To an accomplished attorney who’s worked incredibly hard for his or her reputation, nothing can be more frustrating than some Joe Schmoe online who posts a bad review of you for the whole world to see.
Nearly as frustrated: the lawyer who doesn’t have bad reviews but can’t seem to get many good ones either.
It’s a problem because websites like Avvo.com put a lot of emphasis on client reviews. Even more importantly: your prospective clients do too.
The internet has worked wonders for lawyers’ ability to market themselves. In a crowded market where the ethics rules make it very difficult to hang a shingle that shines, web marketing opened up a whole avenue to attorneys: one in which client traffic can come to you.
But it’s a two-way street, and peeved-off clients can walk it. So can robots, spammers, and even malicious competitors with an axe to grind.
So should you trust Avvo reviews? Should your clients? How do you get good ones? And how is a busy lawyer supposed to tackle the time-consuming task of online reputation management?
A few weeks ago, we outlined how to get a 10-star review on Avvo. Reviews are just one piece of that puzzle. This piece is particularly important, though, so today we’re taking a closer look at it.
Should You (The Lawyer) Trust Avvo Reviews?
As with any online reviews, it’s best not to put too much stock in Avvo users’ comments.
While the Avvo organization does take some minimal steps to crack down on fraudulent, inappropriate, or misleading reviews, their website is ultimately open to anyone, and that means it isn’t hard for people to post unfair summaries. And once they’re there, Avvo won’t take them down without good reason. Making the case that a review is dishonest can be difficult and is sometimes impossible.
Not all bogus reviews are negative, either. Attorneys’ friends and families (and even unscrupulous lawyers themselves, using duplicate accounts) can post glowing reviews of services that were never actually rendered.
So if you got a bad review or two, it might not say much about you — just as the glittering endorsements of your old law school nemesis might not mean much either.
Ah, but do your clients know that?
Should Potential Clients Trust Avvo Reviews?
Whether or not they should, they do — generally speaking.
Forever the butt of jokes, attorneys don’t attract a lot of trust from the general public. Increasingly, whenever clients need legal representation, they turn to online review sites like Avvo to make sure they get “a good lawyer” — one who fights hard but charges fairly, one who not only knows what they’re doing but also how to treat a client with compassion and respect.
Those are exactly the concerns Avvo reviews tend to speak to, so a site like Avvo meets an immediate need for a skeptical public eager to avoid the “wrong sort” of attorney.
Mind you, clients aren’t altogether wrong to value those reviews. After all, while some are spam or downright dishonest, most of them aren’t. And while people generally understand that an individual review ought to be taken with a grain of salt, they also know that a consensus carries weight.
How Do I Get More Avvo Reviews for My Law Firm?
If your state’s ethics rules allow it, we always advise talking to your clients about providing a testimonial upon the completion of your services. It’s a powerful marketing tool — not only for Avvo but also for your own website and television or radio ads.
For its part, Avvo.com actually offers a built-in service that allows you to auto-email a review request to up to 50 clients at a time. If your primary focus is on getting reviews specifically on Avvo, it might not be a bad idea. But it certainly isn’t the most personable approach.
A better first step is talking to clients directly and asking them to post a review on Avvo. If you think that takes more follow-through than they’ll commit to, though, the Avvo “Request Reviews” feature might more effectively prod them.
Whenever discussing testimonials or online reviews with your clients, remember always to respect their time and confidentiality.
How Should I Handle a Negative Review on Avvo?
If you or your firm gets hit with a bad review on Avvo, there are at least two steps you can take in response:
- Dispute the review. Avvo will make an effort to verify whether it came from a real client. During the dispute process, the review won’t appear in your profile. Note, though, that attorneys have gotten mixed results using this approach. In fact, Avvo’s alleged non-responsiveness is one of lawyers’ top gripes against the service (and the subject of the occasional lawsuit).
- Post a response. Beneath each Avvo review on your profile, you’ll see a link allowing you to post a public response. Now’s your chance to cast a better light on a bad situation, but choose your words wisely. Attempting to dispute the content of the review might make you look argumentative and could even raise ethical questions.
For bad reviews, Avvo recommends a response along these lines:
“We’re sorry to hear you weren’t pleased with your experience. While this matter doesn’t sound familiar at first glance, we truly care about each client having a positive experience with our firm. Please contact me directly so we can address your specific concerns. Thank you.”
Ultimately, the best answer to bad reviews is more good reviews. If your clients’ positive experiences outweigh the negative ones, Avvo users will take note.
Reviews Don’t Affect Your Avvo Rating
Whatever happens with a given review, take solace in this fact: client comments have absolutely zero impact on your overall Avvo rating.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t important — reviews do still impact users’ perception of your practice — but knowing they won’t affect your rating can take some of the sting out of a critic’s attack.
Don’t Forget About Your Peers
In addition to comments from your clients, Avvo also features peer reviews, meaning your fellow practitioners are invited to weigh in on your standard of service.
That’s problematic for several reasons, not the least of which is that your competitors are biased. Moreover, attorneys outside your office aren’t privy to your practice approach, and they might not have a fair sense of who you are as a professional.
Of course, to provide a peer review in the first place, the lawyer will need to have an Avvo account. That’s a given for many people working in big law firms and young up-and-comers, but it’s less common among older attorneys or those with smaller practices. Accordingly, your network might not be as Avvo-friendly as others.
Keep your state bar board in mind too. In some states (South Carolina, for instance), it could be an ethical violation to facilitate the posting of client reviews on a third-party website… or even to register for Avvo in the first place!
Put the Power of Attorney Web Marketing in Your Own Hands
Avvo reviews are an important part of your public persona, but don’t let them occupy too much of your time (or your mind). At the end of the day, you’re behind the steering wheel of your own online presence, and no single negative review can change that.
If you don’t have the kind of Avvo reviews you’re looking for, taking reasonable steps to get them can be worth your while. Likewise, if unfairly negative reviews are cropping up, take a moment to address them. But then move on.
Focus instead on strategically marketing your practice as a solution to your clients’ needs. Law firms that want to grow their client base using the internet absolutely can. In fact, the web remains the single most powerful attorney marketing tool out there.
At Black Fin, we work hard to put our clients at the top of the internet game. Let us solve your marketing problems for you. Contact the attorney web marketing experts at Black Fin today and learn more about how we can help.