In today’s review-oriented world, social proof plays a key role in virtually every purchase we make or service we seek.

Results from one notable study by BrightLocal suggested that the average customer needs to read at least 10 reviews before they trust a business. Many refuse to even consider patronizing businesses that lack reviews, revealing a preference for occasional negative feedback over none at all.

Analyzing reviews now represents a crucial element of the selection process for consumers seeking products or services. BrightLocal reveals that 82% of consumers at least occasionally read reviews. As of 2019, over half of consumers between the ages of 18 and 54 are looking at reviews every time they consider working with a business, up 31% from the previous year.

The modern insistence on reviews holds implications in countless industries, including legal. Today’s attorneys cannot count on word-of-mouth or referrals alone to deliver enthusiastic clients. While these methods remain valuable, they should be accompanied by strategies for gathering and leveraging reviews from satisfied clients willing to let others know about their experience.

The process of securing online reviews should not be a passive endeavor, but rather an active effort to leverage positive feedback. Strategic use of reviews can demonstrate a variety of key qualities for potential clients, including authenticity, responsiveness, and detail-oriented service.

Unfortunately, reviews constitute a double-edged sword, capable of both elevating and compromising attorney reputations. With the right approach, however, it’s possible to build brand awareness and a critical sense of trust among both current and future clients.

Let Clients Know You Value Their Feedback

Clients can be thrilled with your firm’s services and still neglect to provide the digital feedback your practice needs. Many are simply unaware of your desire for client reviews. If asked, however, nearly two-thirds of clients will be happy to help out. You won’t be alone in your quest for feedback either; research from BrightLocal indicates that 67% of consumers have been asked to leave reviews for local businesses.

Don’t hesitate to use law firm newsletters or other follow-up communications to highlight your ongoing interest in reviews. Include links to review sites on your website or in email signatures. This effort holds the dual benefit of increasing review visibility for leads and reminding existing clients of your desire for feedback.

Requests for reviews should not be haphazard but rather built into your overarching strategy for wrapping up cases with existing clients. Determine when and under what circumstances you will seek reviews, as well as which methods you can use to remind clients how important such feedback is to your firm. 

Encourage Reviewers to Get Specific

What, exactly, about your law firm’s services or approach do your top clients appreciate? What do you offer that the competition cannot match? These details make a huge difference when incorporated into law firm ratings.

Potential clients aren’t willing to settle for a star rating alone. They prefer thorough lawyer reviews that include specific information. Were you personable, upfront with pricing, and responsive? These are the things potential clients will look out for—good or bad. Detailed reviews reinforce information already presented on your website or social media pages while making it more palatable to leads who place their trust in fellow customers.

Make the Most of Existing Reviews

Your efforts to obtain online reviews can pay dividends, but this alone may not prove sufficient for convincing people that your law firm warrants their business. Even practices with stellar feedback from hundreds of clients can miss out on new clients if competing firms make better use of their respective reviews.

Make sure your law firm reviews are easily accessible and don’t hesitate to include links to prominent review sources on your law firm’s website. Feel free to also reference positive feedback when interacting with leads during the intake process.

Prospective clients should never struggle to find reviews—make sure you’re using every opportunity to offer them to current and potential clients.

Take Care When Responding to Negative Reviews

In a perfect world, you would only receive glowing reviews from clients who love everything about your law firm. Unfortunately, no matter how much positive feedback you secure, you’re bound to get a few less-than-desirable responses. This is more likely if, despite your best efforts, you emerge from a challenging case with a guilty verdict or lower-than-expected damages.

Problematic lawyer ratings can even accompany impressive case outcomes if your clients take issue with your approach or fees. Sometimes, such reviews occur in response to simple misunderstandings that were not resolved in person.

The way you respond to these reviews is critical. According to Bright Local, 97% of customers say they don’t just read reviews—they read the company’s responses to those reviews too. Not only that, but 71% of consumers are more likely to work with businesses that have already responded to existing reviews.

When replying to feedback online, your response should be restrained. Your replies to reviewers can tell potential clients a lot about how you handle adversity. No matter how much positive feedback you earn, leads will steer clear of your firm if your response to the occasional negative remark comes across as disrespectful or combative. Leads want to know that you take cited concerns seriously and are willing to adjust your approach when necessary.

But the importance of care when responding to reviews online isn’t just because you want to come across as respectful. Go too far into detail, and you risk compromising ethical standards referenced by the American Bar Association and guidelines set by your state bar.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association, for example, mandates that lawyers cannot “reveal client confidential information in response to a negative online review without the client’s informed consent.” Likewise, the San Francisco Bar Association advises that, when responding to negative reviews, “disclosure must be narrowly tailored to the issues raised by the former client.” If the reviewer continues to make negative comments after your response, encourage them to contact you directly and take the conversation offline.

Because state bar recommendations vary, it’s important for attorneys to pay close attention to the rules in their region. Keep in mind that these can change over time, making regular updates to review response protocol necessary.

Reflect on Constructive Criticism

Reviews should serve as more than a mere marketing tool. They also represent a valuable opportunity to determine what your clients really think about your law firm—and which aspects of your services they find problematic.

Take note of any concerns that repeatedly come up in reviews, as these may suggest a real need for change. Constructive criticism provides an opportunity to make the adjustments necessary to better serve your clients. A few difficult comments now could spur the changes needed to produce a greater number of positive reviews in the future.

Reviews can feel perilous for today’s image-conscious attorneys, especially as they are impossible to control. In reality, however, they represent an excellent means of gathering actionable feedback while also providing helpful guidance for potential clients.