Use negative online reviews to showcase your positives

By Correy E. Stephenson

The Daily Record Newswire

As business and legal feedback sites like Yelp and Avvo continue to proliferate, lawyers need to monitor their online reputations and be prepared to respond to negative reviews.

"Lawyers have always been rated," says Tanner Jones, director of marketing at, a legal web and consulting firm based in Raleigh, N.C. "But prior to the Internet, the lawyer wouldn't have had the opportunity to see these reviews and be able to respond."

Negative reviews are inevitable, Jones says, and lawyers should embrace them as an opportunity and be prepared with a response.

Josh King, general counsel and vice president of business development at the lawyer review site Avvo, said the site receives thousands of reviews every month, which tend to run about 85 percent positive.

But a negative review "can almost be a gift," King says. "It gives lawyers a platform to showcase their responsiveness."

First, however, take a deep breath.

The most important thing to remember in responding to a negative review is do not argue, King says. "Ignore that impulse to argue against the specifics of the review."

Jones suggests that a response be "short and concise. Don't get into a lengthy comment or response, which is going to provide more opportunities for backlash."

Take the opportunity to demonstrate professionalism and responsiveness. Write something to the effect of: "We take customer feedback very seriously and want to make sure that your complaint is heard. Please contact us directly," King says, adding that contact information should be included. "It can be incredibly powerful."

A few negative reviews can also make an attorney seem more "real," he adds.

Consumers are accustomed to reading reviews on a broad variety of sites -- from clothes to books to movies -- and a "mix of good and bad reviews gives them more information and raises the overall credibility of the reviews," he says. "If a lawyer has 15 reviews and all of them are 100 percent glowingly positive, in the back of their minds, people will think, 'I'm not sure I buy that.'"

To counter those inevitable negative reviews, "solicit positive reviews from happy clients," Jones suggests. "Then, one negative review will be diluted among 10 to 15 positive reviews."

And if a review seems blatantly false -- it claims the attorney, who practices bankruptcy law, messed up a divorce proceeding, for example -- contact the site, King says. Lawyers often share the same name, and from time to time, reviewers post under the wrong attorney.

Published: Mon, Sep 26, 2011


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