At the DC Bar presentation last week, I was asked what practical tips I would give to attorneys who are interested in protecting or enhancing their reputations online. Aside from the usual advice I would give any attorney about protecting their reputation, I suggested the following:
- Know what’s being said about you online. You can search for yourself or your firm on one of the three major search engines (Google, Yahoo, or MSN) and capture most of what’s being said about you. Also, Google Alerts is a great way to keep abreast of new Internet content that mentions you, your firm, or one of your clients; they allow you to have links to newly indexed web content referring to any person or subject matter sent directly to your email account.
- Take control of your Internet presence. Use the Internet to publish your own high-quality, legal content and news about you or your firm. The traditional model of attorney referrals is changing as more and more potential clients research attorneys online. You should make sure that your potential clients can find the information you want them to know about you, your practice, and your firm. Blogs and podcasts are a good way to publish legal content and sites like PRWeb make it easy to distribute press releases online. Attorney rating sites, though controversial in some communities, also provide a great opportunity to let your potential clients know who you are and what you do.
At our presentation, Mark Britton, the CEO and President of attorney rating site Avvo, agreed. He believes that it is crucial for every attorney to take the time necessary to "manage" his or her reputation. (It is, after all, our stock and trade.)
A former General Counsel for Expedia, Mark founded Avvo as a "free informational marketplace" to permit people to make informed decisions about their legal representation. Avvo recently won a lawsuit brought against it by an attorney who was displeased by the rating given to him by the site. Since the company rates lawyers, Mark said that he knew it would just be a matter of time before Avvo was sued but the company is confident that it is benefiting the community at large by providing important information about lawyers to those who may be hiring them.
There is no doubt that properly run ratings sites can assist individuals and companies in selecting counsel. Sites like Avvo also "level the playing field" for solos and small firm practitioners who don’t have a big firm marketing machine behind them to ensure that every potential client knows their name and practice area. It’s not really a new concept, Martindale-Hubbell has been publishing lawyer ratings in book form for years.
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