There are different ways to deal with a negative online review of your law firm.
You can ignore it – which is often the wisest response. You can reply to it – which can be risky, depending on what you say and how you say it. You can even reach out to the reviewer to discover why they’re unhappy and try to remedy the situation.
Now you have a State Bar-approved option as well. You can offset the bad press by publishing a bevy of glowing reviews on Google, which will also boost your SEO in the process.
Under 2018 Formal Ethics Opinion 7, lawyers can – under certain conditions – participate in an online service that solicits client reviews and posts the positive ones online to increase your internet search ranking.
Reputation Repair and Remediation
The opinion, which was adopted in October 2018, specifically deals with Repsight, an online service that helps lawyers accumulate positive client reviews. The pitch is that by doing so, a firm can enhance credibility and increase Google search rankings.
For a monthly fee, Repsight will contact your clients via text or email to solicit a review. The more you pay, the more clients are contacted.
Here’s how it works: After you complete a case, you log in to Repsight’s website and enter the client’s email address or phone number, then hit “send.” Repsight fires off a text or email thanking the client for their business and asking the client to click a button that rates your services from 1 to 5 stars, with 5 stars being the highest rating.
- If you get 3 stars or less, Repsight redirects the client to a private feedback form. You will receive the comments, but they won’t be posted on your Google review page.
- If you get 4 or 5 stars, the client is sent directly to your Google review page (with 5 stars already populated) to leave a positive review.
You’ve probably spotted the ethical concern: does giving Repsight your client’s name and contact info breach your duty of client confidentiality?
No, the opinion says, provided your client gives informed consent.
Rule 1.6(a) Informed Consent is Required
According to 2018 FEO 7: “A client’s name and contact information are confidential and may not be revealed unless the client gives informed consent. Rule 1.6(a). Before the lawyer may provide a client’s contact information to Repsight, the lawyer must obtain the client’s informed consent.”
To obtain informed consent and avoid misrepresentation, you have to tell your client you use Repsight and explain how the process works. Specifically, you must disclose:
- That you pay a monthly fee for Repsight services
- That you will provide the client’s name and contact information to Repsight after the representation ends
- That Repsight will contact the client regarding the review
- That only 4 and 5-star reviews will be posted on Google and other internet search engines
- That reviews of 3 stars or less reviews will be shared with the lawyer but not posted by Repsight or the lawyer anywhere on the internet
The opinion says you can’t “deceive the client about the treatment of negative reviews” and that you must adequately explain that reviews of 3 stars or less will not be posted on the internet.
If you get a negative review, it’s okay to contact the client to address their concerns. If afterwards the client agrees to change the negative review to a 4 or 5-star rating, you may direct Repsight to contact the client to obtain and post the revised review, provided:
- There is no quid pro quo for the revised review.
- You don’t solicit, encourage, or assist in the posting of fake, false, or misleading reviews.
- You don’t threaten, bully, or harass the client to provide a positive 4 or 5-star review.
Have you used Repsight or a similar service? What was your experience?