How to Respond to Negative Reviews: Best Practices for Law Firms

Man leaving a negative review by selecting one star out of five

Online reviews are here to stay, and they play an important role in the success of any law firm. Reviews on sites like Yelp, Google and Avvo are key to the decision-making process for many people when they need to hire a lawyer. That’s why it’s good practice to claim your local and niche directory listings and incorporate these citations into the digital marketing strategy for your law firm.

There is a downside to all of this exposure, however, especially for smaller law firms that depend on local clients. Negative online reviews can damage your reputation and quickly cause client leads to dry up. On top of that, a poor rating or review can adversely affect the performance of your firm in local search.

Attorneys need a plan in place for monitoring and responding to reviews, especially negative reviews. Ignoring negative online reviews about you or your firm won’t make them go away. At the very least, negative reviews are useful feedback that can be used to improve your practice. At worst, someone may be trying to harm your firm’s reputation. The adversarial nature of many legal practices can make you a target, but many law firms also fall victim to spammy or fake reviews. It’s worth paying attention to your online reputation and addressing both positive and negative reviews.

The Dos and Don’ts of Responding to Negative Reviews

When your law firm gets slammed with a nasty review, refer to this cheat sheet for how to handle it. Keep in mind that your real audience is the prospective client reading your response, so you want to be professional and diplomatic.

DO:

  • Claim and optimize your local business citations on key reviews sites
  • Thank the commenter for their feedback
  • Read their criticism carefully and look for nuggets of truth or areas to improve your business
  • Address their concerns and apologize if warranted
  • Be brief
  • Stick to the facts
  • Describe their experience as atypical for your business
  • Outline steps you have taken to prevent it from happening again
  • Implement those steps
  • Offer a way to resolve it: a refund, replacement or do-over
  • Ask someone else to read through your response BEFORE you post it

It’s okay to respond offline when it’s appropriate. Sometimes online exchanges can escalate and get nasty. It is never in your interest to let these messages run amok, especially when it can (rarely, thank goodness) result in public humiliation and even arrest. Lawyers must also take care not to violate client confidentiality in any public response.

DON’T:

  • Ignore a negative response (or a positive one, for that matter!)
  • Respond hastily
  • Take it personally – don’t get emotional, angry, or defensive
  • Engage a troll (someone who provokes or instigates for his own amusement)
  • Be sarcastic
  • Make personal attacks (i.e., no name-calling or making accusations)
  • Blame the client
  • Be condescending
  • Use swear words
  • Offer an incentive to remove negative reviews
  • Post fake positive reviews

Above all, don’t ever sue your client. Even if you win your case in court, you’ll lose in the court of public opinion. You’ll be the law firm that sues its clients, and that’s a sure-fire way to scare off future clients and drive away current ones. The Internet has a long memory, so even if subsequent clients generate lots of pleasant, positive reviews, people will still be able to find a record of the negative.

Online Reviews Affect Local Search Rankings

Online reviews are a strong signal for local search rankings. The number of reviews built over time, as well as the number of stars awarded, can significantly impact the number of people who are exposed to your firm or practitioner listings.

Get the Local SEO Help Your Law Firm Needs

As a busy lawyer, you may not have time to manage your online reputation and monitor reviews. You may prefer to delegate the chore to an objective legal online marketing professional.

Paramaya Web Consulting can help you monitor and respond to reviews as part of our local SEO services for law firms. These services include:

  • Reviews monitoring
  • On-page optimization
  • Citation management
  • Content marketing
  • Brand audits
  • And more

Contact us today and ask for a free 30-minute consultation. Let us help with local search optimization so you can stop worrying about it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Sultan

Laura Sultan is a veteran at creating successful SEO strategies that grow small businesses. She founded Paramaya Web Consulting in 2001 and has established herself as a respected SEO professional specializing in SEO for law firms. Laura is proud to call Atlanta home where she lives with her family on a small urban farm. Outside the office, Laura enjoys gardening, hiking, birding, and nature photography.

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