How Lawyers Can Improve Their Online Reputations
As a lawyer, you play a pivotal and often public role within the American system of justice. Whether pursuing matters involving criminal conduct or socially divisive issues, the clients and cases you engage may bring your practice under public scrutiny. Indeed, the adversarial nature of many of the cases your firm may be involved in may at times draw unwanted media and public attention.
Despite your best efforts to create a low profile as legal counsel in cases at the crosshairs of public debate, it’s often difficult to maintain a comfortable level of privacy around your professional practice. Attacks of a defamatory nature often manifest themselves on the Internet, harming your reputation. Combating negative rumors anonymously appearing on websites, blogs and online forums is both difficult and time consuming.
But, there are ways how lawyers can improve their online reputations.
Negative online content could discourage clients from retaining your legal services.
With the growth of Internet use across all sectors of American society, individuals increasingly go online seeking out professional services. Search engine reputation is an increasingly important factor in clients choosing to retain any professional, from auto mechanic to orthopedist. Lawyers aren’t immune from this trend.
Potential clients quickly research and vet legal professionals through search engines such as Google, as well as on lawyer review websites such as LawyerRatingz.com. If the information potential clients find about you online is negative, clients might look elsewhere. The bottom line is that negative online content about you makes it increasingly difficult to obtain quality clients in today’s competitive environment.
Don’t forgo maintaining a robust online presence altogether, as the Web can be a powerful promotional tool. The 2010 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report on Web and Communication Technology reported that social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn are gaining significant traction among legal professionals of all demographics. Not taking advantage of the Internet as a marketing resource only makes your law practice less visible in the eyes of potential clients. In addition to maintaining a firm website, make use of respected lawyer review websites such as Avvo and Martindale.com, adding profile content that demonstrates knowledge and experience.
Your goal as a lawyer should be to maintain a positive online presence, encouraging potential clients to get their information about your practice through a law firm website, in-person meetings and well-cultivated referrals. When this becomes impossible due to defamatory attacks on your online reputation, it’s time to consider taking proactive steps to repair the situation. There are ways how lawyers can improve their online reputations. In particular, consider hiring a specialist firm to remove unwanted content and to reestablish your positive online reputation.
A negative online reputation adversely affects your ability to practice law.
As a representative within a public system of law, you inevitably interact with a wide range of witnesses, jurors, clerks and judges. Whether this interaction is primarily conducted in person or through legal correspondence, your reputation often defines your success in achieving favorable settlements for the clients you represent.
As an example, assume you’re a litigation lawyer who frequently pleads cases before the bench. Adversarial legal teams, judges, witnesses and even members of juries may search for information about you on the Web. A poorly managed online reputation gives those parties unwanted access to information about your qualifications, methodologies, past successes and failures and the types of clients you have represented. Parties involved in the case may indeed find their opinions or sympathies swayed through what is portrayed about you online. In a worst-case scenario, your online data will provide adversaries with effective strategies and ammunition against you.
For these reasons, there’s no benefit to leaving substantial content about your past legal cases open for easy scrutiny on the Internet. Materials about cases you have handled may be accessible as a matter of public record, but you should ensure that they couldn’t be readily obtained through simple Google searches. Unfortunately, when you’re involved in a prominent or controversial case, your name may be associated with it in such a way that it gets frequently flagged by Google search engine Web crawlers.
Faced with a critical need to manage your online reputation, reestablish privacy, and continue discretion in your dealings with clients, consider a packaged online reputation management (ORM) solution. ORM firms work closely with lawyers on a daily basis, minimizing the harm done to their online reputations.
Identify negative online content, and repair it.
Knowing how lawyers can improve their online reputations is half the battle, and there are convenient ways beyond simple Internet searches of finding out what is being published about you online. Google Alerts is a free Internet tool that enables you to enter the keywords you want to monitor. Whenever new instances of use of those keywords appear online, the results are either emailed to you or sent through an RSS feed. Discovering negative online content about you that requires substantial remediation is never an enjoyable prospect, but you do have options. One option is to spend significant time on the Internet over the next six months to a year, working to reestablish your good name.
Another option involves taking the same action you would when confronted by any major problem outside of your area of expertise. Contact an online reputation management specialist and explore ways in which your negative content can be effectively remedied.