The Internet of Referrals: Online Reviews

San Diego Attorney Brigid Campo was locked out of her house. With her dog. And without her cell phone. Luckily for Brigid, a friendly neighbor saw her in distress and stopped and let her use her phone to call her husband. Low and behold, the two women connected and the next thing you know, the friendly neighbor was coming to see Brigid at her family law office for a consultation. While that’s an interesting story of finding a new client, it is obviously not typical (though if you do have a funny story of how you got connected to a new client – I’d love to hear it and incorporate it into a future post.)

Unsurprisingly, the top way that consumers find attorneys is through referrals, according to the 2017 Legal Trends Report. The report also says that over thirty percent of an attorney’s non-billable time is spent on business development, and over forty percent of lawyers would spend even more time securing new clients if they had the time. So, with referrals being the top mechanism for acquiring new clients, what’s the best way of going about getting referrals?

Many consumers turn to the lawyers who they know to refer them to other lawyers, so having a clearly defined personal brand and a community of colleagues who are familiar with your practice is paramount. Ethically, you can even have reciprocal referral fee arrangements with other lawyers (but there are more stringent considerations for giving referral fees to other professionals who are not lawyers). It is also more than likely that your local metropolitan or state bar has a lawyer referral service, and there are myriad private for-profit referral services as well. So that’s another path to consider. 

I’ve shared before that in the modern legal world, the internet is everything, so lawyers would be wise to put a greater focus on building relationships and getting referred to new clients online. Lexblog founder Kevin O’Keefe in this Above the Law article stated, “the Internet enhances a lawyer’s ability to get referrals from friends, family, business associates, and fellow lawyers. Referrals are all about relationships and having a strong reputation. The Internet accelerates relationships and the building of a name.” He believes that lawyers who spend the aforementioned over thirty percent of their non-billable time working on client development should be spending that time online building relationships and building their name through blogging and social media. 

The internet is also the place where your clients are going to review you and your firm on sites like Yelp and Google– and that is where they will direct their friends and family members to learn more about your firm. Thus, building a client-centric firm where your clients are also your cheerleaders can contribute significantly to the strength of your personal brand. According to a 2012 survey, 3 out of 4 consumers who are looking for an attorney turn to the internet at some point in the process, whether it is to find an attorney directly or to find out more about an attorney who they have been referred to by a friend, family member or professional contact.

So if your firm’s “cheerleaders” are reviewing you and your work online, you’re getting the benefit of having a satisfied client in addition to bolstering your reputation and possibly your referral base. And an added bonus? Google’s own business help page says that positive Google reviews up your SEO and make your firm easier to find, saying “high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”

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