One negative review can affect an otherwise golden reputation online, and potential clients are watching.

Everyone has heard the old saying about first impressions and how you never get a second chance to make one.

In the digital age, however, you are often not quite the one in control of that first impression.

Rather, your online reviews show prospective clients who you and your practice are before you ever get a chance to give that nice, firm handshake.

This begs the question: Do you know what impression your online presence makes?

It is easier than ever for consumers to research, and it is increasingly common to quickly google any prospective service provider. Law is no exception, the majority of people who are looking for an attorney check into their options online before making any contact. In the quest for information on a prospective attorney, reviews left by former clients and others bear particular weight.

According to Jordan Schuetzle, director of proposition strategy and market development lead at Thomson Reuters, it does not take much to bring an otherwise good online reputation down. Many sites, like Yelp, Google and Facebook compile individual reviews into one overall average, a value that is potentially easy to sway.

Small complaints can matter as much as the big ones when it comes to a ratings system based on four or five very subjective stars.

Schuetzle reminded that anyone, from the person delivering lunch to the office who expected a larger tip to the person who left a message and did not get a callback quickly as the would have liked, can give online feedback.

Although this may seem daunting, there are ways to influence the way you are perceived online. Taking a proactive approach is most helpful instead of simply reacting after things happen. Asking clients to give their feedback at an opportune time in the case often works in your favor because the client is still invested in the case process. Plus, if they are having an issue at that point or are critical in their feedback, you can use their review constructively give them a better outcome overall.

Sending a link via text or email directly to the client makes doing the review undeniably easy for them.

Should you get a negative review online, take the opportunity to publicly demonstrate your willingness to fix any problem that may arise. Your response to a less-than-satisfied person can speak much more about you than negative online feedback does if handled with grace. Address the person who left the review yourself, instead of having a marketing professional do it for you. Be thoughtful, authentic and avoid getting overly emotional. It may help to have someone uninvolved in the situation to read your response before you post to get another perspective.

Although you are replying to the negative reviewer you are actually speaking to the next potential client. They are definitely out there, just an online search away.

About Author

Mandy Wakely is a contributor for Bigger Law Firm.

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