How a Lawyer Should Deal with a Negative Review

How a Lawyer Should Deal with a Negative Review

Losing a case on its merits is hard enough, but suddenly discovering a negative review online can unbalance even the most seasoned litigator. These days, lawyers operate in the wider public realm, and it is becoming increasingly common to receive feedback on social media sites like Facebook, Google, Yelp, and AVVO.

Although your first instinct may be to angrily retort to any negative review, it is worthwhile to take a moment to respond judiciously and evenly. Done properly, responding to internet reviews can actually increase your client base and improve your standing in the online realm. How you manage your online reputation is key. Here are some lawyer reputation management tips, particularly how to handle negative reviews online.

Negative Reviews on Social Media

Few things sting worse than a harshly negative review from an anonymous or pseudonymous commenter on social media sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, and others. Whether it is a disgruntled client, or a badly misinformed family member of a client with unrealistic expectations, it is becoming increasingly common for people to vent their frustrations online. Divorce cases, in particular, seem to function as a magnet for releasing frustrations and negative opinions in the online public realm.

The first course of action is to never respond in kind, or lash out at any negative commentary, no matter how outrageous or vituperative. If you engage in a verbal battle with your detractors, you’ll soon find yourself entrenched in a flame war, which will only lower your standing in the community at large.

Secondly, although you may be tempted to file a libel action against your detractors, this is usually not recommended as the costs of negative publicity surrounding the case will far outweigh any potential benefits of silencing your critic. Furthermore, defamation lawsuits are often costly, and usually result in little to no financial remuneration while simultaneously forever linking your name to the controversy in online search results.

The best way to handle insults, jeers, and verbal assaults online is to maintain a steady disposition, responding with testimonials from your far larger client base of people who are satisfied with your services. As positive and substantive reviews get added to the online site, petty grievances and half-literate critical reviews will slowly get pushed out of sight.

Furthermore, it can be a wise move to respond to disappointed clients and their families by posting a gracious apology, when necessary, or a polite regret that the verdict did not result in their favor. Empathizing with an upset person is often a great way to diffuse the tension, and, whenever possible, invite the person to air their grievances with you via a private message/chat channel, thus removing it from the public record. If you maintain a dignified bearing, and the aggrieved party refuses to respond in kind, other people reading the negative review will naturally disregard your critic’s arguments.

Negative Reviews on AVVO

AVVO is a website uniquely dedicated to reviewing and rating the services of lawyers. As such, it has a built-in mechanism for responding to negative reviews. Any comment, negative, positive, or otherwise, can be addressed by you in a gracious and dignified manner.

If a review was left by someone you believe was never a client, AVVO offers a mediation process. The site hosts will contact the reviewer and perform due diligence to determine whether they were, in fact, a client of your legal services. While the comment is under review, it will not appear on your profile page. Assuming the client did benefit from your legal services, their negative reviews will be allowed to remain on the site, but you will always have the option of responding tactfully to express your view on the matter in question.

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