I can tell you with much certainty that people read reviews before calling an attorney. In fact, we have heard from clients, the ones who have done a great job building a review culture in their firm and have a lot of great reviews online, that they have received phone calls from people who specifically say they called because they had the best reviews online. One attorney told me that a newly signed client said they searched for a lawyer and picked his firm because “about a hundred people can’t be wrong”.
In CLE presentations, panel discussions, webinars, and a large section of our book, I talk about the importance of making sure you are managing the online reviews about your firm. I believe it is so important that I go as far to say that you need to build a review culture in your firm.
There are many reasons for building a review culture, and one I always highlight is that it is good to know where you can improve your firm’s interaction and service to your clients. Even good reviews sometimes reveal a nugget of constructive criticism. But that is not the area most law firms challenge our focus on the importance of reviews.
I get challenged that, sure people look at reviews for a book, restaurant, or maybe a robot vacuum cleaner (to terrorize their pets and kids?).
But, they don’t really look at reviews for something as important as hiring a lawyer, right?
I don’t know what the hang up is on this. Maybe it is because some attorneys just don’t want to have to deal with getting reviews, or maybe it’s because some have negative reviews and have their head buried in the sand.
Fact: people are looking at reviews when looking to hire a lawyer.
To back some of this up, our colleagues at BrightLocal compile data based on surveys of over 1,000 U.S. consumers on their online search trends when looking at local businesses. They have been doing this for more than five years. Below are some of the key findings from that survey, with my comments, that continue to strengthen the point that online reviews are important.
85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
I wrote a blog post a few years ago that ended up becoming a big topic in our book.
In that post, I said that “online reviews are showing that we trust strangers more than our friends.”
[We go into some interesting research and findings and the psychology behind this more in this article: (BRI – link to: SAQ 3 How do I protect my referrals as they are starting to move online and look at things like reviews and social media to verify the referred law firms they want to contact?). ]
But think about your own behavior, or your spouse’s, or your kids’ at a time that someone recommended a book, restaurant, some new product, or a professional to help with an issue you were having. Did you go out and run to the store to buy the book, or go straight to the restaurant next time you needed food, or even immediately call the professional? Nope, you likely pulled out your phone or pulled up the browser on your desktop and headed to your favorite site to find reviews.
I am willing to bet that occasionally you read a few reviews and thought “what was my friend thinking, this is a horrible product/business”.
They read the book, tried the restaurant, or hired the professional, and they know you. Their recommendation should be the gold standard.
But, you read a few reviews that seem to trend negative and next thing you know suddenly a different book ends up in your shopping cart or you are heading to a different restaurant, and yes you may end up calling a different professional.
If you are being honest with yourself, this probably resembles your behavior or the behavior of someone very close to you.
Responding to reviews is more important than ever, with 30% of consumers naming this as a key factor when judging local businesses
The main factors people look for when judging a local business based on their reviews are the average stars and quantity of reviews. The fact that 30% say they are looking for a business to respond to reviews (up 10% from the previous year) jumped out at me.
Not only are prospective clients looking at the reviews themselves, but more and more, they want the business to be involved and care enough to respond to the reviews. This shows that you are involved in their online review ecosystem and builds extra trust.
Regarding the average stars, only 12% of people surveyed would use a business that had a 1 or 2-star rating. Almost 40% will use a business with a 3-star rating, but 39% now require a 4 or better rating— up 19% over the last two years. It seems that expectations for 4 or 5-star ratings are increasing.
For the number of reviews, almost half of the consumers (48%) are looking for at least 10 reviews before they start trusting the average star rating. We used to recommend at least 5 reviews on a few different platforms, but I would now recommend 10 on at least 3 online review platforms.
Interestingly enough: Consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business—up from 6 last year. This means that while you need 10 or more to gain the trust of the rating, consumers aren’t reading all of them.
Also, interesting to note is the fact this went up from 6 to 7 reviews read. It’s counterintuitive to everything you read about the shorter attention spans in the faster mobile-driven world but demonstrates how important reviews are to today’s consumer.
51% of consumers left a local business review when asked
Those are pretty good odds right there. If that held true for your law firm, you would only need to reach out to about 20 clients to get 10 reviews.
However, anecdotal evidence from our law firm clients indicates to me that it is not that high of a percent, more like 1 out of 3 for law firms.
You have a higher bar to cross since you deal with more sensitive information. That being said, people will really leave lawyers reviews about almost anything.
I have seen verified reviews from people with real and active profiles on Facebook and Yelp that rave about the great job the lawyer did getting them off of criminal charges—then go into specifics of all the criminal details.
32% of consumers read local reviews on mobile apps
We have been saying you should think about mobile users for the past couple of years.
Mobile device usage is affecting how people search for a lawyer, how your website is perceived, paid ads you are running, taking advantage of live chat, and now reviews.
The fact that this grew by 14% since 2016 is no surprise. It seems to go hand in hand with the amount of time people spend on Facebook on mobile devices, helping propel it to be one of the top trusted review sites for consumers in the survey.
Over 10% of consumers surveyed said they read reviews for an attorney business
Finally, out of over 1000 surveyed, over 100 said they have read reviews for an attorney business.
The fact that looking for an attorney is not something someone does every month vs. looking for a restaurant, hotel, auto, or hair/salon business, it is impressive that it got so many people responding this way.
But it is no surprise that consumers use reviews to help determine if they are going to call a local law firm. This is just some of the data about why it is important to build a review culture in your firm. But make no mistake, people are looking at reviews before they call a law firm.
How do your reviews stack up against your online competition? Maybe even more important, do your online reviews (or lack thereof) currently help or hurt all the networking and referral business you rely on to grow your law firm?