This summer, Attorney at Work conducted a brief survey asking readers how important law firm Google reviews are to their success and how they manage them. Here’s what we learned.
Do Google Reviews Matter to Law Firms?
The short answer? Yes. More than three-quarters of law firms responding to our survey (78%) said Google reviews matter quite a bit — to firm reputation, for monitoring the quality of their services, and because more good reviews help boost search rankings (so more clients can find you and read those reviews).
How important? When asked if online reviews are important to their firm’s success, 30% of respondents said they were very important, 30% responded that reviews were extremely important, and another 18% said they were somewhat important.
Given the ubiquity of online reviews today, this isn’t surprising. You would think lawyers would, at minimum, want to cover their reputational bases — making sure to ask satisfied clients to review them and spread the word and monitoring bad reviews so potential clients aren’t scared away. Still, almost a quarter of survey respondents (22%) said online reviews were not important to them. Whether because they don’t believe Google reviews matter or because they don’t have the time or capacity to engage, 11% said Google reviews are not important and 11% said they were not important at all.
What Are Law Firms Doing to Get More Reviews?
In line with the percentage of respondents who didn’t think reviews were important, nearly one-third of respondents said they do not request online reviews.
What about the other 77%? To increase their chances of getting reviews, firms that have any kind of review strategy want to cover as many bases as possible — from making sure review links and icons are placed prominently on their website and social media profiles to directly contacting clients via email or text or follow-up phone call. One respondent said they have posters with QR codes in the boardroom asking clients to leave reviews.
When asked what they do to encourage clients to leave reviews, the most popular option was to send the client an email requesting a review, either separately or with the file closing letter, with a link. (Note that respondents could choose more than one answer.)
Asking for Google Reviews
Q. What methods have you used to encourage clients to leave a Google Review?
|Review link included in client emails||45%|
|Review request included in File Closing letter||36%|
|Review link on your firm website||18%|
|Other (please specify)*||18%|
|Review link on your social media profiles||9%|
|*Multiple selections allowed.|
The key seems to be incorporating the ask into the natural flow of the client engagement so that requesting a review isn’t an awkward afterthought. The most natural time to ask for a review is during the final meeting or phone call, but that is not the only time to remind clients you appreciate feedback and referrals — and that one of the easiest ways is to leave a Google review.
One respondent said: “In the final wrap-up on the case, I also ask the client to leave a Google review. In my final email to the client, I also include a link for them to use to post the review. Most clients follow up and leave a review.”
In fact, several respondents commented that their most successful strategy was to ask the client in person during the final meeting and then follow up via email or a personal phone call from the lawyer.
However, one respondent admitted that they only mention leaving a Google review if they’re sure the client was satisfied.
You don’t have to wait until the matter ends to remind clients you appreciate good reviews, though. Depending on your practice, you might include review links in standard correspondence, include a message in their client portal, add a link to your email signature blocks and send a friendly text with the link. Just keep in mind that there’s a fine line between expressing genuine interest and appreciation for their feedback and turning yourself into a sales bot!
How Seriously Do Firms Take Online Reviews?
Most firms surveyed do not have a formal review strategy — 71% said they do not, compared to 29% who reported having a process for handling reviews.
When asked about the goals of their online review strategy, monitoring the firm’s reputation ranked as the No. 1 priority, while monitoring the quality of services ranked second and improving online rankings followed.
Do Google Reviews Bring In New Business?
While there are plenty of reasons Google reviews are important for law firms — from branding to reputation to search — the bottom line is that firms do all these things to bring in business. So, could survey respondents link Google reviews directly to new clients?
To what extent do you believe Google reviews are directly responsible for bringing you new clients?
How Do Firms Respond to Bad Reviews?
The flip side of good reviews that draw in new clients are mediocre ratings and negative reviews that scare them away. Most respondents reported receiving bad reviews at some point (61%) — although, notably, some said they had never checked. When asked what percentage of their Google reviews were negative, most said between 0%-10%, while some did report up to 60% negative reviews.
When asked how they addressed those negative reviews, 42% said they responded online immediately to acknowledge the client’s concern, 36% asked the review platform to remove the negative review, 20% responded online immediately to dispute the claims, 18% contacted the client directly to ask them to remove the negative review, and 4% hired someone to help them counter the bad review. Another 4% said they chose to ignore the negative review, while some said they did not respond because they did not believe they could do so without violating ethics rules.
Others said they could not respond because they could not figure out the source of the review.
As for which method worked best, responding directly via email was reported as most effective, followed closely by a personal phone call.
However you choose to handle dissatisfied clients, most experts agree that you should not ignore them, and that you should not engage in a back-and-forth online. Instead, take the conversation out of the review platform as quickly as possible — respond respectfully and briefly to let them know you will be calling or ask them to contact you directly.
Since it can be difficult to get reviews removed, most marketers advise focusing on generating more good reviews to balance out — or drown out — the bad ones. Building up good reviews on other platforms is also a good idea, along with making sure your information is up to date on key lawyer directories. The idea is to focus on building your reputation overall so that the negative reviews, however rare, don’t overwhelm the stream.
When asked if they use other review platforms besides Google, most respondents (59%) said they do not. Of those that do, Avvo and Yelp were mentioned most, followed by Lawyers.com, Martindale.com and Findlaw.
Since bad reviews and negative feedback from clients are a given, it is wise to have a set policy for handling negative feedback, whether online or off: 59% of survey respondents said they have such a policy, while 41% do not.
Automating Online Reviews and Reputation Management
A significant portion of the survey focused on how firms are using technology to help them gather, respond to and manage online reviews. In the future, generative AI may revolutionize the client experience, analyzing client sentiment and predicting which ones need more attention. More sentient chatbots may seamlessly guide clients through surveys and reviews — responding expertly to negative feedback. Today, however, few survey respondents report using more than email and the Google review platform itself to manage or optimize online reviews. More than 86% said they do not use technology to help with the process. The remaining responders said they didn’t know or, if they said yes, the technology used came down to sending an email link.
As for using a third party to help spur reviews, only 9% responded yes.
Reputation Management Platforms
In addition, while monitoring their reputation was named as the top goal for firms’ online review strategy, few firms (14%) reported using reputation management software. The rest either reported not using a reputation platform or did not know. Of those who do use reputation management tech, these were the platforms mentioned most:
- Podium (6%)
- Reputation.com (4%)
- Kenect (2%)
- BirdEye (2%)
The Bottom Line on Online Surveys
Google reviews themselves are free, of course, but one of the best ways to tell how seriously firms take something is to ask how much they’re spending on it. When asked what percentage of their overall marketing budget is spent on obtaining and managing online reviews, the overwhelming majority answered from 0%-10%, while a couple of outliers reported spending as much as 75%.
The bottom line? Like most client service strategies — from returning phone calls to improving billing transparency and overall communications — it isn’t hard to outswing your competition by paying closer attention to Google reviews. The difference between a five-star rating and a 4.3 or even 4.7 could make all the difference in who a potential client chooses to call first.
Watch this space for a follow-up guide on best practices for online reviews and reputation management.
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