What do you do when someone tells you that you are a good lawyer? Sure, getting a thank you note from a client or a 5-Star rating on a referral site feels good, but do ratings and testimonials have any place on your website?

On my bookshelf, next to my desk, there is a small forest of thank you cards. Clients have sent them to me over the years when I finished their divorce, finalized an adoption, or – for the older clients – helped them out of a criminal case. I keep them around because they make me feel good and remind me why I do the work I do. But could I be doing more with my thank you notes? Could my happy clients be generating me more business?

We live in a review culture. Before we buy a new cell phone, computer, or even office chair, we look to see what other people say about it. Is it durable? Easy to use? Worth the money?

If we do that for a $100 piece of furniture, why wouldn’t our clients do the same before selecting a lawyer? By prominently displaying your ratings and testimonials, you can assure potential clients that your work is worth the money.

Client Testimonials Are Gold, But Are They Ethical?

There is nothing better than a thoughtful testimonial from a past client. Before you go scanning all your thank you notes, though, make sure you check with your state bar’s ethics rules. Most states will require you to get permission from your client before posting their communications. And some states will not let you post names at all.

Get clear permission from clients before you post their testimonials. You can also send a note specifically requesting them. This is a great way to follow up on a thank you note. Try sending a response like this:

I’m so glad you were happy with my work! Would you be willing to send me a short testimonial to use on my website? Reading about your experience could help others trying to choose the right lawyer.

You can also provide guidance about what a good testimonial looks like by asking them a few short questions:

  • Why did you need a lawyer?
  • Why did you choose me?
  • How, specifically, was I able to help you?
  • What would you say to someone considering hiring me?

These questions will help happy clients get over the hump of what to write and get you stronger testimonials than just a simple thank you.

Customer Reviews Can Be Tricky

You may also want to link to popular customer review sites, like Avvo.com or Yelp. Keep in mind, that these sites will change over time. A bad review, even if entirely unwarranted, could be sending potential clients the wrong message. If you aren’t careful to monitor your ratings, you could accidentally endorse a person’s negative opinion of you and drive away customers.

A Caution About Paid Ratings

While customer ratings can be helpful, lawyers often put too much weight on peer reviews. The most popular peer-review listings – like Martindale-Hubbell’s AV rating or SuperLawyers – may not mean anything to your client base. And when these 5-Star ratings come from anonymous firms that want you to pay for advertising, they could actually tell some clients that you are inauthentic or that you pay for your reputation.

If you decide to use peer reviews on your website, the best way is through attributed testimonials from attorneys you work with frequently. Unlike a rating, these reviews tell a potential client why they should hire you, not just how much money you spend on advertising.

Ratings and testimonials definitely have a place on your website. But you should be careful about where and how you use them. The more heartfelt the endorsement, the more you should feature it on your website.

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Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist. She writes blogs and webpages for law firms and small businesses. If your website needs a content boost, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.