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How to Properly Handle Negative Reviews of your Law Firm Online

The online reputation of any business in important now more than ever, but especially for law firms because the commitment involved is a big decision. Unlike other products and services, a client is not able to request a return or demand their money back simply because they didn’t like the outcome. Any serious prospect will be conducting research about your firm before they decide whether or not to make contact. In order to help them make the decision, your marketing efforts must include encouraging online reviews. Visitors will typically look at your social media profile on sites like Facebook, Yelp, and Google, to read what others have to say about their experiences with your firm.

According to a BrightLocal Consumer Review survey from 2014, 88% of consumers said they trusted online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Eighty-five percent of people read up to 10 online reviews when researching a product or service, and 72% said they were more likely to make a purchase if the product or service had favorable online reviews. Public feedback provides a level of credibility and helps instill trust in a prospect even before they make contact. Therefore, it is important to put resources into the marketing and client service efforts to gain reviews.

online review stars

Many firms have traditionally been hesitant to focus on reviews due to the possibility of negative feedback. It is best to mentally accept that fact that you will get some less than stellar reviews – it’s only a matter of time. Satisfied customers don’t always find it necessary to review a service because they have gotten exactly what they expected. On the flip side, unhappy clients will go out of their way to write negative feedback. This is natural and once you come to terms with the business reality of not pleasing every client 100%, you can handle the situation in a professional manner and still appeal to your target clients.

How to Handle Negative Reviews of Your Law Firm

It’s happened. You’ve received a negative review, and you’re finding it very hard not to panic. Before you do anything rash, here are various ways to combat the feedback in order to minimize the reputational damage of your firm.

  • While it may be tempting to respond to the comment by pointing out everything the client did wrong and revealing specific details about the case – don’t! Not only does it make you seem petty and unprofessional, but also from a marketing perspective, it is possible that additional comments will only strengthen the placement of the comment to the top of search engine results. Don’t draw more attention to the matter than necessary.
  • Call the reviewer and address their feedback directly. Sometimes all it takes is the other person understanding why your team worked in a specific way, focused on one angle versus another, or didn’t get the desired results. Allow the client to share how the outcome personally impacted their life and do your best to understand where they are coming from. Offer a fix if there is anything your firm can do to remedy the situation or rework the outcome. Once you have spoken to the person, you may want to add a comment to the review expressing your appreciation that they were open to discussing the matter and you are glad the problem could be resolved in a satisfactory manner.
  • If your call with the reviewer went well, ask them to retract the comment. It may feel self-serving but it is worth asking because it may save you the cost of having to hire a reputation consultant to push the review further down on search engines.
  • If you cannot reach the person on the phone or you are not able to identify the poster, reply to the comment in a sympathetic and professional tone. Express your disappointment in their feedback and provide a few suggestions on how to remedy the situation. Show future prospects that you are willing to look beyond the insults for the sake of a client’s best interest.
  • It’s understandable to feel angry about a bad review, but do not create a big deal around the office. While you may want to consult with the relevant attorneys to get an accurate idea of what went wrong, making it widespread company business will put a damper on your corporate environment. And you certainly don’t want employees, interns, or other clients mentioning it on their social media pages.
  • Request for the negative review to be removed from the page. Not every outlet will agree, but if you can provide proof that the review constituted harassment, bullying, conflict of interest, or trademark/copyright violations, you have a fair chance of getting it down.
  • One of the best things a law firm can do to negate the effects of bad reviews is to make sure they only make up a small percentage of the total. Prospects are realistic and know that no law firm will have a perfect record. As long as you have an overwhelming number of glowing reviews, the negative ones will be less relevant. To achieve this, you must set expectations with your clients from early on that you would appreciate a review at the end of your work with them.
  • If the individual who leaves the negative review is a former employee, competitor, or someone you once knew personally, take screenshots of the post in case you decide to use it for legal action in the future. If the harassment escalates, you will also have proof of each review.
  • If you are being trolled or bombarded with fake reviews from the same person or group, consider taking legal action such as a temporary restraining order or order of protection. This usually (but not always) leads to the removal of the malicious posts on third-party websites.
  • You can try to reduce the number of negative reviews by asking clients you know are happy to rate your services. Whether you’ve just won their case or gone beyond their expectations for a settlement, seize the opportunity! Although this will not completely stop unsatisfied customers from posting, it contributes to a higher percentage of good reviews versus bad reviews.