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Spreading the word: Testimonials can give attorneys a boost in business

By: Jane Pribek//January 22, 2013//

Spreading the word: Testimonials can give attorneys a boost in business

By: Jane Pribek//January 22, 2013//

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The client sends an email or card saying thanks for a job well done.

Don’t just let that make for a great day; let it lead to more work, said Alyson Lynch, marketing coordinator/law librarian at Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, Madison.

Her firm launched an entire Web page of testimonials about a year ago, including three videos from satisfied clients. Testimonials are free to get, inexpensive to publicize, and they work, Lynch said.

While no one has hired a lawyer at her firm saying, “I did it because I read so-and-so’s testimonial,” she said, clients have written on intake forms that they read testimonials. So they helped spur clients to make that initial contact.

Website analytics suggest people read testimonials, said Mequon attorney Janet Heins, of Heins Law Office LLC. She posted a quotation from an opposing counsel who said, “We know you know your way to the courthouse, Janet. You don’t have to prove that to us.”

Clients and prospective clients, Heins said, have mentioned those words to her at the initial consult.

Client testimonials can build business if they are used the right way.

Know the rules

In Wisconsin, under SCR 7.1(d), the advertising ethics rule, testimonials used as part of attorney advertising must be truthful. Attorneys must disclose whether they use actors, rather than actual clients, or whether they pay for the testimonials.

Lawyers also must disclose whether clients received considerations, such as a reduced fee, in exchange for a testimonial, said Wausau attorney Dean Dietrich of Ruder Ware LLSC.

In addition, with regard to the use of social media and other electronic advertising services, lawyers who “claim” the profile become responsible for monitoring what’s posted there and might have to change something posted by someone else if it is false or misleading.

“That is why many lawyers do not ‘claim’ the Web page or posting on these services,” Dietrich said.

Ask clients

Asking for a testimonial often is the hardest part for many attorneys, Lynch said.

“They feel like they’re imposing, they’re being too sales-y or they’re inconveniencing them,” she said.

But, she said, clients often are happy to help, and one positive response makes it easier to ask for another.

Allison Shields, president of Legal Ease Consulting, a New York-based legal practice management and marketing firm, said another angle for asking for a testimonial is receiving an especially positive response to a short, written survey when closing out a matter.

Heins said she typically begins by first asking clients to write reviews on Avvo, Yelp or other feedback websites. She then asks to use those reviews in her marketing material, identifying the clients with just initials and their occupations.

Put them in writing

Heins said she edits testimonials only for grammar and spelling, and she does not offer suggestions about what clients should write.

But Lynch said it’s OK to give talking points.

“Some folks aren’t great at writing, or expressing themselves,” she said. “So put a few thoughts in writing and say, ‘This is just a starting point.’”

The most effective testimonials include a specific story about working with the attorney.

“It gives people a better idea of what you do,” Shields said, “and it’s more powerful.”

And a little humor can go a long way, Lynch said.

For example, in one of her firm’s video testimonials, client Deb Carey, founder and president of New Glarus Brewing Co., tells the story of building the company into a $20 million enterprise and how she needed the help of several firm attorneys focusing on intellectual property, contracts and litigation. The video ends with Carey comparing the firm to New Glarus’ “Two Women” beer, “because they’re solid and classic and they get the job done.”

Identify clients properly

Testimonials that identify the speakers probably carry the most weight, Lynch said, but they are not always possible for practice areas such as criminal defense and estate planning. Family law can be tough, too.

If an attorney knows clients will be leery of identifying themselves, Shields said, offer to post a testimonial anonymously, with initials or the city and state of the client’s residence.

Strategize about where to publish

Heins said it’s best to get a waiver before publicizing a testimonial.

How specifically to use testimonials depends on the lawyer’s marketing strategy. Shields said there can be a page of testimonials on a website, or they can be sprinkled throughout.

If attorneys send out newsletters or e-newsletters, Shields said, they should include testimonials.

“Especially if the testimonials relate to the subject matter of the newsletter,” she said. “That’s where people will see the testimonials because they don’t always read through your entire website.”

Tony Ogden of Dolan Media Newswires contributed to this story.


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