Why is a Law Firm Review Important?
When you sit back and think about it, the importance of a review for your law firm should be obvious. We live in a time where information is immediately available and more than 75% of Americans owns a smartphone (and most have their phone with them at all times). With this in our hands we have the ability to rapidly compare services, companies, and firms anytime we search for something.
And what is one of the first things looked at in a search for legal services? Reviews.
According to Brightlocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey for 2018, 86% of consumers read reviews of local businesses and 57% of consumers stated they would only use a business if it has a 4 star or higher rating. While this survey was not focused solely on law firms, the information can be reasonably extrapolated to apply to a legal business as well.
Here’s another reason your reviews are so important: 84% of people say they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation or referral. That is a huge number of people relying on the review of a stranger.
These numbers and the fact that most people rely on internet searches to find a law firm to work with means you cannot afford to ignore online reviews and how they can impact your business.
Now that you (hopefully) understand why a review of your firm is so important, we’ll take a look at which review sites you should focus your efforts.
The Best Review Sites to Focus On
Not all review sites are created equal.
Virtually every industry has their own niche review sites — lawyers are no different. There are a few sites that are geared only towards lawyers and law firms and allow reviews. But along with these niche review sites, there are some general sites that are a must have as well.
Let’s dig in to the best review sites you should focus getting reviews on:
Google/Google My Business — this is the big daddy of them all. If you had to choose just one place to focus your attention, Google would be the #1. Google is currently the most heavily used search engine and 46% of users are looking for local companies. This is the most visible of review sites and it’s likely to be one of the first things a potential client sees. It’s critical to have strong reviews here.
Facebook — another general site and not as powerful as Google, but Facebook is important for one reason: many people ask for recommendations on the site. As their system is currently setup, if a recommendation is posted the site tries to link directly to a business page and shows the rating. From this standpoint making sure your ratings are high here can be a big deal when someone is looking for a referral from their community.
Avvo — as a lawyer you probably are well aware of the Avvo website, but you may not realize how important their reviews can be. Some lawyers understandably question whether Avvo reviews are good/legitimate. Ultimately the reality is clients are reading Avvo and checking the reviews. You need to make sure your listing there is properly set up and hopefully your reviews are strong.
FindLaw — FindLaw does not have a great reputation amongst lawyers, but that’s not really the point here. Similar to Avvo, you have to put your dislike for the site and its marketing tactics aside and realize this: potential clients are looking at profiles on there to make a decision about choosing a lawyer.
Justia — Justia is best known for its website design and hosting services for lawyers. But they also have lawyer ratings and reviews available for clients to research. Additionally, they recently added a peer-to-peer reviews systems for lawyers to review their fellow lawyers. This can provide potential clients a little extra feedback based on the opinion of colleagues, and not solely on whether a client was happy with their legal results.
Lawyers.com — this site is ran by Martindale-Hubbell (another rating service) and gets over 15 million monthly visits. In addition to ratings and reviews, they host an “Ask a Lawyer” forum where answers are published to the homepage and your site and profile can appear. Lawyers.com also has a peer-to-peer rating system that can be utilized for reviews from colleagues.
How To Consistently Generate Positive Reviews?
This should probably go without stating, but we’ll post it anyway: the number one way to generate positive reviews is to provide your clients with exceptional legal services.
All right, that out of the way, we know (as do you) that just providing excellent service won’t lead to tons of reviews. To truly consistently generate positive reviews, whether you like to or not, you’ll have to actively ask for reviews.
And doing that requires consistency.
Why consistency is key
By consistency we mean you have to make it a regular part of your client process. You cannot just randomly decide to seek out reviews here and there. If you don’t make review acquisition a priority in your marketing efforts, you’ll end up with a smattering of reviews, and probably some negative ones (because we all know, you can’t please everyone and the angry/disgruntled are more likely to randomly leave a negative review).
You can’t only focus on reviews when a negative one occurs.
As we said, you’re not going to make every client happy — and sometimes you’ll anger even non-clients. For example, we know of a lawyer who received a scathing one-star review because his firm turned down a potential client.
The problem here is many firms are quick to react to a negative review — and it’s important to respond to these reviews. But the bigger problem is: if you only concentrate on reviews after a negative one, you will look like a poorly performing law firm to anyone searching online. Creating a consistent review acquisition strategy will likely limit the number of negative reviews ( and the impact they have on your practice.
Consistent reviews are a possible ranking signal
Google doesn’t normally confirm what is actually part of their ranking algorithm, but they have told us that review counts and ratings are factored into the local ranking algorithm.
What they don’t tell us is how much of a role reviews play in the ranking algorithm…
We know there’s something along the lines of 200 different ranking signals baked into the algorithm and through testing and correlative analysis there are some things that are generally accepted. One of those things is that reviews play a large role in the local ranking algorithm.
We believe reviews are a top ranking signal (out of the 200 or so) and one of the most important when it comes to competitive difference makers.
Additionally, Google has in the past said that it has worked to algorithmically demote sites that have poor reviews/customer experience problems…
Bottom line here: Google generally acknowledges, and studies have found correlations that the number of positive reviews and the velocity at which you acquire them affects rankings in the local packs and local organic results. Get reviews, get them regularly, and make sure they’re positive and happy customer reviews!
Top Review Generating Platforms for Law Firms
We feel like we’re beating a dead horse here but as we’ve said: consistency in generating (positive) reviews should be an important part of your marketing efforts. That said, we realize that with your law practice you may have a small staff or no dedicated marketing team that can ensure a focus remains on getting reviews. This is where a review generating service can come into play.
There are quite a few reputation and review services available that will help you request and generate reviews, respond to comments, and consolidate reviews into a dashboard that allows you to see how you’re doing across different sites. Here are a few of the ones we think are worth looking into:
Podium — Podium uses text messaging to allow your firm to manage client relationships and build up your reviews across multiple sites. The platform consolidates online reviews and client interactions into a single dashboard. This allows you or your office staff to easily handle online review management. From your dashboard, you can send request for reviews and respond to reviews. Podium will also provide a report with daily interactions that can be used to identify weaknesses in your review program. Podium is one of the pricier options, and is based on the number of locations you are managing.
ReviewTrackers — this cloud-based reputation and review management tool is designed for all sorts of companies, but is especially useful for law firms and lawyers. The software platform reviews from Google and Facebook (among others). The platform notifies you as soon as a new review is posted giving you the opportunity to respond quickly. ReviewTrackers will also deliver daily snapshots of your review and provides you with information about trending keywords/topics, to allow you to focus on those issues specifically. Professional plans start at $54/month.
BirdEye — BirdEye allows you to control all your online business listings and works as an all-in-one reputation and review management system. The platform allows you to monitor and respond virtually immediately to reviews. You can send requests for review via email or text/SMS to clients as part of your case closeout process. BirdEye also incorporates social media sharing and rank tracking. Pricing is quote-based, so you’ll have to contact them for a definitive price.
Grade.us — this is one of the better known and trusted review acquisition and management tools. The platform integrates with Google and Facebook which allows you to respond directly to reviews without having to leave the dashboard. As with the others you can email and send text message review requests. You can also print a request card to be sent with mailers. You can set up automated reports and also embed your reviews directly on your site. Pricing starts at $90/month (or $75/month if paid annually)
Responding to Reviews
Respond to ALL Reviews — Positive and Negative
We realize that responding to reviews can be a tedious task. But, if you are taking review acquisition seriously, it’s a necessary task. And we don’t mean responding only to the negative reviews. You have to be willing to respond to positive reviews as well.
A Harvard Business Review study found that when businesses respond to their reviews, good and bad, their ratings and number of reviews increase:
“Overall, these analyses suggested that improved ratings can be directly linked to management responses. And, perhaps surprisingly, we also found that when managers respond to positive reviews, it has the same benefits as when they respond to negative reviews.”
Granted, this study looked at reviews for Hotels, but there’s no reason the same shouldn’t hold true for other businesses such as law firms and lawyer reviews.
Assign a trusted employee to respond to reviews
Because reviews are so important it is worth it to make it a ‘job’ for someone (or multiple individuals) you fully trust within your practice. This should be a regular employee or another lawyer in the practice. This is not something that should be treated as an afterthought or assigned to an intern. Remember, when responding to a review the response is speaking on behalf of the entire law practice. The tone and information needs to be crafted professionally and not just anyone will have the authority and knowledge to respond to all reviews.
How to respond to a negative review
It’s a matter of when, not if, you will receive a negative (and sometimes scathing) review. Do not freak out and don’t ignore the reviewer. Remember with online reviews you’re not just responding to the original reviewer, you’re “responding” to everyone who is reading those reviews and deciding whether to trust you with their legal needs.
Here are some of our best tips for dealing with negative reviews:
Do not respond immediately. Imagine you’re having an argument with your signifcant other and they make a complaint about your messy habits. What is the first thing you do? Most people get emotional and get defensive. But, if you stop for a second, compose your thoughts you can usually respond in a more mature and reasoned manner. The same goes with negative reviews. Often the reviewer is amped up and is responding emotionally to whatever slight they felt. If you give it some time and review what is being said, you are more likely to respond in a measured manner with less emotion. This also helps diffuse much of the anger that is apparent when an angry patron leaves a review.
Gather all the facts. Make sure you know what the reviewer is upset about. Gather facts about what they claim occurred so you can properly address their concerns or factually defend your position.
Acknowledge their issue and present the facts. One of the main reasons a person will leave a negative review is because they felt they were not listened to. There can be legitimate reasons a client (or potential client) feels slighted. The simplest way to handle this is to acknowledge what they’re saying, emotions are individual and sometimes just saying “I understand why you feel this way…” goes a long way to defusing a negative review. Once you’ve acknowledged their issues, you can present the fact, as unemotionally as possible. But don’t become like a prosecutor grilling a defendent. Just respond with empathy and the best customer service you can provide. Honestly, this type of response is as much for anyone else who may read the negative review to try to see your point-of-view in the interaction.
Be as brief as possible. Do not give a dissertation explaining why the individual reviewer is wrong or ask questions that will further lead to more negative responses. Keep the response short and to the point. A good rule of thumb is 3-4 sentence responses.
Redirect to offline channels for resolution. When possible try to get the reviewer to talk with you offline (either direct via email or phone). Provide a good contact number or email so the review can contact you/your designated review-handler. This is another way to defuse the situation and limit continued negative responses. And though you cannot ask them to change or remove a review (or incentivize them to do so) offline discussions can result in an upgrade of the review. We’ve seen this with clients: a disgruntled customer increases a 1 star rating to a 3 star simply from hearing from the company and feeling satisfied with the way things are handled moving forward.
Realize some people simply cannot be satisfied. Sometimes you will find someone who is either bored or just naturally negative. You cannot satisfy everyone, and these people (sometimes trolls) just spend their time being negative online. In these instances, acknowledge the review and move on.
How to increase your ratings
Quantity — you need to increase the number of 4 and 5 star reviews to significantly increase your star ratings. Especially if you’re just starting to take reviews seriously, you will need to focus on getting as many quality reviews as possible. This is why a strategy for getting reviews is crucial.
Incorporate review solicitation into your case wrap up procedures. We’re really trying to drive this point home: review acquisition has to be part of your regular routine and process. The best way to solicit new reviews (and vet them at the same time) is to make the request process part of your case-client closeout. When your office is finalizing the files for a client’s case, make sure the correspondence includes a request or follow-up asking them to leave a review of your practice. You can create a page on your site or a simple postcard that directs them to places to leave a review. Take note: you cannot solicit reviews for Yelp.
An interesting review request strategy we’ve heard of working very well is when a client reaches a settlement. When possible, their lawyer should hand deliver the payment to the client and at the same time ask them to review the practice.
Have great client service. As with any service-based business, great service often leads to great reviews. You know you cannot control case outcomes but you certainly control how your clients are treated through every step of their legal process. Exceptional client care will prevent the majority of negative complaints.
Online reviews are here to stay and they’re a factor in whether you get new leads and clients. So the quicker your law firm implements a review acquisition strategy, the better you’ll be able to differentiate your law firm from the competition and turn online reviews into one of your biggest assets.