New Law Further Protects Clients’ Right to Post Negative Reviews

Client reviews are a critical component to a law firm’s online reputation. These reviews can essentially make or break your practice.  A recent study found that 88% of consumers read and used reviews to determine the quality of a local business, which means no matter how good your website looks it is important to have a strategy to accumulate, manage, and respond to online reviews.

The survey respondents also said they trusted online reviews as much as they trust a personal recommendation (i.e. – the most trusted form of advertising by consumers, according to Nielsen’s Trust in Advertising Report).  The preferred method of finding an attorney is still through a referral from a trusted source, but it seems the findings in this study have leveled the playing field among the two.

Social media and third-party review sites such as Yelp have provided clients an easy way to vent their frustration or sing your praises.  In the past, some business owners have tried to deal with the negative by adding a “non-disparagement” clause to their terms and services, threatening legal action against customers who post negatively online about their business. However, updates to the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 voids any contracts that attempt to restrict or prohibit online reviews, further protecting the public’s right to post feedback about a business.

This new legal protection allows consumers and clients greater freedom when speaking their mind about their customer service experience.  There are certain exceptions.  The new federal law does not stop a business from suing for defamation, libel or similar actions, or from removing obscene, discriminatory or other inappropriate content.

The review site also has the right to take down the review, if it is in violation of its own terms and conditions. Businesses can appeal directly to the website to have the review removed as well.

Your firm’s online reputation is essential to business development.  A strong reputation online is needed for your firm to sustain its referral base.  We did a recent posting on How Your Law Firm Can Get More Online Reviews, and the importance of accentuating the positive.  Share positive feedback from your clients on your firm’s website, in promoted posts, re-tweet comments and reviews on your social media pages to increase reach and visibility.

Remember to embrace your online reviews.  You may not be able to control what is being posted, but you can control the volume of positive reviews and how you respond to the negative.  What do you stand to gain by successfully managing your online reputation?

We have identified the TOP 3:

  • Knowledge- getting to know what your clients value about your practice along with areas of improvement;
  • An increase in referrals;
  • Greater search visibility.

Here are some of best practices for responding to the negative, which we will go over in depth in our next posting – How to Handle Negative Reviews and WIN more Clients Online.

Tips for responding to the negative:

  • Take a deep breath and stay calm;
  • Determine the specific issue;
  • Avoid being defensive;
  • Respond with compassion;
  • Respond timely with a polite apology. Remember, it is not just your client seeing your response- it is the entire Internet and potential future clients.
  • Offer to make it right. Oftentimes, clients just want to be heard.  Calling them directly and handling the issue over the phone or in person will most likely result in them taking down the negative review.

Your online reputation is one of your firm’s most valuable assets.  Since 2008, we have been helping our clients protect, manage and enhance their reputation online.  A successful online reputation management strategy will help build trust, bring in new clients and improve your search engine ranking.  If you have any questions on this topic or would like to hear how the latest media, marketing and technology strategies can help grow your law firm, contact us TODAY at (407) 982-1707. Also serving South Florida and surrounding areas at (954) 376-3683.