MORE ON SOCIAL MEDIA REVIEWS OF LAWYERS
Two of my recent posts, “Lawyer Ratings”, and “A Personal View of Finding the Right Lawyer”, have led directly to this post. Anyone viewing my pages on the rating service websites will note an uptick in reviews, and that they are all positive. They include,www.AVVO.com, www.Superpages.com, Google+, www.MerchantCircle.com, and http://www.lawyerratingz.com.
This is not a coincidence, but it is not sinister either. I have been getting good advice, and any professional who is not ethically trying to manage his or her reputation online is playing with dynamite.
I have been learning to market myself on the web for several years. My first professional websites were miserable failures. The companies selling the products were used to selling books. I am guessing the buggy whip companies did not make great cars.
The FindLaw Company made a good try at producing quality websites. The problems were rapid turnover of their sales force, lack of flexibility, and lack of support after the original product was designed. Nevertheless, you will find some good stuff in my current site, www.hunterlawfirm.net, from content prepared seven years ago.
Recently, for a flat fee, Lauren, the graphic artist, and Dan, the programmer, collaborated in creating a WordPress-based website that incorporated both of my blogs. Unlike Findlaw, they were able to transfer my Google Blogspot blogs, “Perspectives of A Small Town Lawyer”, and “West Virginia Lawyer, Tips and Techniques”. into my site, and provide me one dashboard design to manage my blogs. Findlaw’s only solution was, “Do it twice for each post; sorry!” That was pretty much the last straw.
I became aware of lawyer ratings when I visited the office of my colleague and friend Daya. She and her assistant, Heather, were chuckling. The local Buckhnnon Topix page had a dialogue. Speaker one inquired, “Where can I find a good divorce lawyer in Buckhannon West Virginia?”
Speaker two replied, “Run, don’t walk, to the offices of Burton Hunter, he is the biggest sonofabitch in the county!”
Speaker one: “too late!”
Speaker two: “Then try Daya Wright. I hear she is pretty good”.
In spite of the backhanded compliment, insult actually, I was mildly pleased that this person identified me as a “go to guy”.
It was not so when I, late one Saturday evening, searching my name several layers deep in search engines did I find, to my horror,. the following
If you have not done so, I encourage you to spend time searching for yourself. I found some interesting stuff on the first “John Burton Hunter”, born in 1854, photos and videos that I have posted, references to me in West Virginia Supreme Court reported cases, and other sources.
Editor’s Insert: before I let you read my crappy reviews, here is one I got yesterday:
But, when I searched for myself in Bing.com a year or so ago, I was stunned to find the following reviews:
My heart began to pump harder as I read, and I swear to you this is true, bald – faced lies about me. For example, I do not represent people in criminal cases, but there I was forcing someone to plead guilty to one.
Perhaps it is apparent, but would you want to represent these folks? Most of this is wholly invented, or told from the perspective of a bitter person. There is a reason I decline cases, and I am not sorry I declined reviewer #2. I do a little bit of criminal defense, domestic abuse, and advise a client to accept a plea agreement, only when it is clear they will be convicted at trial. I could go on. The point is we are at the mercy of the disgruntled. The truth of these cases was that I had found that potential client to have a terrible attitude. I chose not to represent him, and another client, we had to ban from the office because he was making my staff feel threatened, I had to sue for my fee, and I collected. This was his way to retaliate.
What of the vast majority of the satisfied clients. I have learned simply to ask them for a review.
Here is my favorite review, from a courageous client:
This client listened to me, followed my methods, trusted me, and got great results. The father, I sincerely hope, really has a better parenting plan for him and they child than the one they replaced.
Yet, more recently, on a site called Merchant Circle, was the following review.
This one puzzled me, and I had no former client named “jaynajaine”, so I clicked the “other reviews by jaynajaine”. I noticed that she had criticized an excellent mediator for showing favoritism to men. Then it “clicked”. This mediator had mediated a successful settlement for my client jaynajaine and the father of her child.
The next day, the client had expressed some regret to my assistant, so I met with her and went over the pros and cons of the settlement. She reluctantly agreed with me that it was the best we could do, and better than enduring the stress and expense of a contested trial. She testified, under oath, that it was a fair compromise with which she was satisfied. I guess some “Monday morning quarterback” convinced her she was wrong. I have another blog article on such “helpful” people.
The mediator had used her skills, natural talent, and attractiveness to “connect” with the other party. I guess that generated some jealousy in this embittered person. Thus, I became “a jerk”, and she “favored men”.
In self defense, and because I like to hear praise, a year or so ago, we began asking clients whom we liked, and hoped liked us, to write something about their experiences. Some did, but even a year ago, writing reviews was somewhat daunting, required creating accounts and passwords, and required typing into “capchecks”, those funny random letters and numbers you have to decipher and type in.
Yesterday, at dinner, my wife Nancy advised that our local car dealer, whose name will remain anonymous here, follows up every service with a heavy-handed call demanding a “five-star rating”. In fact, she is told that any other rating is unacceptable.
My staff has been trained simply to inquire of every client whether they were satisfied, to address promptly any dissatisfaction, and to request those who you’re willing to write a review, of course respecting their privacy.
Some leave at least a first name, and others, understandably, remain anonymous. Not tell them what to say or how to say it. My friend Dick, mentioned above, has provided us an excellent short survey that allows our clients to rate us on five topics, with a comment section.
We should have been doing this for decades. If a client rates us less than a five, we do our best to find out where we fell short (usually it is the lawyer’s lack of tact-what a surprise). Sometimes the client does not even realize she is not dissatisfied with us. She is unhappy that her former spouse is not obeying the court ordered parenting plan, so we have the opportunity to remind her that she needs to insist that it be abated by sending letters, or emails, or having her attorney send a letter, or returning to mediation, or filing a contempt petition.
In turn, this has been a great reminder to us to do a better job debriefing our client at the end of the case.
And, I have been able to learn what we are doing right to be reassured that at the core of what I do, many of our clients really “get it”. There is an attorney in north-central West Virginia that everybody goes to, if they can afford them, because they hear that he fights dirty and effectively. I do not want those people to come to me. When they do, I can educate some of them into becoming much better parents and adversaries.
In one case I accepted a client, at his sister’s request, who had put his wife in the hospital with his fist. I received an accusation from her attorney that he had likewise uprooted every single shrub around their house. When he arrived at the office I confronted. His response, “those are my G…. D….. Shrubs and I’ll do whatever the f….g I want to with them.” I confess that for the second time in my career I physically shoved the client out my door. Good riddance.
The following are a number of reviews I have received in recent months. I humbly admit, especially in their words of praise for my staff, that they are true. I’m proud that they are true. I’m confident the truth will win out
I am not the most likable fellow. I’m smarter than you think. I am very single-minded. I am strongly opinionated that my judgment is accurate so long as I receive accurate facts.
I have been called “condescending”. I have been called “pushy.” I have been called “a know it all”. Guilty on all counts.
One of my competitoros, an excellent attorney, is known as “The Tiger”. He and I once represented separate grandmothers, of the same boy, injured by the same piece of filing stone. I settled our case a bit earlier for a bit more than my competitor, and my client said “the Bulldog beat the Tiger that time.” I don’t market the label “bulldog”, but I certainly do not mind it. If a bulldog is reasonably courageous, latches on and won’t let go, and is very determined, I am happy to have those traits.
People want to know they can find a lawyer they can trust, who will care about them, who will care about their children, and who will get up every day burning to do a good job.
You would think that the rigors of law school would guarantee that result with every attorney. That has not been my experience. Some decide, after working hard throughout law school, to cruise after that. Others lack common sense. Others seem to think that being an adversary means being nasty. I market myself in a manner to show these are not the principles I follow.
As a result, I believe I get a somewhat higher quality client than the average attorney. Not wealthier, because the word is out that I will cut people break, but more decent and honest. You will note a thread among those who review me revealing tension between us as I repeatedly and determinedly work to get them to follow my methods and to adhere to my standards.
One of the reasons I got these reviews, are that these reviewers really got it”. They followed my procedures and trusted my advice.
So, reviews will now be a common part of the lawyer’s life. All lawyers had better get used to that.
This post was written by Burton Hunter