Client reviews are among the most critical elements of any law firm’s marketing strategy. Several studies have shown that responding to online reviews can positively influence your firm’s rankings in local SEO.
Additionally, studies have shown that clients trust an online review in a similar way to how they trust a referral from a person they trust. However, when a law firm is faced with a negative review online, is there the best course of action?
How to Respond To Negative Reviews Online
Attorneys may get the strong urge to reply to negative reviews online. However, when responding to criticism online, you need to be careful not to reveal details about a client’s case, breaching confidentiality. The way an attorney replies to reviews online, whether positive or negative, is a matter of ethics and professionalism and should not be taken lightly.
The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility recently released an official statement that addressed the ethical obligations that lawyers should keep in mind when responding to reviews online, especially negative reviews.
According to the recommendation, lawyers can do the following when faced with a negative review online.
1. Call The Client!
If you get a negative review online, it’s only natural to react emotionally and want to respond online to the client. If it’s a legitimate review, it’s important to acknowledge the client’s concern, while not revealing any personal or confidential details.
Something as simple as “Thank you for your review – we always aim to have totally happy clients, and are reaching out to see what we can do to make it right!” can show people that you take it seriously, while not revealing confidential details. Then, pick up the phone and call the client and do what you can to fix it!
Your willingness to engage in offline conversation shows that your law firm is ready to go the extra mile to resolve client issues.
2. Offer No Response
This isn’t the best option, but it is an option. Whatever you do, it’s important not to react aggressively to a negative review.
A recent North Carolina Bar opinion explores any exceptions to the duties under Rule 1.6(b) Confidentiality, including Rule 1.6(b)(6) Self Defense Exception, and decides that a negative online review does not fall within the exception categories of legal claims and disciplinary charges arising in civil, criminal, disciplinary or other proceedings.
Many times, responding improperly to a negative post often invites more criticism from the critic who is already unhappy and draws unwanted attention to the review. Hence, replying to the post may not bear any good fruits but worsen the situation.
Remember, there is no ethical risk in failing to respond, although there may be a risk in escalating the situation if you don’t reply in a thoughtful way.
3. Request Search Engine or Website to Remove the Post/Review
The ABA committee also recommended that the lawyer request the website where the review is posted to remove the review citing a valid reason for the request. Lawyers need to be careful not to reveal client information when requesting the website to remove the post. However, before the attorney requests to remove the post, they can ask the critic to have an offline conversation with them.
Generally, Google will not remove reviews just because they’re negative, although we have seen them occasionally remove reviews that are obviously false.
Proactively Fighting Against Negative Reviews
So, what’s the best way to fight against negative reviews? It’s getting positive reviews! People understand that negative reviews (and even negative experiences) do occasionally occur. Drown them out with clients with positive experience who sing your praises.
Learn More About Getting Reviews For Your Law Firm
Building your law firm’s reputation online is a critical piece of your digital marketing efforts, and having the right partner in place can help take the heavy lifting off your plate. To see how we can help your firm put a predictable, repeatable process in place to get your firm reviews, talk to us today!