Online Reputation Management for Attorneys
Attorneys, perhaps more than any other professional besides doctors, rely on their reputations to find success. This is especially true if you’re an attorney working in private practice, where your name is literally tied to your professional identity. So, is reputation management important for attorneys? You can bet your Juris Doctor it is.
Imagine the kinds of problems that a disgruntled client or cutthroat competitor could cause for your reputation. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to promote a positive reputation on the Web and to develop a strong buffer against cyberattacks.
The following five tips on online reputation management for attorneys will describe how.
1. Own your domain.
It’s a good bet that your firm or private practice already has its own website. If so, you should be leveraging it for maximum reputation management value by filling it with strong, search engine–optimized content about your professional history, education and experience.
You should also consider how your website’s URL is constructed. For example, if you’re Attorney Joe Johnson and you’re operating the private practice Johnson Law Group, LLC, you might use www.JohnsonLawGroup.com as the URL.
Continuing with that example, you should also consider setting up websites for strongly related URLs like www.JoeJohnson.com, www.JoeJohnsonLawyer.com and other possibilities. If you don’t have time to build out these websites separately, you can simply redirect visitors to your primary homepage. Doing so can help ensure that your name will be protected in multiple versions and come up in a greater variety of Internet searches.
2. Share your expertise.
On your way to becoming a licensed attorney, you probably spent many sleepless nights poring over your thousand-page textbooks. Don’t let that time and effort (not to mention money) go to waste by not actively drawing in new clients.
Setting up a personal blog or contributing to other blogs focused on your legal specialty is a good way to both demonstrate your expertise and take up another position in Google’s search results. If you can turn your blogging into a go-to resource for other legal professionals and consultants, you vastly increase your odds of landing new clients.
The important thing to remember about legal blogging is to be careful about offering specific legal advice. If possible, focus on broader legal analyses related to your expertise. To offer more direct advice, provide contact information in your byline. This is an important part of online reputation management for attorneys.
3. Own your profiles on lawyer review sites.
Google ranks consumer review sites very highly, a fact that small business owners of all kinds have had to learn. Unfortunately, one bad review — especially if it’s the only review — can cause significant problems for your online reputation.
As the Web has become more niche-driven, many profession-specific review sites have popped up. Some of the more well-known attorney review sites are Avvo, Martindale-Hubbell and LawyerRatingz.com. Avvo and Martindale both allow attorneys to claim their profiles and add content to help demonstrate their expertise and experience. On Avvo attorneys can also answer questions and give general legal advice, which can positively promote their online reputations.
Though it’s possible for unscrupulous reviewers to game the system and skew ratings, joining a review website allows you to more effectively manage the impact of negative reviews.
4. Put your research skills to good use.
You no doubt perfected the art of research in law school. Use that valuable skill to research your own name on Google and other search engines to keep track of how you’re appearing in search results. Staying on top of news about you online is one of the most important steps you can take to help prevent the spread of negative stories. A simple way to do this is to set up a Google news alert for your name or the name of your practice.
5. Use discretion.
Assuming that you begin proactively defending and managing your online reputation, you should always remember that what you put online will be there forever (or at least you should think of it that way).
If you’re blogging, use discretion about the information you share. Obviously, this means not talking about your clients and doing your best to keep your personal and professional identities separate. Using common sense is an absolute must for online reputation management for attorneys, like it is for all professionals.