Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Five Ways to Respond to a Negative Online Review

call to actionIf you’ve received a scathing online review, the best defense might be no defense at all.

Just let it go. Engaging the criticism will give it unwarranted credibility and prolong its shelf life. Better to shrug it off and turn to more pleasant, productive matters.

“This may be difficult to swallow,” concedes The Modern Firm. “But sometimes it’s best to do nothing. If the reviewer is really on edge, any response may just provoke more negative reviews on other websites under different names and email addresses. Further, if the content of the review appears kind of crazy or not truthful to a normal person, then maybe it’s not having any negative impact.”

Doing nothing is almost always wise for a review posted on an obscure, hard-to-find site that few if any people will see.

But what if it was posted on a popular site like Avvo, Yelp or And what if the complaints strike at the heart of your practice?

Take a Deep Breath

The truth is that in the world of consumer reviews, attorneys face a disadvantage. Although most sites have guidelines (example: only actual clients can post them), enforcement is spotty. It can be difficult or impossible to get an unfair comment taken down.

For this reason, it’s best to pause a moment and catch your breath. Determine exactly what happened. Read the review several times. Let it sit, then read it again. Assess the potential harm. Ask someone you know and trust to take a look. A reader less emotionally involved might see things quite differently.

Whatever you do, don’t fire off an immediate response. We’ve all sent emails and texts in the heat of the moment that later brought embarrassment, agony or worse.

Five-Step Response

 Here’s a helpful, five-step analysis from The Modern Firm:

  • Who posted it? Try to figure out exactly who posted the review. Is it a client, competitor, a fraud or unknown person?
  • Is the review legitimate? Be honest with yourself, does the review bring up legitimate concerns with the way you conducted business? It may be pretty obvious from the writing style and content of the review that the person isn’t rational or that the review is way off base. But it may also be a wakeup call that you’ve got real issues to address.
  • When was this review posted? If it has been up for a little bit and things have been fine, then that should be reassuring to you. If it was just posted then it probably hasn’t been seen by many people, which is also good.
  • Where is it, and how easy is it to find? Open an incognito or private window in your web browser and try to find the review. Do searches for your name and your firm, simulate what a potential client may do to find reviews or information about you online. Is it on page one or further back? Sites like AVVO,, and Yelp are usually pretty visible.
  • Can you communicate rationally with the reviewer? This is pretty important to figure out. Consider that if a client has opted to publicly smear you online instead of resolving their grievance by talking to or emailing you, they’re likely afraid of confrontation, not thinking very rationally, or both.

After you’ve done this analysis, you might want to reach out to the reviewer. Do this directly, not online. Tell them you read the review and would like to discuss the situation more fully with them. Don’t be angry, threatening or defensive. Apologize if appropriate. Ask what steps they would suggest to remedy the matter and improve your business going forward.

Also: read the guidelines for the site where the review was posted. Can you file a complaint? Can you request that the review be deleted? What other options do you have?

Have you received a negative online review? How did you respond?

Source: The Modern Firm

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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