Online Reviews: How to Get the Positive & Deal with the Negative

I know what you’re thinking: Ugh. Online reviews. I find it somewhat amusing that we lawyers actually don’t much like being judged, unless that judgment is effusive praise! That’s really no different than most people, lawyer or not --- our tender egos are always on the line when it comes to interpersonal relationships, and that includes the client-counselor relationship.

So it’s no surprise that we-who-do-not-like-to-be-judged are more than a little hesitant to ask our clients to do just that in the form of online reviews. Unfortunately, the way of the world today is that consumers rely heavily on online reviews for just about everything, including legal services.

A couple of years ago, legal management software firm Software Advice conducted a survey among random U.S. adults to find out how they use online legal reviews. The results from 3,465 respondents were as follows:

Top reasons consumers use online legal reviews:

  1. Find a lawyer (83%)
  2. Evaluate an existing attorney (9%)
  3. Qualify my initial choice (8%)

What consumers look for in online legal reviews (in order of importance):

  1. Quality of service
  2. Overall ratings
  3. Demographics
  4. Scheduling/staff
  5. Photos

The most important information about quality of service (in order of importance):

  1. How well their legal options are explained
  2. Attorney win/loss record
  3. Professionalism
  4. Listening skills
  5. How quickly cases are resolved

The most important demographic information (in order of importance):

  1. Years of experience
  2. Certifications
  3. Education
  4. Age
  5. Gender

The most important administrative information (in order of importance):

  1. Responsiveness
  2. Resolving payment issues
  3. Staff friendliness
  4. Scheduling ease
  5. Type of office

Willingness to drive further for an attorney with better reviews:

  • Yes:  70%
  • No:  30%

So now you pretty much know you need to have online reviews, right? So how can this be less painful for you while ensuring you get the best possible feedback? Here are some tips:

  1. Integrate feedback into your client management process.

Not only do you need good/great online reviews, you need them on a consistent basis, since most people only rely on the most recent reviews to form an opinion. The best way to get reviews on a consistent basis is to make it a part of your firm’s client management process. Mention the importance of reviews to your firm at intake. Create a form on your website that allows your clients to submit reviews but qualify them first by asking the question, “How likely are you to recommend our firm to a friend or family member?” Those who check the “Very likely” or “Likely” box would then be directed to your firm’s profile pages on Avvo, Google, Facebook and LinkedIn to leave a review. Those who give a less than satisfactory answer would be directed to another page on the form that asks them to provide feedback on what they would change about their experience with your firm.

A word about Yelp: I don’t recommend directing reviews to Yelp, which has been plagued with allegations of having a “pay to play” system where companies that advertise on the site get preferential treatment.

  1. Automate the review process.

Finding the right time to ask for a review can be tricky, since you never know if a client has the time right now to write a review or if they’re busy with other things. Avoid this problem by automating the review process. Set up a series of timed, personalized emails from you, which can be done well ahead of time. Educate them on why reviews are important to you and ask some leading questions that provide them with ideas on what kind of information would be helpful to other people in their review. Be sure to thank them for their time and consideration in leaving a review for you.

  1. Create great client experiences.

Of course, the best way to get a positive review is to provide stellar client service. One of the benefits of integrating client feedback into your client management process is that you can gather feedback throughout the life of the relationship so you have the opportunity to catch little problems and resolve them before they become big problems. If you are giving your clients a great experience with your firm, they will line up to tell others about their “discovery” of this great lawyer.

Dealing with the Negative Online Review

You are going to have to come to grips with the reality that you will someday get a negative review. Believe me, it will happen. And it won’t be the negative review that kills you; it will be your response (or lack thereof) that determines the fate of your online reputation.

Here are the steps you should take to prepare for and deal with a negative online review:

  1. Set up a Google Alert for your firm and the names of everyone in your firm who deals with clients. Set it for a daily notification so you’re alerted right away if something bad (or good) is posted about you online.
  2. Address the problem immediately. If a disgruntled former employee or competitor has submitted the post or it is obviously false (the poster was never a client), you can contact the review site and ask them to remove it. This may not work, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. If the post is genuine, address it in a reply that is positive and seeks to resolve the poster’s issue. Do not be defensive! Ask the poster to contact you directly so you can attempt to resolve it in person.
  3. Request an updated review. If you have been able to resolve the issue to the poster’s satisfaction, ask them to either remove or revise their review. If they refuse, update the post yourself with the steps you took to resolve the issue.

Getting great online reviews is a process that will pay off for you in spades by attracting more of the kinds of clients you want to serve.


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