Originally published August 16, 2017. Updated on May 22, 2023.
I’m not going to ask you to lower your expectations with this post. Success in law requires a bit of boldness and legal consumers expect their attorneys to be competent and reasonably confident. (Here comes the “but…”) But when it comes to your online reputation, I think lawyers need to be realistic about the types of endorsements they’re going to receive.
Not every case is going to be a slam dunk and not every client is going to love the experience of working with you. We all know this. Yet there’s gold in those seemingly negative reviews if you know how to find it. Let’s dig through a few hypothetical online lawyer reviews. We’ll use an imaginary solo attorney and take a look at the relative value (and likelihood) of the different positive reviews she might receive. I think you’ll find that even the least of these still has something to offer.
Is a 5-star rating the best review for a lawyer?
How about that for a review shown below? What a wonderfully articulate client!
A 5-star rating and statement like this one might sound great to Claire but frankly, the rest of the internet will probably find it preposterous if not downright unbelievable. Yes, there are people out there walking this Earth who actually talk and write like that. But they’re not all that common and they don’t speak to the average consumer very well.
★★★★★ “Claire Wysocki was a beacon of hope to my family at a time when our options appeared limited and the likelihood of a satisfactory resolution seemed nigh on impossible. Not only was she able to defend us from an unjust accusation, her calm and empathetic demeanor offered emotional succor to myself and those I care about most. My children and I are eternally grateful for her service and I hereby recommend Ms. Wysocki without reservation.”
GO AHEAD AND DREAM OF THIS
4-star review example
“I hired Claire Wysocki to help out with a pretty scary issue where my family was being sued because of something that wasn’t our fault. I was worried we would lose everything but Claire got us sorted out after just a couple of meetings. I wish she had been cheaper and that this all never happened. But Claire made us feel a lot better while she worked. I’d hire her again.”
HOPE (AND WATCH) FOR THIS
That’s a bit more down-to-earth and it’s possibly one of the better reviews Claire will ever have in her quiver. This really is the sort of feedback attorneys should watch out for and value because it can produce consistent referrals online; ample details, good results, and honest about the cost. But we’re not done yet. If you take a look at most online reviews you can tell that the majority of them are going to be a lot shorter and not terribly informative.
Average ratings with short reviews
“Pretty good lawyer. Wish she was cheaper tho.”
“I’ve never needed a lawyer before but Claire was helpful for the most part.”
EXPECT TO SEE THIS
Now despite their brevity and casual language, these are actually good reviews. They’re basically positive even when they include a bit of mild criticism. These clients are generally more on the “pro” side of your reputation than the “con” so if you get a review like this one, don’t be discouraged. These “pretty good” reviews often contain hidden gems.
Our final example reveals why.
The best review for a lawyer (somewhere out there)
“We didn’t get the outcome we hoped for, but she was awesome to work with.”
LEARN TO VALUE THIS
Even with the admission that the case wasn’t a win, this client was willing to share something really positive about the experience of working with Claire. That type of feedback isn’t tied to her results (which are hard to control) but instead gives valuable perspective on the services delivered (which are absolutely under Claire’s command.) This type of authentic feedback is invaluable to legal consumers because it reveals something about the process of working with Claire while also speaking to the emotional needs of the prospective client.
All but the most delusional clients understand at some level that their case’s outcome is not guaranteed. A review like this might seem like a strike against Claire’s reputation, but it really isn’t. One or two of these honest statements can support an attorney’s credibility in a way that a sea of generic five-star reviews never could. Like I said in the beginning, don’t aim low, but don’t discredit the appeal of mid-range reviews.
Statements like that can be surprisingly impactful to consumers. When people are faced with doubt or fear or confusion, their defenses go up. They become skeptical of things that appear too good to be true. A pinch of reality in your firm’s reputation appeals to that skepticism. It reveals your humanity and fallibility. It tells legal consumers that you are for real and that you’re in this with them.
Read through these examples once again. They all have something good to say about Claire. But even the worst of them, the one where the client didn’t walk away 100 percent satisfied, sends a message that this attorney is a good hire. Nobody’s perfect after all. In life and in law, there are times where you do your best and still come out on the losing side. But don’t forget to look for those silver linings.
Build, monitor and manage
your online reputations.
Sometimes three out of five stars is the best you can hope for. Sometimes a three star review for a lawyer is exactly what a client needs to see.
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