Articles Tagged with “Lawyer Reviews”

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ABA_Journal_June_July_2020-225x300In the June/July 2020 issue of the ABA Journal, Cynthia Sharp asks me about how attorneys can best respond to negative online reviews in “Trashed by Clients Online? Ethically responding to negative reviews,” a subject that I’ve discussed with many attorneys and clients over the years.

It is probably the topic that brings me the most questions during my marketing ethics-related CLE programs. In a recent webinar for the American Legal Institute (ALI), Ethically Navigating the Three Rs: Lawyer Ratings, Rankings, and Reviews, I focus solely on this area as it relates to attorney advertising. And I’ve written about the subject matter multiple times in my ABA Law Practice magazine column as well. Mostly, because unlike many areas of attorney marketing ethics, this one is quite “real” to many lawyers that have been bitten by disgruntled former clients, or unhappy ex-employees, shady competitors or just someone that plain doesn’t like you. The combustible mix of not being able to opt-out of the review process and the sheer fact that this stuff can be highly visible in your online portfolio can be deadly. And many attorneys have responded poorly—and violated ethics rules in the process.

The power of the online review—on Google, Yelp, Facebook, or numerous sites that are legal-specific—has grown exponentially in recent years. Early on, the issues often stemmed from reviews on legal site Avvo (which rewarded attorneys for having reviews in their profiles), and Yelp—the initial home of choice for the disgruntled…there is nothing like being ripped by a Yelper. Facebook could be especially critical to the consumer-facing law practice. But it was really the elevation of reviews on Google that increased the potential for reward and damage. If you think about the evolution of Google in the online marketplace—from sponsored results to adwords; SEO spends on organic results, local/mapped searching and various efforts at developing a social media component (mostly without success), the incorporation of Google Reviews and the related visibility in a search result puts a spotlight on them for the end-user and adds another concern for reputation management of your online portfolio.

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ABA_CLE.pngAmerican Bar Association members receive free continuing legal education credits through the monthly CLE Premier Speaker Series. Sponsored by the ABA and the Center for Professional Development, thousands of attorneys participate in each month’s complimentary webinar program.

It is a tremendous honor to have my program, Lawyer Rankings and Ratings: The Impact on Ethics and the Profession, selected for inclusion, on Monday, October 21, 2013 from 1-2:30 pm Eastern Time. If you are an ABA member, be sure to take advantage of attending this timely and topical CLE.

There may not be a bigger “industry” in law firm marketing and business development circles than the continued growth and proliferation of rankings and ratings. The Rules of Professional Conduct and ethics opinions have tried in vain to develop workable ethics barriers and parameters, however, the impact on the profession is significant–from the time and money spent to the permissible uses for promotion. Learn about ratings and their methodologies, and the ethical considerations voiced by various state and national bar associations. From long-time services by Martindale, American Lawyer Media, Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers; to relative newcomers such as Chambers USA and Avvo; and the thousands of other companies that have recognized there is a lot of money to be made in the business of lawyer rankings. Are they helping buyers of legal services make more informed decisions or hindering the profession as a whole?

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best-usn-rankings-gray.jpgLast month, at the invitation of Joshua Peck and the Law Firm Media Professionals organization, I attended their monthly program in New York City, at the offices of Dechert. As always, the topic of “Surveys and Rankings” attracted significant interest (and conversation) from the many law firm communications and public relations people in Manhattan.

On the panel were Reena SenGupta, representing “FT Innovative Lawyers” for the Financial Times; Anne Szustek, Deputy Editor of the Benchmark Litigation survey, run by Euromoney; and Steven Naifeh, President of Best Lawyers, which also publish the US News & World Reports “Best Law Firm” rankings.

The audience questions (and skepticism) reminded me that nerves are still raw when seeing the friction that exists between these businesses and the law firm professionals that choose to participate in them (or not). Everyone continues to preach “separation of church and state” as it relates to the editorial evaluation versus the advertising opportunities that are offered. I made particular note of the Benchmark folks reminding everyone that they are journalists and researchers, not lawyers. That just makes me give second thought as to how good they can be in evaluating the leaders in litigation. I can’t say that either FT or Benchmark did anything to increase credibility, based on their presentations. If you buy in, you are probably still in. But if not, I doubt opinion shifted at all.

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If you are a PA lawyer, and it feels like you’ve been hearing me deliver marketing ethics CLE hours for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute for more than a decade now, it is because you have. My very first ethics CLE ever was given in Philly, New York and Houston in the summer of 1997. I opened with some lame canned joke involving Morgan Lewis and domain names. Trust me, I’ve gotten better. But the even weaker handout is now a collector’s item. I still have an original (see “Hoarders” and related illnesses).

Each year, I change the focus and try to cover hot topics, and changing rules, as they relate to areas of law marketing ethics. Quite honestly, some years my “show” (as I call it) is better than others. Last year’s focus on ethics of social media was very well received. But this year’s focus on ratings, rankings and reviews might be the best one yet. I mean, really, who does not debate the value, interest and impact on the multi-zillion dollar “sell stuff to attorneys” industry?

I’ve written and spoken on the rankings & ratings subject for many years, including multiple ABA Annual Meetings, as a focus of the ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference, for PBI and in at least a half dozen publications. I’m not sure if the publishers of these companies will tell you they love me or hate me (it is probably a mix, leaning more toward the negative), but it is a market that continues to fascinate. This holds true in my marketing roles, in my ethics roles, and certainly in speaking as a leader in law practice management circles.

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