The Internet Review Train Is Coming: Are You on Board or Tied to the Rails?

Internet reviews will force lawyers to change how we treat our clients.

Jerks of the legal world, watch out.

When you treat clients poorly, these people will increasingly share their experiences and frustrations on the internet for others to read. More and more, this is becoming the new reality. And, no matter how hard a lawyer tries, they cannot avoid internet reviews by sticking their head in the sand and hoping they go away. Internet reviews are coming, like it or not. Most lawyers today definitely do not like the entire idea of internet reviews. Many lawyers want nothing to do with testimonials and reviews. I believe the reason is because they are uncomfortable with the idea of being reviewed or “judged.”

They Are Right to Feel Uncomfortable

Being judged by anyone is unsettling. Being judged by complete strangers is worse. With internet reviews, we are basically asking to be judged. We are subjecting ourselves to people who can literally dump onto the internet for everyone to see and read reviews that are filtered through their own biases, prejudices, anxieties, anger, and imperfections. No wonder so many lawyers are uncomfortable with the idea of internet reviews. It means accepting that we will be reviewed by people, and some of these people have a lot of problems.

Some reviews, just like blog comments, chat rooms, and call-in radio, will be based more on a reviewer’s own underlying psychosis than anything that you have done. So, yes. It is unsettling and uncomfortable. Putting yourself out there like this can feel more like voluntary dental surgery than legal marketing. But here’s the kicker: there is not a damn thing we can do about it.

As Lawyers, We Have Two Choices:

  • We can put ourselves out there to be judged, as unsettling and uncomfortable as that makes us feel at times.
  • Or we can be anonymous by trying to play it safe. We can avoid sites like Avvo. We can take down websites. We can make ourselves as small a target as possible.

However, the problem with being  anonymous is that it doesn’t pay the bills: if clients cannot find you, then they cannot hire you. For those of us lawyers who want to not only survive, but to grow and thrive, there is only one choice: we must put ourselves out there to be judged. We must get on board the internet review train. We start by offering great service now. Then, we leverage the fruits of our labor by asking our clients for testimonials and internet reviews that will tell others about the top-notch service we provide and the outstanding results we deliver.

Sure, we can all expect to receive negative, unfair testimonials and internet reviews from time to time. There are a lot of imperfect people out there who are very angry and want to express these feelings. The internet makes every opinion count, no matter how unfair or unbalanced that opinion is. But we can deal with negative, unfair testimonials and internet reviews so long as the great service we are providing is reflected in our client testimonials and internet reviews.

I just received my very first negative review. It wasn’t even from a client–it was from someone who wanted me to take their case, and who got angry with me when I apologized and said I couldn’t. That person left me a bad review because he wanted me to be his lawyer and take his case and I said “no.” I did not think the negative review was fair, and it troubled me that potential clients might read it. But every lawyer who deals with the public should expect to be on the receiving end of an unfair review from time to time.

Bad Reviews Can Be Overcome, If You Have a Good Defense in Place

The best defense–maybe the only defense–is getting a lot more good reviews than bad ones. That means doing all the things you should be doing: answering phone calls, establishing good rapport, having great communication with the people you are entrusted with helping. That has been the strategy that my law firm and I have successfully pursued. Asking your happy clients to leave reviews and testimonials is good marketing offense, because potential clients really want to read what real people have to say. But it is also smart marketing defense, so that when someone dumps their own anger on you or me or any other lawyer, there are already so many good reviews that this person can’t tank your reputation and scare away potential clients.

Control the Parts That You Have Control Over

Offer top-notch service, return phone calls, have excellent communication with your clients, and work hard to achieve great results for them. Build relationships. Or you can try to stick your head in the sand, try to play it safe, and make yourself as small a target as possible. But you can’t do both. And if you intend to be practicing law for a while, you really don’t have a choice. The internet review train is coming. You can get on board or get run over.

The train is getting close.

Internet reviews will be the best thing that has ever happened for great lawyers who then take that extra step and ask their happy clients to share their experiences. It will almost certainly be the worst thing for lawyers who don’t.

 – Steven Gursten is a Michigan auto accident lawyer who helps people injured in car accidents and truck accidents.