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On June 19th, 2023, the long-awaited findings from the SRA’s pilot scheme for reviews were unveiled, shedding light on the regulator’s significant emphasis on client reviews. As a prominent participant in the pilot, we have analysed the report to identify key takeaways that will undoubtedly impact law firms. Michael Hannay, ReviewSolicitors, outlines some of the crucial findings that highlight the evolving landscape of client reviews in the legal industry. Legal News Wales also spoke to a Welsh law firm about its experience of client reviews – from initial concerns to complaint handling and the impact of reviews on its people and brand.

The SRA’s Quality Indicators in Legal Services pilot project report makes it clear that the landscape of legal services is shifting, and at the heart of this change, is the undeniable importance of online reviews. The SRA’s pilot scheme provides the confirmation we’ve all been anticipating – reviews are no longer a choice; they’re a necessity.

A key takeaway from the report that will unquestionably strike a chord with firms is the lack of consumer interest in price comparison websites.

It underlines that clients are not primarily driven by finding the cheapest service. This isn’t surprising, given that legal services are professional services, and much like you wouldn’t choose a heart surgeon based on cost alone, neither do clients when it comes to legal representation. Instead, the report clearly indicates that clients seek genuine and impartial reviews that offer a reliable prediction of service quality.

The SRA identifies review platforms such as ReviewSolicitors as the optimal instrument for fulfilling this need. This reinforces their commitment to position reviews as a fundamental pillar in their pursuit to enhance transparency across the legal profession.

The SRA research reveals an intriguing trend: 62% of consumers favour review sites over a law firm’s own website when seeking legal services through search engines. This preference amplifies the crucial role of authentic, unbiased reviews in the decision-making process.

It signals that clients aren’t just relying on the firm’s self-portrayal, but seeking real experiences and independent assessments to make well-informed choices. Undeniably, transparency and authenticity through reviews have become paramount in influencing client decisions.

While the SRA may not have yet unveiled their comprehensive action plan of specifically ‘how’ they intend to compel law firms, they’ve decisively laid the groundwork for reviews to become an industry-wide requirement.

The report highlights the next steps: “Explore options to increase legal service provider engagement with DCTs or online reviews” and acts like a clarion call. This unmistakable signal underlines the SRA’s vision of a future of a more transparent legal services market, where reviews form the bedrock of consumer insight into a law firm’s service levels and capabilities.

At ReviewSolicitors, we’re proud to have over 4,000 law firms using our platform to collect client feedback and reviews. In the pilot scheme, almost 80% of participating law firms selected us as their review partner,  demonstrating our position as the market leader for legal reviews.

The report stands as a powerful testament to the undeniable value reviews bring to both consumers and law firms. The SRA has committed to educating clients about review platforms like ReviewSolicitors, highlighting the pivotal role these platforms play in facilitating informed decision-making.

This sends a clear message to all law firms: embracing client feedback isn’t just beneficial; it’s expected.

Those not yet collecting public reviews are missing out on a competitive edge in the online landscape. With 91% of clients expecting to see review data on a law firm’s website, the immediate benefits to reputation and client engagement are evident.

The SRA’s call to action is unmistakable – reviews are the future, and all law firms need to get on board. For firms yet to take this step, I welcome you to speak to ReviewSolicitors to see how we can support your engagement with this crucial aspect of the legal services market.

Is it working for law firms?

Legal News Wales spoke to Clive Thomas, Managing Director at Watkins & Gunn, to understand how he and his co-directors embraced reviews – how it overcame initial concerns on the process – including complaints in the public domain – and how the process has benefitted staff and clients of the Wales-based high street firm.

Are reviews expected by consumers when searching for legal services?

CT: Yes. In my experience, clients want to make an informed choice. In the absence of a personal recommendation then they will look for a review – as they would when buying any other product or service. They look for reviews setting out other clients’ experiences of using the legal service that are as closely aligned to what they are looking for as possible.

Do clients give reviews freely?

CT: We have found that our clients are generally happy to provide a review – as long as it is an easy, smooth process. I have found they appreciate your interest in their experience of using your services.

What happens when the firm receives a poor review?

CT: We treat any negative reviews seriously. We discuss the review with the lawyer concerned to see whether there are lessons to learn. We also believe it is important to reply on the review site and invite further conversation directly with us should it be necessary.

Were you initially reticent of committing to the review process?

CT: Yes, like many law firms, we were concerned that we may be ‘hostages to fortune’ and that it may only be those clients with an ‘axe to grind’ who leave reviews, so it may give a disproportionate image of the firm. However, we have found that, as long as we make it a quick and easy process and encourage clients across all of our services to leave reviews, then we will build a reflective picture of our service standards. This is particularly helpful for firms committed to providing a high level of client care, who are looking for a true measure of whether they are meeting their standards.

How do your employees and directors feel about the reviews?

CT: Lawyers are always very happy to receive a positive review. We use ReviewSolicitors and this site keeps a separate record of individual reviews which creates a positive completion between lawyers within the firm. We celebrate good reviews so that lawyers feel that their contributions are valued.

How do you keep your employees engaged with the review process?

CT: We have a service pledge that we all agreed on as a firm. We use reviews as a measure to the whether we are delivering that pledge. Reviews are also a part of our appraisal process. We celebrate great reviews and investigate poor ones. Reviews are an integral part of our processes and the firm as a whole.

What advice would you give to other firms, and is the perception that ‘people will only leave bad reviews’ true?

CT: I think whether or not you agree with online reviews they are here to stay. Unless you believe that your business can survive on personal recommendation alone, reviews are essential for your future business. Make leaving reviews as easy as possible and promote it across the firm so that every client is encouraged to leave a review and the reviews reflect your business.