From Florida to Ohio, several states’ ethics boards are beginning to adopt a stance that will have a major impact on the proper tactics to increase a law firm website’s ranking. Make one wrong move here, and you could find yourself front and center to an ethics inquiry.
What is the issue? Recently, several states have begun holding attorneys responsible for the content of reviews when the attorney requested the reviews.
It is common practice for law firms to reach out to clients and ask them to leave a review on websites like Google and Yelp. In fact, it’s encouraged. Reviews have a huge benefit for your conversions and online ranking. Having ten reviews and an overall rating of 4.5 stars on Google does have an impact on a new prospect’s decision to look at potentially hiring your firm.
Two important clarifications:
- You are not responsible for the content of reviews you did not request.
- You can still ask people to leave you a review.
Here is an example of a review gone wrong:
Let’s say you reach out to a good client of yours and, in your email signature, you say, “Enjoy our service? Leave us a review” with a link to your Google+ Local profile.
Then, the customer goes to your Google+ Local profile and leaves you the following review: “If you have been in an accident, you MUST call Jon – he is the best attorney in all of Miami. He won me over $1mil in a settlement with AMC insurance company…and we settled out of court! If you are looking to win, there is no question that Jon will get you the money you deserve!”
There are clearly many ethical violations in the above review. If this review were a testimonial, you would not be able to put this on your website or use it in any other advertising. Even though reviews are not technically advertising, they are being treated similarly.
If Jon had asked this client to leave him a review, he would then have been liable for the content of that review.
The other issue here is that most review sites will not take down a review just because it violates your governing body’s ethical guidelines. If it is within the review website’s terms of service, you are out of luck.
So how do you ask for reviews, then?
You absolutely should keep asking for reviews. Just make sure that you are adding in a few sentences about how you would like the person to leave you a review. It is acceptable to set parameters for the client when leaving you a review.
When emailing someone to ask for a review, include something along these lines: “We would be grateful if you would take a moment to leave us a review on Google+ Local. Please remember to avoid discussing any details of your case, and do not make any promises. If you will, just let people know if you enjoyed the experience of working with our firm. We appreciate your time. If you would like to send us your proposed review ahead of posting it, we would be happy to a look at it.”
In the event the client goes rogue and posts whatever they want, do not panic. Send an email thanking him or her for the review while asking that he or she either edit or remove the review, as it violates your state’s ethical guidelines.
Happy review hunting, and as always, please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts on the matter.