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Grace Under Fire: Staying Classy Amidst Bad Online Reviews

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

Bad reviews are an inevitable part of business ownership - even for lawyers. No matter how much you focus on the client experience and providing great results, there will always be clients who simply are not satisfied. Unfortunately, the bad reviews they leave on their way out can impact your law firm's business for years to come. Learning how to deal with bad reviews with grace, professionalism, and class helps you protect your reputation.

The Importance of Reviews

Some attorneys do not realize the weight that online reviews hold until they are facing their first negative review. It is crucial to address reviews in your marketing plan before you must address a negative one, because this allows you to take prompt action instead of panicking. Reviews are one of the primary resources people use when searching for an attorney. Research indicates that 75% of surveyed individuals who had searched for an attorney in the previous year used online resources. Reviews can even override convenience. The same research found that 70% of people were willing to travel further for an attorney with better reviews than their more local options.

Stay Professional

First, stay calm and remember that all potential clients will see how you respond publicly to a review. A bad review is, in most situations, not a personal attack. Responding too passionately or with insults looks childish and unprofessional to future clients . So stay out of the weeds and take a break after reading the review. Do not come back to it until you can look at it from an impartial point of view.

Respond with Kindness and Sincerity

Set aside any instinct you have to be defensive, point out inaccuracies in the review, or call out the reviewer. Start by responding with kindness if possible. It is fine to acknowledge the person and their negative experience. But be sure to stress in your response how much your firm values its clients and protects its client experience. From there, you can suggest moving the conversation to a private platform. Picking apart the review piece by piece in a public setting often leads to a back-and-forth that looks petty and also might get you in hot water with the attorney regulation office. Remember, the goal is to have the client leave happy, not to prove them wrong and embarrass them. You might leave an e-mail address or phone number that they can contact to discuss their concerns and potential remedies further.

How You Respond is Just as Important as the Review Itself

When people search for services that your law firm offers, they might find your negative reviews. In fact, some people go straight to the negative reviews to see what they might have to deal with if the case goes poorly. You want potential clients to be bored when they read your negative reviews. Short, empathetic responses to reviews highlight your professionalism without sinking to the level of reviews that might be too personal or flat out untrue. Everyone has seen news stories about businesses that go viral when an angry owner lashes out at reviewers online. You never want to be that business or that lawyer. Potential clients and referral sources will judge your professionalism both by the bad reviews you have and how gracefully you address them.

Offset Negative Reviews with Positive Reviews

If your firm has few reviews, one bad review can tank your online rating and make you appear unreliable. That is why collecting positive reviews proactively is so important for your firm’s reputation. When you are wrapping up a case with a client, tell them how reviews are helpful to your firm and make it easy to do so. Do not just ask for reviews. Send a specific link that they can follow to enter their feedback. Making this part of your process when you close out a file streamlines this aspect of your marketing plan. With enough positive reviews, the occasional negative review will not be enough to hurt your online standing.

While bad reviews are to be expected, how you handle them is almost more important than what they actually say. Use these tips to handle online complaints about your law firm with professionalism and class.


Meranda M. Vieyra is the owner of Denver Legal Marketing LLC. She is one of the most visible legal professionals in Colorado law with over 20 years of service in the Denver legal community. Her award-winning marketing firm has earned a strong reputation as the go-to for impactful, cost-effective legal marketing strategies. She has helped her clients secure coverage by well-known publications and has obtained local, national, and international awards on their behalf. Meranda enjoys working with solo practitioners and small law firms helping them attract recognition, promotion, and visibility to their practices. She also advises medium-sized and national law firms on business development and marketing strategy. Meranda is a lecturer and author on issues related to marketing including how lawyers can use LinkedIn effectively, how to develop a personal brand, and the promotion of legal services through community service. In 2018, she was honored to be named to the 40 Under 40 list by the Denver Business Journal and to be given the 10 Under 10 Award by the Metropolitan State University of Denver Alumni Association (top 10 alum of the decade). In 2019, Meranda was named in the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Business by the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce and in the Top 100 young professionals in Colorado through the Gen XYZ Awards published by ColoradoBiz Magazine.

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