How to Handle Online Client Reviews For Attorneys

by rocketmatter-admin July 2, 2012

Guest Post brought to you by Josh King, Vice President Business Development and General Counsel for Avvo.

As General Counsel for a company that publishes lawyer reviews, I’ve heard every possible concern from attorneys: clients in my area are psychos, they can’t evaluate legal work, they have unreasonable expectations, etc. It’s the “lawyers are different” mantra.

But you’re not. You’re a toaster.

Or a luxury hotel. Is that better?

The truth of the matter is, you WILL be evaluated by your clients. Your clients will, increasingly, share those evaluations. And potential clients, familiar now with using reviews to evaluate products such as toasters and services such as hotel stays, will rely on them in selecting counsel.

You can rail against that. You can call lawyer reviews stupid, unfair, inaccurate or prone to error and fraud. And while all of these concerns have a kernel of validity – no open system is perfect – they aren’t meaningful anymore. Online reviews are here to stay. It’s time for attorneys to embrace this avenue for client feedback rather than futilely fight against it.

The funny thing is, hotels and product manufacturers sounded a similar note when consumer reviews first started popping up. They complained that consumers were fickle, impossible to please, unequipped to properly evaluate their products and services. But as the liquidity in their reputational ecosystems increased, they discovered that their customers craved this feedback. They also found that a greater number of reviews led consumers to use the reviews in a directional way – weighing the overall tone of the body of reviews of a product or service rather than focusing on what one user had to say, good or bad.

Legal services still has a long way to go before it parallels the level of liquidity of say, Amazon or TripAdvisor. But it will get there. And there’s no reason you can’t accelerate the process for your own practice:

  • Encourage clients to leave reviews on Avvo. Make it a regular part of the file closing process.
  • Review the feedback you get on a regular basis. If it’s negative, consider first whether there is a blind spot in your process, procedures or personnel. Client reviews are a free form of market research.
  • Post a professional response to negative reviews. Not an argument or refutation; just a reiteration that you take client feedback seriously. Add an invitation for the reviewer to contact you directly to see if the matter can be resolved. This sends a powerful message to the next person reading the review that you are a professional whose clients matter.

Your clients – and potential clients – crave this feedback. And it’s growing every day. Avvo has hundreds of thousands of lawyer clients reviews, with thousands more coming in every week. Don’t wring your hands and vent about the injustice of it all. Embrace the fact that your clients now have a voice, and use it to grow and improve your practice.

Josh  can be reached on Twitter at @joshuamking.

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