Responding to Online Reviews

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 clientsThe 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:

  1. Information relating to the representation of a client is confidential.
  2. The rules prohibit lawyers from disclosing information relating to the representation of client.
  3. There are exceptions to the general prohibition.
  4. “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.

Be Quiet

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One thought on “Responding to Online Reviews

  1. Dear Mike, I’m writing to share a little tidbit of info that may perhaps dovetail nicely with your submission below. Years ago, I read an article regarding our late President, Dwight David Eisenhower and the article recounted something particularly appropriate in respect of your submission. The article made mention of one of Ike’s traits whenever he would find himself ultra mad at someone. The trait was as follows: He would write as scathing a letter as he could imagine writing to the person who would have angered him. He would then take time to edit it somewhat to make it perhaps a tad more presentable, e.g. shorter on swear words, etc. Then he would stick the letter in edited form inside his upper desk drawer. Invariably, after a few days, he would find himself reaching into the desk drawer, not to ready the letter for mailing, but rather to simply throw the letter into the trash after having torn it up.  Not a bad suggestion for how someone might consider dealing with a bad on-line review, would you agree? Sincerely, Jack

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