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How Do You Rate? How Much Should You Care?

Why do lawyers still invest time, money and attention in rating organizations like Martindale-Hubbell, Am Law, Avvo and Best Lawyers? I certainly don’t question the veracity of the satisfied customers featured on their sites, but I’ve yet to find persuasive affirmative evidence about their value to a broad base of practice types and firm sizes.

My working theory for their enduring pull on lawyer egos, attention and budgets is that it’s due to inertia and FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt). Fear that there’s inaccurate and/or unflattering information about them out on the Interwebs, uncertainty over what would happen if they stopped ”claiming” their profiles and adding the rating badge to their website homepage, and doubt about alternatives. In other words, a defensive strategy with an unclear, uncertain chance of upside.

It’s not just me wondering. The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 also is looking into what makes them tick.

If the only time you pay attention to your profile on the various lawyer referral sites is when it’s time to renew a subscription, that should raise a red flag.

The hermetic secrets of their rating methodologies aside, lawyer “finder” sites just don’t seem on their face to add value in today’s social networking-driven marketplace. Unlike consumer ratings and reviews for simple purchases, professional services ratings and reviews are only credible if the seeker already knows, likes and trusts the reviewer. That’s why people looking for lawyers usually ask other lawyers or friends who know lawyers for recommendations. LinkedIn and state bar association sites are much more suited to that purpose.

When clients ask me whether it’s “worth it” to spend time and money on profiles, I walk them through some basic ROI questions:

  1. Have you gotten leads from ratings sites?
  2. How many, and over what period of time?
  3. What percentage of those leads turned into actual engagements (as opposed to tire-kickers, price shoppers or individuals unable to pay)?
  4. How much were the resulting engagements worth?
  5. Were they profitable?
  6. Do they generate more profitable business than other marketing activities/lead channels?
  7. Could you put that time and money to more productive use elsewhere?
  8. What do you think is likely to happen — not might, likely — if you did just the minimum to maintain basic profile information?

Even if you decide not to pay ”finder” sites for the ability to embellish and/or actively manage your profile, it’s still wise to make sure that the information the site compiled on its own is current and accurate. Better safe than sorry.

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