Annual Meeting 2010

It Doesn't Matter if You're a Good Lawyer if the Internet Doesn't Agree, Experts Say

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Hard, honest work doesn’t count if professional accomplishments and accolades aren’t among the top three results in an online Google search of a lawyer’s name. That was one warning given to attendees of a program Thursday on reputation management at the ABA’s 2010 Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

“The Internet does not reflect reality,” said panelist Michael Fertik, CEO of ReputationDefender, a company that identifies information about people on the Web and seeks to remove negative marks and boost positive items in search result rankings.

“One negative result in the top search results on Google reduces the chances that a new client will contact you,” Fertik maintained. “You won’t get a client interview, and you won’t know you’re not getting that chance.”

Increased competition among lawyers and a flood of information readily available to potential clients via the Web has made diligent online reputation management a necessity in the legal world, according to panelists. Static websites and law firm biographies will fade in importance as websites that post ratings by clients and peers, such as Avvo and Yelp, gain traction, they said.

Potential clients are much more likely to trust a lawyer review from another consumer of legal services than an advertisement, and current clients are more vocal about lawyer performance than ever before – whether it’s a comment on a news story or blog or in an e-mail to a colleague.

“There’s been a shift in how people talk about each other,” said Natasha Innocenti, a partner at legal search consultancy Major, Lindsey & Africa. “Lawyers are much more open about disparaging other lawyers. I’m often shocked about the things people will say about another partner.”

One solution offered by the panel to lawyers looking to boost online reputations is to create weblog, which gives lawyers a boundless platform to showcase their work, analytical skills and personality.

“Nothing has taken off to drive reputation management like blogging,” said Tim Stanley, CEO of Justia, which powers the ABA Journal’s Blawg Directory search. “Everyone is talking about it, but not a lot of people are doing really high quality blogs.”

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