User-generated reviews of clients’ experiences may not be a bad thing - it can help firms avoid repeating the same mistakes

Perusing the blurb for the forthcoming IBA conference in Boston, the title of a breakfast seminar caught my eye: ‘Rate my – do public ratings make sense?’

Sadly I am not going to Boston, so wish I could be a fly on the wall in this debate between the Law Society and the Association of Danish Law Firms.

‘User-generated reviews’, the technical marketing term for such activities, are loved and loathed in all sectors where they are used. Understandably, they are loved by those that benefit from complimentary reviews and loathed by those that do not.

One of the reasons there is such a plethora of directories in the legal profession is that most lawyers enjoy receiving some public credit and recognition in this way.

So while lawyers have been able to bathe in the glow of these positive testimonials for many years, now there is also an outlet for those clients who have had less positive experiences. Is this not fair?

How many lawyers use TripAdvisor when planning their travels? I certainly appreciate the warnings to avoid noisy locations and poor service as much as I appreciate the recommendations. Why should potential purchasers of legal services be denied access to a range of client views?

We know from mystery shopping a range of legal services that not all client experiences are beautifully smooth. But, unless you have an effective mechanism for monitoring client service and identifying where things go wrong, then you run the risk of repeating the same mistakes.

While not without their faults, user-generated reviews of law firms, lawyers and legal services appear to be here to stay.

Rather than railing against the inevitable, perhaps it would be more productive to admit that there might be room for improvement in the way legal services are provided. Scare resources may be better spent in testing the client experience, reviewing satisfaction surveys and monitoring such websites to ensure positive experiences outweigh any negative ones.

It could be worse. A business which allows patients to rate their doctor has just received VC funding – at least a solicitor’s clients will not be able to comment on their bedside manner!

Sue Bramall is managing director of Berners Marketing and advises law firms in the UK and overseas