I recently read a blog by AVVO’s General Counsel, Josh King, regarding online client reviews. His article caught my attention because AVVO publishes online lawyer ratings, reviews, and disciplinary records for lawyers. I grew even more interested (read: fearful) when I discovered ratings and comments can be posted without my consent or knowledge. In his blog, Mr. King addresses the fact that lawyers are averse to being simply a product consumers can review when he said, “I’ve heard every possible concern from attorneys: clients in my area are psychos, they can’t evaluate legal work, they have unreasonable expectations, etc. It’s the ‘lawyers are different’ mantra. But you’re not. You’re a toaster.
Or a luxury hotel. Is that better?”
Mr. King is likely right. Like it or not, lawyers and their services are being evaluated and reviewed by their clients. So what do lawyers do about it?
Some of the best practices for handling online client reviews are:
- Request that happy clients post reviews. By encouraging positive reviews, they will outnumber any negative ones.
- Be proactive and communicate often with your clients to increase the number of happy clients. A client that feels valued and important is less likely to post a negative review.
- Regularly review all online client feedback.
- Respond to any negative client reviews by apologizing for their dissatisfaction and offering to personally speak with him/her to find a resolution to the matter. A professional response can go far.
- Stay away from reviews-for-hire. It’s a growing industry but ethical violation.
- Never respond to a negative client review by breaching client confidentiality.
The last point is an important one. Last month, an Illinois attorney stipulated to a public reprimand for violating client confidentiality where she responded to her client’s negative review on AVVO. [The disciplinary complaint is at http://www.iardc.org/13PR0095CM.html]. The client, a former flight attendant with American Airlines, retained the attorney to secure unemployment benefits where the client had been terminated for allegedly assaulting a co-worker. The client was denied unemployment benefits, terminated the attorney, and posted an unfavorable review. The attorney retorted online, “I feel badly for him but his own actions in beating up a female coworker are what caused the consequences he is now so upset about.” By failing to craft a professional response, the attorney was reprimanded by the Bar and let an opportunity pass.
So instead of fighting (or fearing) online client reviews, use it to your advantage. The positive reviews by your happy clients may generate new clients, and the negative ones can be a chance to improve your professional services.