For years lawyers have paid big fees to Martindale-Hubbell, Avvo and Super Lawyers in hopes of generating clients and favorable ratings. It turns out the people have spoken and new research indicates that potential clients rely on Yelp as the #1 trusted site to find a lawyer.
Martindale-Hubbell, Avvo and Super Lawyers were much less trusted and used by people seeking an attorney, according to a new survey report by Software Advice, a software research company in Austin, TX.
"Yelp is the most commonly used site to search for attorney reviews online—58 percent of respondents in our sample said it was the first place they turn. It's also the website that 61 percent of users view as the most trustworthy," says Chantelle Wallace, Managing Editor of Software Advice.
This is dramatic news considering that most consumers go online to look for an attorney. In fact, the new survey finds that 83% of consumers use online review sites as the first step in searching for an attorney. Furthermore:
- 90% of Customers Say Buying Decisions Are Influenced By Online Reviews
- 79% Of Consumers Trust Online Reviews As Much As Personal Recommendations
A smart tactic for lawyers is to ask current clients to write reviews about you online. "Consider asking clients to leave a review after you've had a positive in-person consultation with them, or after their case has been favorably settled."
Also, emphasize the information that is most important to clients clients in an online review: the quality of the service you provide. This includes how well an attorney explains legal options to a client, and an attorney's win/loss record.
A key takeaway from this data is the importance of providing great service to your clients—enough so that they're motivated to mention this in an online review.
"It's also essential to respond constructively to negative comments to help keep your overall ratings high. Most sites, Yelp included, permit you to publicly respond to negative reviews."
Responsiveness is also important to potential clients, so that establishing a rapid response policy for all client communication is critical. Information that is not important to clients is attorney certifications, education, age or gender.
A key takeaway is that the majority of clients will go far out of their way to get to a lawyer who has better reviews.
"A whopping 70 percent of respondents in our sample said they would consider going to an attorney in an inconvenient part of town if he or she had better online reviews than one closer to home. This certainly speaks to the importance of positive reviews in attracting new clients."
Finally, smart lawyers will institute a client onboarding process that asks how people heard about your practice. "Those who found you through an online review site may be more likely to leave a review given their familiarity with these resources, so be sure to ask for one."
Software Advice surveyed a random sample of adults in the U.S. Researchers collected 385 unique responses to each of nine questions, giving a total of 3,465 responses.
Michael Alf Reply
Posted Jul 05, 2014 at 19:15:40
HI Larry, thanks for sharing. I have a digital marketing agency focussed on law firms in Australia and I also have a Podcast “Digital Marketing for Lawyers”.
Would you be interested in being an interview partner (30minutes) for the Podcast?
I look forward to your feedback!
Ed Vasquez Reply
Posted Jul 06, 2014 at 13:33:25
Larry, I would take the research with a grain of salt until you look at the survey itself (push questions?) and who paid for it. For example, Software Advice claims that they act like a matchmaker, and get paid by software vendors when a deal is closed. Is Yelp paying them?
Or is it the following: Gartner Group acquired Software Advice in March of 2014. Bessemer Venture Partners has or is invested in both Yelp and Gartner.
This is the reason why full transparency is required. What I found humorous is that if you look at Yelp, Software Advice has atrocious reviews.
Steven Kaplan Reply
Posted Jul 11, 2014 at 18:44:57
As someone who values your opinions, I would find it very helpful if you would give your take on Ed’s comments. Thanks. Steve Kaplan
Larry Bodine Reply
Posted Jul 13, 2014 at 12:11:55
I think you’re taking the possibility of a vast conspiracy a little far. There is no evidence that Yelp is paying anyone to say anything. It’s a real stretch to think that Bessemer told Gartner told Software Advice what to write about their research.
Also overlooked was the response from Software Advice to the trolls who posted negative comments about them (set out below). Software Advice is doing exactly what they recommend: respond to negative comments online. By the way, there are a grand total of 4 reviews of Software Advice in Austin, TX, which is certainly not a statistical sample.
When I worked at LexisNexis, we had all sorts of research showing that the public seeks out online reviews when choosing a lawyer — including Martindale, Avvo, etc. I don’t find it hard to believe at all that the public uses Yelp to find professionals. Yelp.com reaches over 89 million monthly people, of which 78 million (87%) are in the U.S. — see https://www.quantcast.com/yelp.com
A quick search on the term “lawyer” on yelp.com produces numerous results. The evidence shows that many law firms have profiles on Yelp and have many consumers reviewing them. Any lawyer who ignores Yelp is successfully avoiding a river of consumers who are looking for a lawyer.
From the business Specialties
Researching and selecting software isn’t easy. That’s where we come in. At Software Advice, we connect you with the software products best suited to your needs. It’s fast. It’s free. And it’s easy.
We’ve researched and reviewed hundreds of software products, so you don’t have to. We’ll tell you which products match your requirements. From there, you can view free demos and get detailed pricing.
How we do it: Our knowledgeable software experts listen to what you need and then recommend which products do exactly that.
Why it’s free: When we make a “good match” between a software buyer and a software vendor, we get paid by the vendor (it’s free for you!).
What we hear: Each day, software buyers and vendors tell us how happy they are with our contribution to simplifying the software selection process.
Larry Bodine Reply
Posted Jul 27, 2014 at 07:54:44
Ed, you inspired me to interview Ashley Verill, Content Strategist at Software Advice in Austin, TX, about their methodoloy.
The survey pool was composed of internet users who had actively searched for a lawyer. (This is the same kind of pool that LexisNexis used in its surveys of consumer behavior.) They answered questions in an online survey. Respondents could say that the options in a question were not relevant to them.
In designing the questions, Software Advice inquired into consumer use of online reviews of lawyers. This sorts out all the lawyer directory sites that list lawyer information but offer no way to review a lawyer. An in-house researcher was assigned to identify the leading lawyer review sites and determined that they were Yelp, Avvo, Super Lawyers and Martindale.
You can validate these 4 options yourself, by simply Googling “lawyer review Chicago” or “lawyer review [city name]” and you’ll confirm that they are indeed the top 4. It was not a surprise that Yelp was on the list because of its strong brand presence, and that fact that it carries thousands of lawyer reviews.
She said: “We’ve done iterations of the impact of online reviews in various markets, and we are an online review company ourselves. We know how people research software and how people use software reviews in all kinds of markets. Using reviews is increasingly becoming part of business buying decisions. It is a symptom of how people do their research.”
After the interview, I was satisfied that the research had been conducted in a scientific manner and that the results can be relied on.
Ken Rygler Reply
Posted Aug 26, 2014 at 20:16:24
We ask every client how they found us and why they selected us, and have plotted the data for years. Referrals and Google are by far the largest contributor to how they found us. We’ve never heard Yelp and rarely hear Avvo. We do get referrals from FindLaw and Lexis Nexis, where we sponsor presence. Yet Google (Plus) doesn’t even show up on the survey, which shakes my faith in the data.
Jeff Lerman Reply
Posted Mar 27, 2015 at 16:11:33
Larry: Good comments/responses. Would appreciate your thoughts as to which practice areas and/or types of clients Yelp is best-suited for. As you no doubt know, Yelp is now using your name and this article as a key part of their aggressive solicitation of lawyers like me to spend thousands of dollars on Yelp advertising. So, would appreciate your candid reply on this one. I’m a real estate lawyer and my target is commercial RE investors. I seriously doubt they use Yelp very much to find and select their RE lawyer, but I could be wrong.
Larry Bodine Reply
Posted Mar 28, 2015 at 11:20:20
Jeff – Yelp is a directory that is used primarily by consumers. If you are looking for clients that are investor in real estate, Yelp won’t be particularly relevant.
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