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Getting a bad review from a disgruntled client is not a unique occurrence. Bad reviews can erode a law firm's local ranking, tarnish a law firm's reputation and dissuade potential clients from hiring the firm. A law firm cannot prevent a client from writing a bad review, but the firm's response can turn a negative review into a positive. The firm's response may convince the reviewer to edit their review or write a positive review of how the law firm reacted to the negative review.

A well-crafted response can show the firm's willingness to rectify a situation or explain a point of confusion.

Statistics about reviews

Statistics from the business world show the importance of responding to negative reviews. Consider the finding from the BrightLocal 2018 local consumer review survey:

  • 86 percent of respondents read reviews of local businesses
  • 57 percent of respondents will only use a business with four or more stars
  • 91 percent of respondents aged 18 to 34 trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 89 percent of respondents read businesses' responses to reviews

Law firms can learn valuable lessons from these statistics. Consumers read reviews, take the reviews seriously and pay attention to how a business responds.

Monitoring lawyer reviews

Reviews and comments can be posted on different websites like Google or Yelp. Law firm reviews affect the law firm's online reputation, so the firm should designate someone at the firm, or a third party, to monitor these sites. Many free tools are available to help with this process:

  • Google Alerts: Log in to your Google account, go to https://www.google.com/alerts, and add keywords, like your firm name. Google Alerts will send email notifications of new content matching the terms you enter.
  • Perch: Perch is a phone app that monitors Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Yelp. When someone leaves a review, you get a notification.
  • Yelp Biz: This phone app allows you to monitor your firm's listings, receive notifications of reviews, respond to reviews and report inappropriate reviews.
  • Google My Business: Allows you to respond to reviews on Google.
  • JustLegal: Offers a system that gathers reviews from websites via automated SMA and MMS alerts sent to mobile devices. You can respond to the reviews by logging in to an online dashboard.

Reaction to a negative review

Lawyers reading a negative review of their law firm, should not react emotionally. A defensive or angry response is likely to exacerbate the problem. You could come across to others who read your response as unapologetic and unsympathetic to the views of others. Evaluate the claim before you respond:

  • Try to determine who is the author. It could be a client, but it could also be the opposing party in a case the firm handled. You may not be able to determine who the author is.
  • See when the review was written. If the review is recent, few people may have read it.
  • Do searches to see how easy it is to find the review.
  • Evaluate the reasonableness of the review. Determine if you can solve the reviewer's problem or clear up a misunderstanding.

Response to a negative review

What is a law firm's proper response to a negative review? The answer depends on the particular situation. In general, law firms may respond in one of four ways:

  • The best response may be no response. The bad review may be so ridiculous that no one will take it seriously, or the review may have been posted months ago without any adverse consequences to the firm. If you discover the review is having an impact, you can respond at that time.
  • You can flag or tag a review as inappropriate or as violating the website's terms of service. The website will send an automatic email to the person who wrote the review stating that the review was flagged and ask them to consider rewriting it or reposting it. The author gets 7 to 14 days to respond. If the author rewrites the review or reposts the original review, then the review process is over. If the time to respond expires, the review will come off the website. The law firm makes a judgment call as to whether the reviewer will take no action or write a worse review or more reviews on other websites.
  • Call the reviewer or private message the reviewer. Hear the reviewer out. Apologize if appropriate. The reviewer may agree to edit the review or write another review. You may respond to the review and invite the reviewer to contact you privately. Others will read your response and see your concern and willingness to discuss the matter with the reviewer.
  • Respond publicly. If the reviewer is not a client or the review is fraudulent, you can explain the situation. Be professional and think of the impact your response will have on other readers. You can negate the bad review and present yourself as someone others would want to hire.

Respond quickly to negative reviews. You want the reviewers to rewrite the post or write another review before many people read the bad review.

Minimizing the damages of a negative review

One way to minimize the damage from a negative review is to offset the negative review with positive reviews. The more positive reviews a law firm has, the less a negative review will impact the firm's rating and its online reputation. If the firm has a five-star rating and a one-star rating, its rating drops to three stars. If the firm has a one-star rating along with 10 four-star or five-star ratings, the impact on the firm's overall rating is marginal

Encourage satisfied clients to write reviews. Make it easy for them. Email the clients the websites. Potential clients read reviews. One of your satisfied client's reviews may land you a new client.

About Author

Virginia Mayo is a contributor for Bigger Law Firm.

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