to tell your own story. Your clients can read your story and learn about you in your own words. They'll know exactly how you want to be perceived.

There are other benefits for developing owned assets, including being able to...

  1. Tell your own story. When clients log into your website, they can read about you and what you're about. You can use this space to explain why you're different, what makes you unique, and why you're the best choice for their needs.
  2. Build relationships. You can establish trust and rapport by creating a personal connection with your audience. Clients will feel comfortable sharing information with you because you seem trustworthy.
  3. Create brand awareness. If people see you speaking at conferences, reading articles, or writing blog posts, they'll think of you whenever they hear someone mention your name.
  4. Increase traffic. People will link to you naturally. As your profile grows, so does your reach.

Control the narrative of your lawyer's reputation

Law firms often focus too much on client retention and must remember to build up their online presence. A strong online presence helps build trust and credibility among potential clients. Reputation management is an ongoing process that starts with creating high-quality content on your site.

You can counteract a bad review with a thoughtfully written, professional response. If you're lucky enough to receive several glowing reviews, consider sharing those on social media. Don't just rely on third-party platforms like Yelp; post directly on your website. This way, you can control the narrative of your firm's reputation.

Start posting before you've been sued if you want to get noticed by people searching for legal professionals. Instead, get featured in reputable publications that help establish your firm's reputation. For example, consider submitting articles to local parenting magazines if you practice family law.

The same applies to blogs and podcasts. If you're a solo practitioner, consider starting a blog where you discuss topics related to your area of expertise. Then, submit your posts to relevant publication sites.

Finally, there are plenty of review sites out there. But most of them won't give you any credit unless you pay them money. To avoid paying for fake reviews, look for trustworthy sources that allow you to write your own reviews.

Updated

December 30, 2022

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