You work hard for your clients. The lawyers on your team are experienced and hardworking. You achieve good outcomes for your clients. Do you really need to learn how to control your law firm’s reputation?

The answer is yes, and now more than ever. While the internet works as an amazing marketing platform, it can also be a powerful factor in the deterioration of your law firm’s reputation.

Negative stories and reviews can drive potential clients away if you don’t know how to manage your firm’s online reputation. At the same time, building a positive reputation is critical if you want to grow your firm.

Why Learning How to Manage Your Law Firm’s Online Reputation Matters

When someone hires an attorney, in all likelihood, they are:

  • Investing what is a significant amount of money for them
  • Facing a potentially life-altering situation
  • Under some level of emotional distress.

Of course, they will choose a law firm with the best reputation they can find. You can be sure they will read reviews and speak to friends and family. The information they receive about your law firm will determine how they view your integrity, professionalism, and effectiveness. If you don’t know how to control your law firm’s reputation, third parties will do that for you.

Why Quality Work Won’t Save Your Reputation

The fact that you serve your clients well isn’t a guarantee that you won’t have to master how to manage your law firm’s online reputation. Instead, you must work even more proactively to ensure that your reputation reflects your quality of work.

In the past, you could largely control your reputation through your advertising and marketing efforts and by doing good work for your clients. In the rare case that someone was dissatisfied with your firm, their negative opinion generally wouldn’t travel beyond their social or professional circle.

Now, both satisfied and dissatisfied clients can leave online reviews that can be seen by thousands. These reviews matter. In a recent poll, 72% of people state that a review matters as much to them as a recommendation from a friend. This is a good thing when those reviews are positive.

Most law firms can also handle a few negative reviews as well. The problem is fake reviews from unscrupulous sources such as disreputable competitors or former employees with an ax to grind.

Unfortunately, the sites that publish these reviews aren’t always able to detect and act on false reviews by removing them. That means it’s up to you to know how to control your law firm’s reputation.

Know Where You Stand

You should never be blindsided by damage to your law firm’s reputation. This should be something that you track very carefully. By doing this, you will be able to respond quickly to anything negative and make the most of opportunities to boost your reputation. Start your reputation management efforts with an audit and a plan for ongoing monitoring.

Read Your Reviews

When a client is looking for a law firm, they will probably read online reviews. You should know what people are saying about you. Search for your firm name on the following sites and start reading:

  • Yelp
  • Martindale-Hubbell
  • Avvo
  • Google
  • NOLO
  • BBB.

You may be tempted to respond to negative or disparaging reviews. Don’t do that yet. What you want to do now is read these from the perspective of a potential client. Then, honestly assess how your firm appears based on these reviews.

For both positive and negative reviews, look for themes. When people praise or criticize your firm, are there recurring topics? Make a note of these. The negatives are probably things you need to deal with. The positives could be used to your benefit as you market your firm in the future.

Finally, always respond to positive reviews as well. It’s important that people see you acknowledge these. Of course, when you have a satisfied client, you should always encourage them to leave an online review. Remember that clients are more likely to comply if you make the process easy by providing a link to the preferred review site.

Look for Mentions

Any time your law firm’s name comes up in an article, blog post, or review, that’s a mention. The best way to track these is to search for your law firm name in incognito mode. This prevents any of your previous searches or online activity from influencing what shows up in your search results.

You can also set up a Google Alert for your law firm. Then, you will receive a notification any time your firm’s name, email address, or other information is mentioned online. Consider setting up alerts for your own name and the names of other attorneys in your office.

These notifications will give you one less thing to worry about as you figure out how to manage your law firm’s online reputation.

Learn to Respond to Negative or False Reviews

No matter what, you will eventually receive a negative review. It happens to every lawyer. As an attorney, you may deal with clients who have unrealistic expectations.

Also, in many instances, the best possible outcome in a case may still have negative ramifications. Frustrated clients may turn to review sites to vent. There’s also the unfortunate reality that none of us is perfect, and we may not always deliver the level of service we aspire to.

Fortunately, there are ways to handle these negative reviews that can turn things around and boost your reputation. Here are some guidelines for responding to negative reviews:

  • Sincerely apologize for the poor response or customer service
  • Detail changes you have made to prevent the situation from happening again
  • Ask the reviewer to contact you privately to come to a positive resolution
  • Avoid arguing in defense of yourself or trying to outwit the reviewer
  • Maintain ethics and avoid revealing details about your case or client.

What about fake reviews? These are often easy to find. You won’t recognize the name or contact information. Details are often missing or greatly exaggerated. Whatever you do, don’t accuse anybody of leaving a fake review. Instead, respond calmly with the facts. For example:

“Hello Diane, we’ve reviewed our records and can’t find any client records corresponding with your name or contact information. Please respond with more detail.”

Once you respond and give the person adequate time to respond or delete the review, you can follow the review site’s procedures for reporting a fraudulent review.

Take Control of Your Online Presence

You have limited control of what third parties say about your website. However, you have full control of your own messaging. Using this to your advantage is key to understanding how to manage your law firm’s reputation. Learn how to control your law firm’s reputation by leveraging your assets to get positive information about your firm out to potential clients.

Your Website

According to a poll, 36% of people seeking legal services were influenced by law firm websites. Only 9% say they were influenced by ads. Clearly, you should be using your website to build your reputation. Do this by:

  • Sharing social proof such as positive reviews and client testimonials
  • Creating a blog where you publish relevant thought leadership content
  • Share the founding story of your firm as well as your values and ethics
  • Provide profiles of yourself and other lawyers in your firm.

The look and feel of your website matter as well. If your site is outdated, difficult to navigate, or looks amateurish, that will reflect poorly on your reputation.

Your Social Media Platforms

Many lawyers aren’t doing enough to leverage their social media presence to increase their online reputation. Facebook is great for posting positive news about your firm, including any community outreach efforts.

Use LinkedIn to connect with other professionals, earn recommendations, and post thought leadership content. Even Twitter is a great source for sharing your thoughts and demonstrating your knowledge.

Google My Business

Your Google My Business (GMB) profile contains key information about your law firm. It also impacts how people see your company when they search for law firms in your area.

Your GMB profile is yours to maintain. You just have to claim it. Once you do, you can update your company name, contact information, and hours of operation. You can also add service descriptions, photos, or short articles. These will appear in your online listing along with customer reviews.

Build Your Reputation Through Earned Media

If you’re not engaging in proactive PR to build up your law firm’s reputation, you should be. Earned media refers to publications, websites, or other outlets that are published and controlled by third parties. These are important because they are seen by potential clients as being more objective and may carry more weight. Here are some examples:

  • Profiles of you or your firm written by professionals in the legal field
  • Articles about your law firm
  • Interviews
  • Guest blog posts or articles that you or your associates write.

Appearances on podcasts, radio broadcasts, or television news shows count as earned media appearances.

Why Choose Us for Reputation Management

There’s nothing more important than the reputation your firm earns among its clients, associates, and peers. Maintaining a positive reputation that reflects your work requires a powerful reputation management strategy.

Lawyers Marketing Associates has experts on hand to help you with your reputation strategy and your other marketing goals. Contact us at (919) 637-9144 to tell us more about your needs.