Five Steps to Protect Your Online Reputation

Vol. 29 No. 3

By

Bryan M. Sims practices with Sims Law Firm, Ltd., in Naperville, Illinois.


Before I buy just about anything new, I first research it on the Internet. This is especially true for things that are expensive. I know that I am not the only person who does this. I also know that more and more potential clients are turning to the Internet when they are searching for an attorney to hire.

This should make every attorney wonder what is being said about him or her on the Internet. Although you cannot necessarily control what other people have to say about you, you can take steps to ensure that your online reputation positions you in the best light possible. Below are five steps to help you achieve this.

  1. If you live in a state that makes information about you available online, make sure that the information is correct. For example, in Illinois, information including a lawyer’s name, office address, telephone number, date of admission to the bar, and whether or not the lawyer has malpractice insurance is available on the Internet. You should check this information yearly to ensure it is accurate.
  2. Make sure that you have a website. Then, make sure that the website is attractive, that it provides information that your clients need, and that it does not contain errors. Your website is your opportunity to convey information about you and your firm to your clients in the way that you want it conveyed. Take advantage of that opportunity.
  3. Watch the Internet for things that are said about you or your firm. The easiest way to do this is to set up a Google Alert. Go to www.google.com/alerts. Once there, enter a search that Google will run on a regular schedule. Unless you have a very common name, I recommend searches for both your name and the name of your firm. Setting up the alert allows Google to do the work for you of scouring the web for instances of people talking about you or your firm. Once you set up the search, the only thing you have to do is monitor the alerts that Google sends you.
  4. Take control of the sites that you can. For example, establish a Yelp page for your firm. Also, claim your Avvo profile. Finally, set up a Google Places page for your firm. Each of these locations is a destination for people searching the Internet for businesses. Make it easy for potential clients to find you, and at the same time take the step of claiming these locations so that, once again, you control the information that is presented to potential clients. Each of these sites presents the opportunity for people to posts reviews about you and your services. If your state allows it, you can ask clients who were pleased with your work to post a positive review there. Each positive review is an additional feather in your online reputation cap.
  5. Establish a social media presence. This does not mean that you need to be on Twitter on an hourly basis. Instead, it means that you should establish a social media presence. For example, you can set up a page for your firm on Facebook. Similarly, you can create a LinkedIn profile for yourself as well as one for your firm. You do not have to spend hours a day monitoring these sites. However, as noted above, you should create these profiles, if for no other reason than it allows you to control the information that is presented to the public.

Will following these five steps ensure that your online reputation is perfect? Of course not. It is always possible that a disgruntled client or someone who just does not like you will post negative things about you on the Internet. The more positive information that is available, however, the less impact that a negative comment will have.

Additionally, many of the review sites have methods by which you can either challenge or respond to negative reviews or comments. If you are thinking about responding to a negative comment, consider whether a response is the best course of action.

Your best bet may be simply to let the comment stand. This is especially true if you have other, positive comments that help drown out the negative comment. In the appropriate circumstance, however, a reasoned response—one that is first reviewed by someone without an emotional investment in the situation—may convey positive qualities about you that appeal to a potential client.

Finally, make sure that the information that you post about yourself is accurate. Do not exaggerate your experience or make other false claims. I would think this would be self-evident, but I just read an article about an attorney who was disciplined for exaggerating his experience on his website and social media profiles. Don’t let this happen to you.

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