However, like any other product or service advertised online, legal websites and review sites might also include fake reviews to attract customers. This is especially troublesome when hiring an attorney because posting of fake reviews is actually a violation of the ethical rules governing lawyers in California (California Rule of Professional Conduct 4-100 prohibits untrue statements in advertisements) and is a clear sign that you may be hiring a dishonest and unethical injury lawyer. Knowing what to look for to help you identify law firms that publish fake reviews can help you to find an attorney and firm that you can trust. A good personal injury law firm will never post fake reviews to try to drive business. Here are some telltale signs that a Los Angeles personal injury law firm might be relying on fake reviews to sell their services.
1. Reviews that are generic
One sign that a law firm might be posting fake reviews is when the reviews they post sound generic. If the feedback that a reviewer leaves sounds like something that anyone could write, it might not be a real review. Some law firms outsource review-writing to third-party companies or content farms. These generally follow a template and contain very few details. If all of the reviews on an attorney’s site follow the same pattern and include little real information, the firm might be using fake reviews. If you suspect this has happened, try messaging one of the reviewers and ask for more information. People who write fake reviews are unlikely to respond. Many people who write real reviews are likelier to want to provide you with feedback to help you decide whether a firm’s services are right for you.
2. Reviewers with histories of suspicious reviews
Another telltale sign that a law firm might be posting fake reviews is when the reviewers have histories of leaving suspicious reviews. You can click on a reviewer’s avatar to see his or her profile. From the profile, you can see the other places they have reviewed on a map. If the reviewer has reviewed businesses all over the country, it is suspicious. For example, if a reviewer has reviewed a personal injury law firm in Los Angeles, a construction company in Missouri, and a chiropractor in Florida, he or she is likely writing reviews for hire instead of writing real reviews.
3. Use of too many personal pronouns
Fake reviewers try to write reviews in a way that sounds more credible. To make a review sound more realistic, many people who write fake reviews overuse personal pronouns, including I, me, mine, etc. Cornell University completed a study of online reviews and found that fake reviews are much likelier to include too many personal pronouns. People who write fake reviews are similarly more likely to use a lot of verbs while true reviewers use more nouns. You can ask the reviewer for more specific information if you suspect this might be the case.
4. Lack of photo or generic avatar
When people leave reviews on Google, they can choose to upload a photo or allow Google to use a blank photo. Most fake reviewers will either use the blank photo from Google or upload a generic avatar like a cartoon character. True reviewers are likelier to use a personal photo for their reviews. For example, if you take a look at this example from the Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers, APC, you can see that the reviewer uploaded his photo. If you click on his photo, you will see a map of all of the businesses that he has reviewed and see that they are all located in the same general area of Los Angeles. The review itself does not use personal pronouns and instead discusses the reviewer’s experience while being represented by Steven M. Sweat. All of these are hallmarks of a real review rather than a fake review.
5. Generic names
Another sign that a law firm’s reviews might be fake is when the names of the reviewers are generic. Content farms and offshore companies that sell fake reviews tend to send out reviews in bulk using very generic names, including John or Jane Smith, Mike Jones, etc. If all of the reviews on an attorney’s website include very common names, it is a sign that the reviews might be fake. You should also look for obviously fake names or reviewers that only use strings of letters or numbers to post their reviews.
6. Suspicious timing of reviews
Pay attention to when a law firm’s reviews have been posted. If you see that the firm had a large number of reviews posted during a short time frame, this can indicate that the firm hired a web company to mount a targeted advertising campaign during that period. If most or all of a law firm’s reviews were posted around the same time, you should do more research before you believe its reviews.
7. Repeated phrases
Another thing to check for when you read the reviews left for a law firm is whether there are specific phrases that are repeated across multiple reviews by different reviewers. When a company wants to post fake reviews, it may ask the people writing them to include certain key phrases. Having multiple reviews with the same phrases is suspicious.
8. Poor grammar and spelling
While not everyone uses good spelling and grammar, seeing a bunch of reviews that all display a poor understanding of English grammar and spelling might indicate that the firm is posting fake reviews. This is because many firms that publish fake reviews outsource review-writing to content farms located overseas that hire writers who do not have a good understanding of the English language. Seeing a large number of reviews on a law firm’s website or Google page that include many instances of poor grammar and spelling might indicate that the reviews are not real.
9. Reviewers with histories of excellent reviews
Another thing to check when you see a review that rates a firm with a perfect five out of five is the reviewer’s history of reviews. If a reviewer has only left a slew of perfect reviews for a broad range of businesses, it might indicate that he or she has been hired to write positive reviews by multiple companies. You should also compare perfect reviews with those that fall in the middle range of three or four. In many cases, reviews that leave a rating of three or four will be more honest and include both the positives and negatives the reviewers experienced while being represented by a firm.
10. Setting the scene
A final indicator that a firm might be posting fake reviews is when its reviews include a lot of descriptors intended to set the scene rather than providing any real concrete details. For example, if a review raves on and on about the front-office decor when first entering a firm and little about the interaction that he or she had with the attorney, it is unlikely to be real. Look at the language and what is being described carefully. A good review should include information about the person’s case and how it was handled rather than what the ambiance of a law office is like.
11. Law firms with a large influx of reviews vs. those with a steady stream
A good way to find a law firm in Los Angeles that features real reviews is to look for a firm that has a few reviews that have trickled in over time. Law firms that have a history of reviews that have been posted by past clients generally demonstrate a trickle of reviews that are posted over time rather than a sudden influx of reviews.
Fake reviews online are a problem no matter what type of product or service you might be considering. When it comes to finding the right personal injury attorney in Los Angeles, fake reviews can be a real issue. Knowing how to identify firms that post fake reviews can help you to identify the ones to avoid. A law firm that is willing to post fake reviews to attract customers demonstrates that its attorneys may not be trustworthy. When you hire an attorney to represent you on your injury claim, it is critical to find someone you can trust and build a strong working relationship.