Negative Review Driving You Crazy?

April 14, 2020

In a time when conferences, networking events and in-person pitches are out of the question, a law firm’s online presence — now the only channel for reaching its target market — is more important than ever. Wise firms invest in high-quality web design and marketing to create polished websites and social media accounts.

But there is one pesky aspect of a firm’s life online that it cannot control: reviews. And one negative screed can haunt a law firm leader’s dreams. While it is incredibly tempting to respond or retaliate against a disgruntled client online, we strongly urge you to resist the temptation. Here’s why:

ABA Rule 1.6 prohibits it (maybe). Publicly replying with the biting retort you came up with at 3 a.m. — as fantastic as it would feel! — may actually get you into trouble. “…[P]osting responses that are inflammatory or reveal confidential information about the client who posted the review is prohibited.” However, some states are taking another look at this rule and, in some cases, reinterpreting it to mean lawyers can post a measured reply as long as it does not incite further conflict or devolve into a personal attack. Whatever the rule, though, cooler heads will agree that lawyers probably shouldn’t take the risk.

Responding only adds fuel to the fire. Though it can be very difficult not to speak up to defend yourself when a reviewer is misrepresenting what happened during their engagement with you, think carefully about your ultimate goal. One bad review will ultimately fall to the bottom of the list and probably have little impact on prospective clients’ opinions. But a response from you, especially a nasty one, will prolong the conflict and draw more attention to the review — the opposite of what you want.

There’s a better place to put your energy. The fastest way to drown out a negative review is with a tidal wave of positive reviews. Focus your energy on delivering the best client service you can, and provide instructions to happy clients on how they can share the news of their good experience working with you (while of course making it clear they are under no obligation to do so).

You can’t please everybody, so taking the high road is the best bet for your business — and your peace of mind.