How Attorneys Should Handle Negative Reviews

A professional woman looks shocked after receiving a negative review

Negative feedback is not something anyone likes to get. However, if you are going to encourage online reviews of your legal services (and you should), then sooner or later, it will be a fact of life.

Fear of negative reviews keeps many attorneys from fully engaging in online interaction. That fear is understandable, but it is also unfortunate. Potential clients want to see what others have to say about lawyers they hired, and any attorney who avoids this forum is missing a critical chance to manage his or her image. Letting hesitation stand in your way could result in very real missed opportunities.

First, some good news: Conventional wisdom has it that people just want to complain, but that is not the case. In fact, it is just the opposite; people want to leave positive reviews. Sixty-seven percent of reviews on Yelp, for example, are four or five stars.

As we said, though, eventually, you will get a negative review. Here are three tips for how you should react:

  • Do not ignore it: It would be tempting to do nothing with a negative review and hope it will fade away with time. That is not a good strategy. Nothing on the Internet ever really goes away, and allowing a negative review to sit with no action from you increases the likelihood that a client will see it and, since there will be no input from you, take it as the truth,
  • Maintain your composure: Clients will look at the negative review, but they will look at your response, too. If the reviewer appears angry, frustrated or impatient and you come across as calm, collected and fair-minded, the reader is very likely to come away with skepticism of the negative review and a favorable opinion of your poise.
  • Fix it offline: No matter the issue (or alleged issue) there is no way it is going to be fixed online. Offer to call the client promptly to get the matter sorted out and go no further. It is not necessary to see a lot of back-and-forth. You want to make sure a third party reading your exchange sees that you moved swiftly and effectively to remedy the situation as best as you could.

These pointers will not help you solve every situation, but if you keep them in mind, you will have a good general approach to the inevitable negative reviews. If you are interested in gathering more specific ideas, our white paper  You Can’t Control Your Firm’s Reputation (But You Can Manage It) will be a valuable resource to you.

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