Who cares what the public thinks?

Posted by Jamie Claret of Legal Futures Associate The Amazing Support Company

I recently had a disturbing conversation with a local law firm about their name appearing on Solicitors from Hell. This website has gained a lot of attention from the press and has become infamous in the way that anyone is able to anonymously put details of any poor experience they have had with a solicitor.

Solicitors from Hell has been criticised for not investigating the allegations made by the people posting to it and found itself in court a few times already. It is but one of a number of websites comparing or rating solicitors which are starting to come into the market. The insurance and finance worlds have been subject to this for a number of years but this is going to be a strange experience for solicitors.

In any case, I was ringing up the firm as they are local to me and I was, of course, punting for business. It was a fairly warm lead as my brother, an estate agent (boo hiss), had used them in the past for some conveyancing. He e-mailed me the firm’s details and I did the first thing that anyone does nowadays when they want to know more about someone – I put them into Google. Admittedly the firm’s site came up number one and two, but, and this is an extremely important but, it came up at position three and four as part of Solicitors from Hell.

When we spoke, instead of talking about IT, I actually brought this up and suggested they should speak to their web guys about search engine optimisation and other techniques to help bump those entries down. The response that I got was quite shocking but something I am hearing time and time again from the legal sector.

It went something like this: “Yes, we are aware of our appearance on that site, but to be honest we aren’t that bothered by it. We don’t believe many people take too much notice.”

Eh? I cannot believe that this is the attitude of many solicitors. I appreciate that the legal profession is very traditional, but any firm that ignores its online reputation is making a very grave mistake. Just because lawyers do not take such sites seriously does not mean the public treats them the same.

If I was a punter looking for a law firm in my area, the first, and probably only place, I would look would be Google. I would then either ask someone I know whether they had dealt with the firm before or I would do some hunting on the Internet to check out their credentials. This is the way people do things now.

What makes this even more concerning is that, with competition about to enter a new realm, alternative business structures on the horizon and the growth in rating and comparison sites, reputation is going to be key.

It is not, however, just your online presence in general search that matters. Social media as a way of engaging and building rapport with clients is already starting to hit the mainstream and if your firm does not keep up or get involved, it may well get left behind. I am not suggesting that Twitter and Facebook are the only ways in which to market your practice but they should be forming some part of your overall marketing strategy.

The world is changing at an extremely rapid rate. Technology, whether you like it or not, is affecting people’s buying patterns. Unless you look after your online reputation and social media image, I’m afraid that you could be left in the dark.

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