Law Firm Going Digital: What to do with unfavorable online reviews from former clients?
As a result of COVID-19, law firms find themselves faced with the task of going digital. Having a website and social media accounts is not enough to stand out. A law firm needs to have a culture of social responsibility. A goodwill culture brings value to the client and potential client and the community the law firm serves.
Today clients seeking legal representation decide to hire an attorney based on what the community says about its customer care quality and competency. Attorneys are subject to both favorable and unfavorable online reviews on industry websites such as Law.com. Occasionally an attorney will receive a negative review that appears to be a former client's dissatisfaction with the attorney's performance. It is a good practice to respond to a negative review quickly; however, I caution attorneys to refrain from using any or all client-specific information when defending against it to prevent violating Rule 1.6 of the Module Rules of Conduct on client confidentiality.
William J. Cobb, Assistant General Counsel for the Georgia State Bar, Technology Related Ethical Issues, nawj.org (2013) Chapter III (c)(3) p.26, discusses attorneys defending their reputation from online client criticism and Rule 1.6(b)(1)(iii). The risks of responding to a negative critique while in a state of emotion must be avoided. Refrain from breaching ethical conduct, as seen in Skinner 292 Ga. 640 (2014).
In Skinner 292 Ga. 640 (2014), a response to a disparaging client review resulted in a complaint to the Georgia State Bar for violating Rule 1.6 and other Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct.
It is a good practice to designate someone in your law firm to handle reputation or client review management, a paralegal or admin staff member responsible for the firm's online presence maybe.
American Bar Association Module Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.6 Confidentiality of Information Client Lawyer Relationship (n.d) americanbar.org https://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/rule_1_6_confidentiality_of_information/comment_on_rule_1_6/
William J. Cobb Technology Related Ethical Issues, nawj.org (2013) https://www.nawj.org/uploads/files/annual_conference/session_materials/attorney_ethics/technology_related_ethics_issues.pdf
In the Matter of Skinner, 295 Ga. 217 (2014)(West) https://www.westlaw.com/Document/Iedd526d6df6011e39488c8f438320c70/View/FullText.html?transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default)&VR=3.0&RS=cblt1.0