May/June 2020

Ethics

Responding Intelligently to Negative Online Reviews

Lucian T. Pera

For as long as there have been lawyers, our practices have thrived or withered based on reputation.

Lawyers today invest time and money online to burnish their reputations with glowing reviews and five-star ratings. Marketing experts insist that positive reviews get real results. But just one negative review can ruin a lawyer’s day, or worse—that bad review may live forever on Facebook, Yelp, Google or Avvo, displayed relentlessly before thousands of potential clients.

That’s why every lawyer whose practice relies, even in part, on online reviews must prepare to respond intelligently and ethically. So, too, should many other lawyers who may be the occasional victims of a drive-by smear.

The most ethical and effective response to a bad review will be as much about prudence and savvy PR as about ethics rules. Still, the ethics traps are real and require some thought to avoid.

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