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By Murray Gottheil | August 1, 2023
I was a super-fantastic lawyer. Really, almost everyone says so. And yet, there were a few clients who did not appreciate what I did for them or what it cost to have me do it. Luckily for me, during most of my career Google reviews were not much of a thing. And until they were, those few and far between ignorant and unappreciative ingrates who did not like me did not have much of a public forum for spreading their lies.
Also fortunately for me, I practiced business law and by the time that social media came along, the vast majority of my clients were profitable business owners who appreciated what I did for them. They usually had better things to do than hammer out vindictive missives on keyboards.
But ‘the times they are a changing.’
An excellent family law lawyer who I will call Tom recently received a terrible Google review which accused him of being more concerned with dollars than with his client. It is hardly surprising. It was bound to happen eventually. Family law clients are famous for being unhappy and often they focus that unhappiness on their lawyer.
Tom is quite offended by his awful review, as he should be. He worked hard for the client and brought his considerable expertise, experience, and passion to advancing the client’s cause. He deserves better. But there really is not a whole bunch that he can do about it. Bound as he is by solicitor client privilege, Tom sort of has one hand tied behind his back in terms of defending himself.
Of course, Tom has to learn that this is the world that we now live in. Everyone gets some awful reviews. Most knowledgeable people reading those reviews will discount a bad review if there are some positive reviews as well.
So, what can Tom and the rest of us do about it? Here are a few thoughts:
- Accept that we lawyers are not much different than the local chain restaurant. We need to ask our happy clients to submit positive reviews so that they will drown out the inevitable bad reviews;
- Be more careful than ever about who we agree to represent;
- Be more willing than ever to fire clients when we figure out that they are toxic;
- Enjoy the fantasy about suing the bastards for defamation, but don’t actually do that;
- Have a student do some research about whether or not you can get away with a retainer agreement which restricts the posting of social media reviews without your consent. (It may not stop them, but it might give you some leverage to intimidate them into taking the bad reviews down); or
- Stop practicing law.
That’s it. I am out of ideas. Let me know if you have any better ones.
Murray is a happily retired lawyer who lives in the country, drives a pick-up truck, writes, teaches and mentors. You can reach him at [email protected] or see what he is up to at lawanddisorderinc.com.