We’ve talked about the importance of getting reviews nonstop for years. Reviews continue to be an extremely important tool for protecting your referrals and growing your leads on the internet.
As a matter of fact, according to a BrightLocal survey, 86% of people read reviews for local businesses before making a purchase. If they are between the ages of 18-34, that number jumps up to a staggering 95%!
If your target market is within that 18-34 age range then there is no doubt that they will want to read reviews before calling your law firm.
All of this pressure to obtain reviews from your clients—especially if your competition has a ton of reviews—can lead some attorneys into taking the easy way out; faking (or buying) reviews.
You may be reading this and say to yourself, “I would never fake a review, that’s unethical.” I’m with you. I think most of us know that it isn’t a good idea.
However, when facing pressure, not everyone has the wherewithal to keep a level head and properly weigh out the pros and cons.
Well, hopefully, this story out of Pittsburgh will change your mind.
A law firm in Pittsburgh is being sued by a woman who alleges that the firm solicited fake online reviews, which ultimately led to her hiring the firm for her sexual harassment case.
Read the full article here.
She claims that the attorney let the statute of limitations expire on her claims of sexual harassment.
However, it is not just one person. There have been other previous clients who are also hopping on board.
From the article:
“KM&A …. Took overt acts in furtherance of its conspiracy to defraud prospective clients, including but not limited to offering to provide, and actually providing, employees with paid time off in exchange for soliciting false reviews.”
Now, this is a very severe case of what can go wrong. Based on the article, they have been doing this for years.
There are undoubtedly other law firms out there who are also faking reviews and will continue to do so.
If the threat of a lawsuit for “professional negligence, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, civil conspiracy, unfair trade practices, and RICO Act violations” isn’t enough, I will make a more practical case.
According to the same BrightLocal survey, 33% of people spotted “lots of fake reviews” in 2018, which is up 8% from 2017.
What is even crazier is that 89% of people ages 18-34 saw fake reviews online in 2018.
People are becoming better at spotting fake reviews online, especially in the Millennial generation.
While your law firm may not receive lawsuits, fake reviews could leave people calling you less than if you just stuck to an organic review strategy. Not to mention that most of the lawyers we talk with are located in small towns or mid-sized cities where the degrees of separation are non-existent and word travels faster than the speed of light.
Couple of things to end on:
Don’t pay companies that promise to obtain reviews for your firm
If it sounds too good to be true; it is. These companies scam small business owners, like yourself, all the time. On top of the possibility of facing the same predicament that the firm from Pittsburgh is in, these reviews won’t stick. Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc. are getting very good at spotting fake reviews. From the content of the review, age of the account, IP address (or geo-location) where the review was left, it is easy to spot fake reviews.
If Google, or any other site, catch you faking reviews, they will terminate your page. Don’t risk it.
Don’t give clients anything of value in exchange for a review or endorsement
Not only does this go against Google’s and Yelp’s guidelines, but it also goes against your state’s Rules of Professional Conduct. Per the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct 7.2(b):
A lawyer shall not compensate, give or promise anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services except that a lawyer may…
This means that you can’t give them money, a gift card, or even a pen in exchange for you asking them for a review.
Please don’t do it.
It’s ok to incentivize your staff, but do it properly
We’ve told attorneys for years that obtaining online reviews are hard. It’s not easy in the legal profession. It can be daunting, time-consuming, and sometimes feel like a waste of time. As an attorney, you can’t spend all day long calling past clients asking them why they haven’t left the review on Google that they promised would do.
Leverage your staff, especially in the beginning.
Developing a culture of reviews is half the battle. For example, we had a client tell their admins and paralegals that for every review they received from a past client, they would receive $50. They now have over 150 reviews on Google.
There is nothing wrong with encouraging people in your office to help better your online marketing. Just make sure that they don’t exchange anything of value with the client.
Have questions about how to go about obtaining reviews? Are you even sure if you have a Google or Yelp page? We’re here to help. Give us a shout!