While the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings have existed for well over 100 years, many lawyers are still getting used to the idea of being reviewed by fellow attorneys or their clients. We regularly speak to attorneys who are interested but apprehensive about engaging with online reviews, or definitively state they have no need for reviews as part of their business. In these conversations, we’ll regularly hear similar statements. Today I want to address some of the more frequent comments we hear from lawyers and address why an attorney who feels this way may want to reconsider.
Myth #1: “I don’t need reviews. Most/All of my business comes from referrals.”
The first thing I say to any lawyer who tells me this is “Great!” Any business owner who has generated enough goodwill with their prior clients to sustain their business primarily on referrals is doing something right. Also, that lawyer clearly believes that a referral from someone else is a driver to convince someone to contact him/her over someone else. Well, what is a review on a site like Lawyers.com or Yelp but an online referral? Every year, more and more people start their search for a lawyer online. To those people, online reviews are referrals. They may not know the person, but an attorney listing with a significant number of positive reviews is just like their best friend telling them to call that lawyer/law firm.
In addition, and I don’t think this is just me, if a friend or co-worker recommends a business, the first thing I do is go online and look up their reviews. If the reviews are average, that referral loses some of its luster. On the other hand, if the referral is confirmed by strong online reviews, I’m likely to use that business without searching for other options.
To sum up, online reviews act just like in-person referrals for people who start their search online. And good reviews act as a confirmation for the referral your clients/peers provide to prospective clients.
Myth #2: “Peer Reviews are just lawyers complimenting each other. There’s no real-world benefit.”
This may be more specific to our websites Lawyers.com and Martindale.com, because we publish reviews from both clients and fellow lawyers. Sometimes attorneys will tell us client reviews are all that matter.
Client reviews are crucial to a law firm’s online presence, but peer reviews can be just as important, and not just as online reviews. The long history of the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings have established significant goodwill in the legal community. Having an AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating can absolutely impact a lawyer in very real ways. Here are three examples:
- Prospective clients may only want to work with law firms where the lawyers who will handle their case have strong Martindale ratings. This is particularly true with larger firms who have corporate clients. We have frequently spoken with attorneys who are looking to establish a rating as soon as possible because a prospective client will only work with a firm with a Martindale-Hubbell rating.
- There are national and local organizations that may require an AV rating before a lawyer or firm can join (see for example The National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms).
- One of our sales representatives was recently contacted by an attorney who was very interested in starting the peer review process as soon as possible. When asked why, the attorney explained that they were recently involved in a case where attorneys’ fees were a significant factor. The opposing counsel charged fees that were higher than normal for the area of the country and the type of work involved. In supporting these fees, the judge in the case specifically considered the attorney’s AV rating.
Myth #3: “I have the highest possible score. Asking for more reviews could bring my score down, and that’s not worth it.”
Having the highest score in any review program is an achievement. A five-star rating on Lawyers.com, Yelp or Google helps an attorney stand out from their peers. Surveys show that when prospective clients look at reviews, the overall star rating is the primary factor they consider.
However, it is far from the only factor. People who consider reviews when evaluating businesses also look closely at the number of reviews.
Imagine that you’ve narrowed your choices down to two hotels for your next vacation. Both seem to have the amenities and location you want, but the reviews may be your deciding factor. One hotel has a 5.0 score based on three reviews, while the other has a 4.7 score based on 43 reviews. Which score do you trust more? Which business’s reviews allow you to make a more informed decision?
Another factor prospective clients will give weight to is how recent the reviews are. If I walk past a restaurant tonight and they have some awards hanging in the window from 2011, what does that tell me about the service they offer today? Having great reviews on your profile helps, but if your last review was in 2010 and your competitor’s last review was last month, that could tip the scales in their favor. In a recent survey, 94 percent of consumers focus only on reviews from the previous year. Even if you already have the highest score or the top award, consistently getting new reviews strengthens your profile.
Myth #4: “Once reviews are online, I lose control of the conversation.”
Lawyers are sometimes concerned about the written feedback that comes with reviews. While it is true that businesses cannot control what reviewers say, a well-crafted response can work to diffuse a difficult situation.
Most websites that allow lawyer reviews, including Facebook, Lawyers.com, Yelp and Google, allow businesses to respond to reviews. A response is your opportunity to thank a fellow attorney for a positive review,or to address a concern while reaffirming your commitment to client service.
The idea of being evaluated by peers or previous clients is a new phenomenon for many lawyers. However, online reviews are here to stay; lawyers and law firms best serve themselves not by abiding by some of the myths we’ve addressed here but instead by concentrating on acquiring reviews from clients and fellow attorneys.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.