I took a week off from blogging. I’m back, albeit not so much because I missed it. Rather, I’m here to celebrate a Vermont connection, however tiny, to an article in today’s ABA Journal.
Lawyers in Bennington County might remember Cynthia Sharp. Last year, Attorney Sharp presented a CLE for the BCBA. Today, the ABA Journal ran her article How to ethically respond to negative reviews from clients. The article shares valuable tips and includes quotes from two names that regular readers of this blog will recognize: Tom Wilkinson and me. Tom serves on the ABA’s Standing Committee on Professionalism and frequently appears on the #fiveforfriday Honor Roll in Legal Ethics.
Not having blogged in a week, I’m unprepared to dive directly back into the deep end. So, here’s the “knee-deep” version on responding to online reviews:
- Information relating to the representation of a client is confidential.
- The rules prohibit lawyers from disclosing information relating to the representation of client.
- There are exceptions to the general prohibition.
- “The client gave me a negative review” is not one of the exceptions.
Last month, I received two inquiries from lawyers seeking guidance on how to respond to negative reviews. I was struck by the intensity with each wanted to respond. It reminded me of the criticism often directed my way in various online forums when I was coaching high school basketball.
Trust me, I get it. Still, be careful. Don’t let your initial reaction cause you to disclose information that the Rules of Professional Conduct require you to keep confidential. If, upon reflection you choose to respond, consider the type of response suggested by Tom Wilkinson in Attorney Sharp’s article.
- North Carolina State Bar, Proposed Opinion 2020-1
- New York State Bar Association Ethics Opinion 1032
- The Bar Association of San Francisco, Ethics Opinion 2014-1
- Los Angeles County Bar Association Ethics Opinion 525
- Responding to Negative Online Reviews, Catherine Reach, North Carolina Bar Association Center for Practice Management
- Negative Online Review? How NOT to respond
- Negative Online Review? Restrain Yourself
- Hey Lawyers: STFU!!
- ABA & Client Confidences: It’s Deja Vu All Over Again
- Can’t Keep Quiet? Try Harder