Legal Directories and Rating Systems
Studies show that more and more people are going online to find a lawyer. And while most law firms have a website and some sort of social media presence, many neglect another important way that clients find lawyers online: review sites and online legal directories.
And it may surprise many lawyers to hear that consumers are not just searching bar association directories and legal rating sites like martindale.com and avvo.com. They are also reading lawyer reviews on general sites like Yelp and Google+. Lawyers, particularly those that serve a consumer clientele, have an opportunity to use these sites to build their reputations and attract more customers.
Using Review Sites
To make the most of review sites, you should first claim and complete your profile. Include a photo, your street and email address and phone number, and a link to your website. Provide information about what you do and your experience. According to recent surveys, top review sites for lawyers include Yelp, Avvo, Google+ Local and Yahoo Local.
Studies have shown that almost half of the people looking at lawyer reviews are concerned about the quality of service, and that the overall rating is also important. Encourage your satisfied clients to post positive reviews at the end of a successful representation. Specifically ask them to comment on your responsiveness and customer service.
Then, periodically monitor your reviews and respond promptly to any negative comments. If the comment is a subjective criticism (“The staff was unfriendly”), respond on the site in a cordial and professional tone. If the comment is false (“The lawyer did not show up for my court appearance”), contact the review site, explain why the statement is false, and ask the site to remove the review. A site may be willing to delete a damaging review rather than risk litigation over a defamatory statement.
Some review sites, like Avvo, include forums in which lawyers can answer questions posed by the public. Lawyers can rate higher in Avvo’s ranking system if they participate in the forums.
Other sites, like Google+, allow you to post articles and share information on your profile page. Google+ is linked to Google search results, allowing potential clients to see reviews, location and website information on the same page as their search results. Participation in Google+ can also help you rank more highly in searches.
Peer Review and Directory Sites
In addition to consumer review sites, there are legal directory sites that focus on ratings given by peers. A high rating on these sites can be a good selling point. But you must have been practicing law long enough to have built a reputation in the legal community.
Directory sites include Martindale.com and Super Lawyers. Martindale.com uses reviews from other lawyers rather than reviews from clients to establish a rating. You can obtain a Martindale rating and listing by request. Super Lawyers has a nomination and peer review process, and only selects up to 5 percent of lawyers in each state as Super Lawyers, and another 2.5 percent as Rising Stars.
In addition to these sites, state and local bar associations and practice area associations also typically have online directories of their members. For each organization that you or your firm is a member of, make sure your directory profile is complete and includes a photograph and a link to your website.
Finally, monitor the results of your efforts. A client intake questionnaire can help you see whether your participation in review sites and directories is bringing in the clients you want.