Embrace online reviews or risk falling behind

ReviewSolicitors are a proud sponsor of the Yorkshire Legal Awards 2024. Michael Hanney, CEO and co-founder of ReviewSolicitors, has been running the company since its outset in 2014.

 

Michael, tell us about yourself and ReviewSolicitors!

I founded ReviewSolicitors in 2014 and like many people, my first dealing with a solicitor was in a time of distress and complication. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was buying a house when I first needed legal help and I thought to myself, “Okay, great, I’ve got my deposit”. Then it came to the point where someone turned to me and told me I needed a solicitor to do my legal work, and I thought again, “Okay, yeah I didn’t think of that. Alright, what do I do?”

Back in the day, I got out the Yellow Pages and started scrambling through! I phoned up all these solicitors and asked how much they would charge for this and that. At the time, cost was a big thing for me, and I didn’t really think about anything else. So I made the mistake that a lot of people make: thinking the solicitor would just do the paperwork, and it would be fine. That came round to bite me.

After that, I started to wonder why there wasn’t a website out there that allowed me to make an informed decision and help me understand what the process would look like. I needed to know what the quality of service would be like, what I was going to get, and what my likely experience would be.

It’s always a good start to know that other people have good things to say about a solicitor’s work. That’s what made me think: “Someone needs to build a website that will help everybody who’s looking for legal assistance.”

We now have over 4,000 firms using our review system and we’re growing quite rapidly!

 

It’s clear how the site can help clients, but how can ReviewSolicitors help law firms?

The problem is that in the legal services market, a client doesn’t necessarily know what they’re going to get. They don’t really understand what the experience is going to be. So, when they’re choosing a solicitor, they’re using a lot of information from the law firm’s own website. They may not understand the terminology on the website, they may even speak with a solicitor and come away still not understanding what they’re signing up for. Reading other peoples’ experiences with that solicitor could help a client’s decision-making process.

“The problem is that in the legal services market, a client doesn’t necessarily know what they’re going to get … Reading other peoples’ experiences with that solicitor could help a client’s decision-making process.” 

There are lots of review websites out there, but none of them are tailored to the legal services market. It’s very different. You’re not reviewing a takeaway, or a t-shirt. You’re reviewing something that often has quite a profound impact on your life!

How often do you book a holiday or a hotel without checking the reviews? You don’t, even though a holiday is also a service that costs a few thousand pounds, and there isn’t as much of an emotional impact coming from that buying decision as there is from instructing legal help.

The other major benefit of ReviewSolicitors is the way we handle negative reviews. The whole premise is that we are a very fair and transparent platform in a legal battle, there are two sides to a transaction: one who will win and one who will lose. That’s it.

Good firms will pick up negative reviews from the other side of the transaction because they’ve done their job so well that the disgruntled client on the opposing side doesn’t have another avenue to go down. On ReviewSolicitors, if there is a negative review from someone on the other side of the transaction, you can mark this person as not your client with the click of a button. The review is then removed from the public-facing site and will only go back up if that individual can send us proof that they were a client. This system gives a lot of control to lawyers who are in departments like litigation and family.

 

Are there any ReviewSolicitors success stories you can think of? 

Ashtons Legal are a great Yorkshire success story. They were one of the first firms to come on board with ReviewSolicitors. Ashtons have had great success in using ReviewSolicitors because they’ve been collecting a steady stream of reviews. When someone Googles Ashtons Legal, underneath their website you can see ReviewSolicitors and their five-star rating.

They also don’t just use the site for marketing and reputation management, they also use it for internal purposes as well. For example, individual fee earners are collecting reviews to demonstrate their great client service and use for their own performance reviews.

No firm is perfect. Ashtons has also been able to make positive improvements from the feedback that they receive. Potentially, a conveyancing process might have a bit of a bottleneck going on, or a piece of technology could be used to fix something. But if you don’t collect that feedback in the first place, you can’t make those changes to improve that service.

Ashtons have had hundreds if not thousands of clients off the back of ReviewSolicitors and there are also benefits that they’ve been able to see internally in terms of staff retention.

 

How do success stories from participating law firms inspire your team and your future plans? 

We catch up with all of our premium firms, to get to the bottom of how reviews are being used. We’re inspired when we hear how a firm has used its reviews to get better access to its local market, or how they’ve made changes based on the feedback they’ve been given.

A lot of the features of our review systems actually come from the feedback that we get. For example, we now collect reviews on individuals. That came from an idea that a firm gave us and asked if we would be able to implement. It was only a passing comment but we thought it was a brilliant idea, so we ran with it! We have lots of changes in the pipeline based on the feedback that we’re given.

“People want to be able to make that informed choice.”

We love hearing success stories. It’s great to speak to a firm right at the beginning of their journey, when they’re hesitant to collect reviews, and then see that come full-circle 18 months later when they say “Well, actually, I don’t know how I lived without this.”

It cements the idea that this concept does work in the legal services – people want to be able to make that informed choice.

 

What advice would you give to law firms that haven’t yet embraced online reviews?

Honestly? There is no running away from it.

You can bury your head in the sand for a little bit of time, but there are hundreds of platforms out there where clients will still go on and leave feedback, with or without your blessing.

And some firms out there might just be collecting TrustPilot reviews. They might be quite happy to say “We’re pretty much just a conveyancing firm, we don’t really do anything else. We know its high volume so we’re going to get positive, we’re going to get negative. It is what it is.” Obviously I’m a little bit biased, but there are a few things that really make ReviewSolicitors stand out – things like how we manage negative reviews, and how we support law firms to make the right choices for them.

You might want something that’s a little more tailored than a generic review site like TrustPilot. You might want to ask your conveyancing clients conveyancing questions, and your family clients family questions.

Perhaps start thinking about what is important to you when collecting reviews. What do you want to achieve? And if you haven’t even thought of that question, give us a call and we’ll have that discussion to help you understand that.

 

What drew you to sponsor the Yorkshire Legal Awards?

One of the reasons why the Yorkshire Legal Awards stood out is because I personally really like Yorkshire! Everyone that I’ve spoken to from the region, even from the very start of ReviewSolicitors, is very genuine and down to earth. It’s a lovely place and you can have a frank conversation with the people there.

We also get a lot of traffic from potential clients looking to use a law firm in Yorkshire. So we want all Yorkshire firms to be collecting reviews! The platform is there to ultimately be a benefit to the consumer, which in turn helps the legal community.

There are a lot of really talented solicitors in Yorkshire. Doing our own research, we found that Yorkshire was one of the top five performing areas in the country for legal services. The feedback about solicitors in the area is generally higher compared to other regions.

“There are a lot of really talented solicitors in Yorkshire. Doing our own research, we found that Yorkshire was one of the top five performing areas in the country for legal services.”

Legal firms don’t have to pay to use our platform, and can respond to reviews for free. We’d like to start talking to firms that have never had a conversation with us before, and have shied away from collecting reviews. Great client service is really important to us, so it’s great to have a platform to be able to show that.

We’re really friendly people, we’re pretty close to Yorkshire and we’re really open about what we do. We just want to make sure solicitors are actively collecting reviews and are doing it in the right way.

 

This post is sponsored by ReviewSolicitors

Image: Micheal Hanney, CEO and co-founder of ReviewSolicitors. 
Emma Cockings
Emma is the content editor for Yorkshire Legal News. Emma is an experienced writer with a background in client-centric personal injury law for a major firm. She has attended and reported on numerous high-profile legal events in Yorkshire.