We live in an age when consumers
rate everything from restaurants to toaster ovens and movies on Yelp, Trip Advisor, Netflix, and hundreds of
other web sites. In this environment, is inevitable that law firms too
would be rated online. In October 2009, the Association of Corporate Counsel introduced its Value
Index, an online forum that ACC members use to share ratings of law firms.
From a project management perspective, the single most important fact about
this index is that outside counsel are rated on these six factors:
Law firms that wish to increase
client satisfaction would be wise to focus on these same six factors when they
deliver services and when they evaluate them.
However, there has been controversy over the actual ratings in ACC's
database. Many law firms have been less than thrilled with the whole
idea. Around the time this was announced, an article entitled "ACC rating index unnerves firms" quoted Fred Krebs, then
president of ACC, as saying "It's like a Zagat for law firms." They also noted that "These
words ... may well send a chill down the spine of many a private practice
As of the date I wrote this post, the ACC web page summarized 4,787 reviews of
1,251 firms. On the six factors above, the average rating was 4.4 on a
scale from 1=Poor to 5=Excellent. When asked "Would you use this firm
again?" 92.8% of respondents said yes.
One concern raised by law firms is their lack of access to the ratings.
According to a set of FAQs
on the ACC web page, "Law firms cannot view complete evaluations without
express permission from the members who submitted them." There are,
however, ways for firms to view "aggregated scores," which are explained in the
By their nature, online ratings are based on biased samples from people who
care enough to take the time to respond. According to a recent Scientific American article, online reviewers:
evangelize what they love and trash
things they hate. These feelings lead to a lot of one- and five-star reviews of
the same product.
The result, according to research
from the Wharton School, is that for online ratings:
the wisdom of crowds may neither be
wise nor necessarily made by a crowd. Its judgments are inaccurate at
best, fraudulent at worst.
Others argue that online reviews
provide valuable information. The appeal of such systems is obvious to
anyone who has ever bought a book on Amazon.
Personally, I am skeptical of the value of online ratings, but I use Amazon
ratings and others all the time to decide what to buy, simply because they are
so convenient. I try to remember take the extreme ratings - pro or con -
with a large grain of salt. Law firms can only hope that their clients
will take this same cautious approach.
This post was adapted from the second edition of my Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide.
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