In our profession, reputation can make or break a practice. That's why it's paramount to being a competent and successful legal practitioner to manage your reputation.
Here are some basic principles of reputation management that every lawyer should know.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Every attorney needs to have some sort of presence online. And the unfortunate part about Internet marketing is that once you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound. Put in less British-y terms, once you stake out your reputation online, it's going to take work to maintain it.
You want to appear (and be) current in your web site and social media strategy because these are your windows to the client world. Although word of mouth is probably still the most effective tool on a micro level, a well-manicured online persona will give a positive impression of you to consumers who otherwise would never know of you.
Be Prepared for Negativity
Making yourself visible comes with the added downside of attracting negative comments or even attacks. In addition to some businesses beginning to market "social media insurance," there is a whole industry related to online reputation management (ORM). While some of these companies may seem predatory, Forbes reported that there are both proactive and reactive firms which can help create strategies for dealing with reputation damage online.
Whatever your reputation management strategy, remember to remain calm. Attorneys can very easily destroy a hard-earned reputation by rage-tweeting at a client, judge, or opposing counsel, and the damage control is never easy.
Respond to threats to your reputation in ways you would recommend to a client -- meaning don't always jump to litigation. It may be en vogue to sue your Internet defamers over e-mud slung in comment sections or message boards, but these Yelp-like defamation suits have mostly ended in stalemates.
And the reputation damage is already done.
Sometimes simply responding to a client's concern directly can smooth over any reputation worries. This rule may not apply when a client or consumer has no constructive concerns and is just out for blood. In that case, silence may be golden.
Educate Yourself on Reputation Management
The field of reputation management is evolving, and ORM companies need to keep up to date just as much as attorneys. When Forbes interviewed the CEO of ProfileDefenders.com, Richart Ruddie, he mentioned FindLaw as a good resource for keeping track of lawsuits, an important element of reputation management.
We aren't immune to self-referencing here at FindLaw, so you should know that our Lawyer Marketing team offers a wide variety of webcasts to educate legal professionals on topics -- including reputation management.
A free webcast discussing "Reputation Management for Law Firms" will be hosted by FindLaw on February 28 and will provide attorneys resources for taking the reins of their online reputations. You can register for this webcast at no cost now.
However you choose to bolster your reputation, remember that it can be your best legal asset if well cultivated or a lingering curse if neglected.