Ethical Considerations for Attorneys: Responding to Online Reviews - Martindale-Avvo

Ethical Considerations for Attorneys: Responding to Online Reviews

We all know that positive reviews are some of our best referrals. They can be great for the firm, as they provide real feedback from clients and help drive business. It follows that if your firm wants return customers and referrals, you need to respond to your reviews, both positive and negative.

Why Should We Respond to Online Reviews?

Responding to reviews is important to your firm because it provides the opportunity for positive engagement with past and future clients. Engaging briefly and professionally with each review helps to do two important things:

1. It establishes connection with clients, creating a bridge to future business and referrals.

2. It increases the possibility that issues can be resolved (and a bad review removed).

In recent surveys, over 70% of consumers expected a response to online reviews, with most wanting to see a response within 24 hours. Over 80% said they would consider editing or removing a negative review based upon the response. We recommend that your firm have policies and procedures in place for responding to reviews, particularly negative ones. 

How Do We Ethically Respond to Reviews?

There have been cases where a response to a legal review catches the attention of the state bar – you don’t want that. By encouraging positive conversation in your responses, you can substantially improve your service and reputation. 

Here are our suggestions:

  • Respond to all online reviews, but responses should be standard and brief. 
  • For negative reviews, don’t admit having made a “terrible mistake,” but do apologize and attempt to make things right. 
  • Do not try to win an argument.
  • Don’t discuss details of cases or reveal personal client information. 

We recommend using the THEM method as a guideline for responding to negative reviews:

Timing: Respond within 24 hours

Honesty: Acknowledge bad experience and offer resolution

Empathy: Address the client’s point of view

Message: The goal is resolution, keep it positive

Your response to a negative review can turn a negative into a positive for both your customer and firm.

Three Additional Ethical Considerations for Legal Reviews:

Asking for reviews:

When asking for reviews, do not tell the client what to write on reviews or (although it may be legal) reward clients for positive reviews. 

For bankruptcy lawyers:

Bankruptcy is a personal matter and some clients may not be willing to discuss their case in a public forum where their name would be associated with their situation. For these, sites like & Avvo allow for anonymous client reviews.

Posting testimonials on your firm’s website:

While most bars allow client testimonials, it is important to address your state’s ethics rules, restrictions and disclaimers regarding attorney advertising and testimonials. If there are no special requirements in your state, it is still advisable to use a disclaimer on your site that addresses the possibility of unjustified expectations or misleading content. 

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