Legal Consumers Control Your Firm’s Reputation—They Also Can Help You Manage It

Legal Consumers Control Your Firm’s Reputation—They Also Can Help You Manage It

Your firm’s reputation is crucial to its success. But in the internet age, that reputation is no longer under your control. Legal consumers are more likely to rely on online reviews, ratings and social media posts when choosing whether to use your services. Many times, they’re writing reviews and posts themselves.

It’s a hard fact of life. You’ve worked long and hard to become a respected attorney. You’ve built your credentials, you’ve kept up to date on your specialty. Now, it seems, anyone with access to the internet (via a computer or smartphone) can discredit that expertise.

But there’s still a lot you can do to maintain your hard-earned rep. Most importantly, you can recruit the help of those same commenters and reviewers. (Many of them, anyway.)

You can learn more about how to do just that—along with other strategies for securing your firm’s position in the legal marketplace–in a FindLaw white paper, “You Can’t Control Your Firm’s Reputation (But You Can Manage It).” It provides an abundance of information on how you can influence the influencers who do so much to determine how your firm is perceived. Even better: It’s free for the asking.

If you’ve read this paper before, it’s worth your time to read again. The newest version, which is now available, provides new data on how consumers value and influence legal reputations. It’s information that you need to take to heart as you build your practice.

Reputation and Influence

In updating its reputation management white paper, FindLaw has tapped into 2017 editions of its Ratings and Reviews Survey and its Consumer Legal Needs Survey. These 2017 surveys provide new evidence of what legal consumers are looking for from attorneys. The new data also sheds additional light on how these consumers render verdicts on the service they receive.

For instance:

  • 87 percent of consumers say that an attorney’s reputation was one of the top two most important pieces of information they would rely on when making a choice to hire.
  • 68 percent of consumers listed reviews from former clients as a top criterion when evaluating an attorney. Indeed, recommendations from others are the second-biggest factor consumers use when selecting an attorney.

You could say that these trends aren’t new. A firm’s reputation has always been important to attracting clients. And reviews could be considered an updated version of word of mouth. In a sense, you’d be right.

But the dynamics of reputation are much different now. The way word of mouth gets around now is much broader and more public. Clients aren’t simply talking to their friends over coffee. They’re sharing their experience online. There, anyone–not just friends, family and acquaintances–can read them.

And many times, they’re using star ratings. Those stars, which typically appear on search engine results, are more likely to catch other legal consumers’ eyes than the list of credentials on your website.

And this points to one of the most critical instances where skilled reputation management is needed. Namely:

How do you respond to a bad review?

What happens if you get a bad review or a review with just a handful of stars? What’s the best way to respond? FindLaw’s reputation management white paper also addresses this potentially nerve-wracking issue.

The first point is, simply, to respond. Don’t hope the review will simply go away or won’t be read. That won’t build up your reputation—quite the contrary.

At the same time, don’t overreact. Getting angry could result in your saying something you’ll regret. That’s an instance of reputation mismanagement. FindLaw’s white paper discusses smart ways to handle less-than-glowing reviews. Indeed, you can turn bad reviews into good news for your firm. That’s just one of the white paper’s surprising takeaways.

And here’s something else that might surprise you: It pays to encourage clients to review your firm. The more reviews, the more likely your firm is to appear high up in search engine results and get more referrals. And that’s a strong reputation (and business) builder right there.

Again, you’re not controlling consumer responses

These days, that’s just not possible. Perhaps it never was. But with the public forum that is the Internet, any attempt to do so will look phony. Consumers are more likely to believe other consumers.

But by interacting with reviewers and clients, you can participate in what you could look at as a reputation conversation. And that participation is key to reputation management.

Active involvement in your firm’s online reputation gives a deeper understanding of how well your firm meets legal consumers’ needs. Reviews can help identify strengths and weaknesses in the way your firm manages its clients. Reviews can reveal key ways you can differentiate yourself from your competition.

To learn more about the ways you can manage your firm’s online reputation and thus build your client base, get your copy of FindLaw’s latest reputation management white paper here.

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