Reputation Management Tips for Lawyers – Essential Tips for 2018

In the legal field, your reputation is everything, and lawyers are quickly realizing the importance of having a solid online presence to succeed in today’s internet-driven world.

The internet has replaced many things – from business cards to the Yellow Pages – and professionals must keep up with client demand. When someone’s looking for a lawyer, the first place they’ll look is the internet, and there’s a good chance each of your clients will research you online before ever picking up the phone or stepping into your office.

For example, did you know that 97% of consumers looked up local businesses online before spending this money in 2017? Or that 85% of consumers consider online reviews just as trustworthy as a word-of-mouth recommendation? The eye-popping statistics don’t stop there.

In fact, 73% of consumers said they primarily trust businesses with positive reviews, and 49% won’t deal with an establishment that doesn’t have a four-star rating or above.

Each year, these statistics inch closer to 100% of consumers, and they’re even higher for clients seeking legal aid. People are already weary of spending their hard-earned money on a product or service that fails to meet their expectations, so people are turning more and more to online review sites to mitigate the risks. 

With the financial commitment high for legal services, it’s safe to assume that you and your business will be thoroughly researched online before any business is done, more so than most other fields outside of medical professionals.

Competition among legal services has always been stiff, and the internet has only made it worse. Now, if you’re not using a sound reputation management strategy, your competition almost certainly is, and you’ll almost certainly lose clients because of it.

Reputation management is as critical for your success as advertising and maintaining a good standing with your state bar association – if not more so – and you can’t afford to ignore it.

Below, we’ve collected reputation management tips to help you understand and fix your reputation online, so you can stay ahead of the game.

Status Labs is the premier digital reputation management firm, with offices in Austin, New York, Los Angeles, London, and São Paulo. For more information visit StatusLabs.com or sign up for a Free Consultation.

Search for Yourself

Imagine for a moment that you’re a client looking for a lawyer, researching your firm. Search for your name, the name of your firm and any other moniker a client might think to look for your practice under. Be thorough on Google, going through the first couple pages of results, looking through the images and reading your reviews.

This experience is what your clients see when they want to know if you have a good practice. Often, they won’t even look at your personal website. Between 2016 and 2017, there was a 17% drop in consumers who look at business websites after reading reviews.

Since potential clients are looking at these results, they’re viewing your reputation as told by Google, not by you or your firm, and they’re judging you on those merits.

Save What You Find

Save each relevant link – good or bad – from your Google search in a bookmarks bar. Screenshot the results as a reference point and make note of any unflattering information that your clients may be seeing. This will help you revisit the items that need to be addressed, develop a clearer plan and present your information in a useful way to reputation experts.

If you’re serious about fixing your reputation, you might also want to note how you think each item in your search results would impact a client’s opinion of you. This will help you assess your current need of immediate reputation management. For a deeper look, search for one of your competitors and do a comparison.

Set Up Alerts

Once you know what’s out there, you’ll want to be aware of new information as it hits the web. This will help you respond to new items pertaining to your legal practice on time, and it’ll keep your reputation in the back of your mind. Set up a Google Alert for your name, your firm and any keywords you used in your previous search.

Watching for new results will be useful for connecting to your clients, resolving issues, finding fake information as it’s posted and becoming aware of defamatory information spread by competitions.

Claim Your Accounts and Domains

If you haven’t already, it’s time to claim all .com names that are associated with yourself and your firm, all accounts on legal websites and review sites like Google or Yelp, and any other web property that is or could be associated with your legal practice.

By claiming these accounts, you establish yourself as active while safeguarding against potential attacks. For example, if you don’t own your .com name, a disgruntled client could purchase the rights to it and create a hate website that pops up as the first result on Google. Every client searching for your name would see this website and associate the information therein – true or false – with your firm.

Request Feedback

Requesting feedback from past and present clients is a great way to build your name online. Send surveys and polite requests for feedback, and consider requesting permission to share reviews on your website. 88% of legal consumers consider an lawyer’s “reputation” one of the top two hiring factors. 

Also consider, 68% of legal consumers consider “reviews from former clients” one of the most important pieces of information when considering an attorney.

Be sure that you are registered on Avvo and regularly checking your reviews. 

Make requesting feedback part of your business practices so you have a steady stream of new positive reviews flowing in.

Update Your Website

Though many consumers don’t care about personal website as much as consumer reviews, you still want to keep your website updated, useful and optimized. Every fraction of every second matters when a new visitor is on your webpage, and you want it to draw them in. From displaying positive reviews collected from your feedback request to optimizing the layout to work well across all browsers, having a professional website can only reinforce the positives of your business.

Also include a blog on your website that provides legal information that’s useful to your clients. You want each post to be informative, grammatically-correct, useful and easy to read. This will help you develop a readership that brings people back to your site time and time again, helping it rank higher on Google so it better protects your name.

Your website is the perfect place to feature any positive media attention you or your firm has received. Display major cases, news mentions, videos you’ve appeared in and anything else that paints you in the positive light you want to be seen in.

Update Your Brand

If you haven’t rebranded lately, it’s time to redefine you, your practice and your firm. Update your brand and get a clear image of how you want to present yourself online. Your brand outline can help you decide how to reply to clients on review websites, how to word your blog posts, what to include in your professional profiles and more.

Make a comprehensive brand outline that you would be comfortable presenting to a client or potential business partner to ensure you’ve covered your bases.

Brush Up on Privacy

As a legal professional, you know how critical it is to follow the law and respect the privacy of your clients. Still, brush up on privacy laws for online communication with your clients to ensure you don’t find yourself in the middle of a legal crisis. When you speak with a client online, you’re likely to run into communication conundrums that make it easy to accidentally violate privacy laws.

Laws regarding the internet change just as quickly as the rest of the legal landscape, so treat this step with the same respect that you give your area of legal specialization.

Address Negative Reviews

With your personal brand and knowledge of privacy laws up-to-date, you’re ready to address reviews. From here on, you’ll want to reply to every negative review you’ve received from a client in a way that shows how eager you are to resolve the problem while adhering to all legalities surrounding online communication.

Offer to speak with the client in person and make it right, and always keep your emotions out of it. Just as you wouldn’t let yourself have an angry outburst in front of a courtroom, you do not want to get upset in today’s unforgiving online landscape.

One comment made in anger can be screenshotted before you have a chance to remove it from the web, and then it can be used against you for years to come. What has been posted online, often, cannot be undone. Keep this in mind with every online interaction, especially when addressing negative reviews.

If you resolve the review well enough, your client might be willing to update the feedback to reflect that. 

Respond to Positive Reviews

Just as you should address all negative feedback, you need to respond to positive reviews too. Around 30% of people consider whether a professional has responded to each review as one of the most important factors when assessing their online reputation. You will be judged if you’re inactive and don’t thank the reviewers who have praised you and your legal practices.

Keep your brand image and client privacy in mind, and be gracious. This shows a true dedication to customer happiness and can make potential clients feel certain that you have their best interests in mind. If you receive peer reviews, also go out of your way to address them.

Treat Every Client as a Reviewer

Imagine this: You’re dealing with a troublesome client who’s emotional and angry, and your meeting runs 30 minutes late. Outside your door is a new client waiting for a consultation meeting with you, and they overheard some of the things the emotional client is saying. Thinking that you said these things, the person passes time by leaving you a one-star review, commenting on how long you kept them waiting and the terrible things he or she thinks you said. The review goes viral and crisis soon follows.

Situations like this happen regularly, and it’s in part because of how many consumers use their mobile phones to read and post reviews. Every client must be treated as a potential review, no matter the situation you’re facing. All staff members should be trained in customer care and, now that you’re asking for feedback, you must always consider the potential that the person in your office could be the source of your next review.

This will help you approach each client appropriately and ensure a more positive reputation.  

Follow Current Best Practices

Read up on the latest best practices so you can better treat each client as a reviewer. If your demographic expects efficiency, for example, they might seek firms that present themselves as masters of economic time usage.

Look at general legal best practices and then best practices for working with your demographic. If anything you planned in your branding doesn’t match current best practices, modify it now and approach future interactions with clients accordingly.

Keep Learning

While you’re learning about current best practices, remember to keep learning about relevant information and stay on top of developing trends. Being up-to-date is the name of the game on the internet. Spend 15-20 min a day keeping up to date on relevant technologies in your field.

Don’t just learn about legal news! – also study as much as you can regarding related topics such as online privacy, reputation and marketing. 

Establish Yourself as an Expert

Establishing yourself as a legal expert in your area of specialization will help generate positive media attention and protect your name online. When you or your firm has appeared in videos, interviews, seminars and more, these results will rank on Google and potentially make unfavorable results less visible. The sooner you can establish yourself as an expert or thought leader, the more clients you will be taking on. 

Becoming a leader in your field doesn’t just improve your search results, it bolsters your name. When your clients see that you often conduct legal seminars, or have spoken at local conventions, they’re more likely to trust your name and settle on you as their lawyer. 

Set Realistic Goals

Just as no lawyer can tell a client that the case is won before a final verdict, no online reputation firm can fix your name overnight. Set goals for your reputation management, with a vision of how your perfect search results would appear, but keep the deadlines reasonable.

Google doesn’t update its results overnight. In fact, it only updates them every few weeks and, even then, new links often won’t appear high in the search results. Keep your expectations in check and know that procrastinating just because you can’t have overnight results will get you nowhere

Make a Schedule

With your blog, social media accounts and review profiles established, and your goals set, it’s time to make a schedule. You need to know how often is ideal to make new posts, what each platform’s algorithm looks for and how often you’ll do brand-wide updates.

Also schedule regular check-ins with your reputation management campaign, times to update your goals and when to update your branding.

Plan for Disaster

With the online landscape as it is, it’s not if an online reputation crisis strikes, but when. Just as you might inform a client that having a lawyer on retainer will protect them from inevitable legal problems, having a plan for reputation disaster protects you from massive damage.

Proactively begin managing your name online today, and make a response plan for trouble tomorrow. This is easiest if you’re working with a reputation management team, but you can also create a personal plan of trustworthy third parties to contact and other steps you’d take to contain negative information and prevent a viral spread.  

Repair Existing Damage

If your search results contain negative links that show you in a bad light, you need to repair this damage. It won’t magically go away, and only by following tips like these in addition to taking action to deal with the post can you remove the mar on your name.

Some websites will remove false information, but as a lawyer, you know how troublesome it can be to demand the removal or a website, review or comment.

Research your options, speak with a specialist to get a better idea of what you can do and then repair each negative item as well as possible.

Be Passionate

Clients love passionate professionals. They want to hire someone who lives and breathes law – this is the kind of enthusiasm it takes to be the best in a field. Allow yourself to be passionate about your field, show that excitement to your clients and let your lawyer flag fly, and let that show online.

This will help you become a respected leader in your field, it can improve your job satisfaction and it can dramatically impact the types of positive reviews you receive.

The above advice is just tip of the iceberg. Reputation management is a lengthy process that requires expertise, patience and diligence. It’s not something that can be done overnight, and it’s not optional for legal professionals who’d like to succeed.

Don’t let your hard work in law school and in the courtroom go to waste – secure your online presence today so your firm stands out among the competition and you can rise to the top of your field.

Contact us today to get started!

Status Labs is the premier digital reputation management firm, with offices in Austin, New York, Los Angeles, London, and São Paulo. For more information visit StatusLabs.com or sign up for a Free Consultation.

2018-09-11T19:40:39+00:00