Learning from the revolution in the service industry brought about by Trip Advisor and its ilk, legal review websites are empowering consumers to make decisions based on transparency and real-life information sharing. Too often in the past legal firms have ignored the potential damaging effect this can have, but also the opportunity they offer to promote their business. It was a negative legal consumer experience that led David Sprake to form Solicitor.info in 2007 and since then approximately 17,000 clients have left reviews, enabling large numbers of consumers (3 million pageviews and counting) to make informed and meaningful decisions about whose services to employ.
The legal industry was slow to embrace this shift and even used their legal standing to threaten clients who left negative reviews on websites. However, these type of bullying tactics have not gone down well and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) went as far as to issue a report into the legal services market which concluded that competition is undermined by lack of transparency on pricing and service quality.
This was followed by commitments from both the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Legal Services Board that they would require firms to be more transparent with clients.
Review websites have continued to grow in popularity whilst the promised changes have been slow to materialise. Companies are changing their marketing tactics to utilize positive reviews and to enact damage limitation against poor ones. Last year The Law Gazette went as far as offering a guide to solicitors on how to deal with online reviews.
This all points to a shift within the market that law firms are being forced to adapt to, particularly if they wish to attract new younger clients. The 2016 Label Insight Transparency ROI Study surveyed over 2,000 millennials and found that 94% respondents would be likely to stay loyal to a brand who they felt were completely transparent. 56% of millennials have said that a firm offering complete transparency would win their loyalty for life.
By embracing the opportunities that firms such as solicitor.info offer, law firms have the opportunity to build trust, confidence and a new client base.
Sprake says “the days of “solicitors from hell” type websites are over and review sites are keen to work with and promote good law firms” This often involves a leap of faith from the partners in letting go of some control, however if it’s done openly and with the right review site the rewards can be substantial”
However, Sprake states that “solicitor.info will not simply create an advertising platform for law firms but something that is balanced and genuinely useful to consumers which will untimely insure its long-term success. That might not work for some solicitor firms”. Sprake mentioned that his “gut feeling was a small number of rogue legal firms were letting the vast majority of trusted legal firms down”