How to deal with a 1-star review​

Man standing in front of one-star review on a blackboard

As an attorney at a solo or small law firm, you work hard. Every day, your top priority is to help clients and serve and promote their best interests. While most of your clients are happy with the legal guidance, counsel, and representation you provide, there are bound to be some who – for one reason or another – feel dissatisfied.

While word-of-mouth was previously the primary means by which news of a less-than-satisfied client experience spread, today people are quick to turn to the internet to leave one-star reviews.

Business and legal review sites like Yelp,, and are often used by legal consumers to research and vet attorneys and law firms. How do client reviews impact your ability to attract new clients?

If a potential client sees that your firm has a handful of reviews, one or two of which are negative, they may be turned off and decide to call and retain a competitor who has dozens of glowing reviews and comments from satisfied clients. It’s really that simple.

When it comes to the quality and quantity of online reviews you and your firm receive, you may think you have little control in managing your reputation. This may be especially true if your practice centers on high-stakes matters like criminal defense or family law where, despite your best efforts, legal outcomes may fall short of clients’ expectations and spur negative online reviews. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to both mitigate the likelihood of receiving negative reviews and increase the best, positive reviews.

Taking control of the review process

In the world of online reviews, it pays to be proactive and develop ways to address issues related to client feedback and online reviews into your existing client service model. For example, taking steps to set realistic client expectations upfront and asking for feedback when you are actively handling a client’s case, may help you avoid receiving a dreaded one-star review in the first place.

It’s also wise to ask clients who you know are satisfied for reviews. Not only will having a large repository of good reviews be viewed positively by prospective clients, it also helps dilute the influence of any negative reviews you receive.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a client may be dissatisfied and choose to leave a one-star review. If this happens, it’s important to keep perspective and a level head. Depending on the nature of the review and your practice area, it may be appropriate to briefly respond to the reviewer. A short comment in which you acknowledge the client’s frustration and invite them to engage with you offline should suffice.

Winning with online reviews

For better or worse, online reviews are something that attorneys at solo and small law firms cannot afford to ignore or leave to chance. To increase the likelihood of being able to drown out negative reviews, attorneys would be wise to develop processes to address issues related to reviews upfront.

Creating opportunities for clients to provide feedback gives you the ability to address their concerns in real-time and hopefully decreases your volume of negative and one-star reviews. Additionally, asking clients for reviews should be part of your client service and engagement process.

Need help managing your firm’s reputation and navigating the world of online reviews? Contact the digital marketing experts at FindLaw.

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