Confidentiality Still Applies When Rebutting Online Reviews

We’ve chatted before about online reputations and how to respond (if at all) to negative online reviews. Defending yourself is a natural reaction, but usually the wrong call as an Oregon lawyer recently discovered.

In a case now on appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court, an Oregon lawyer was suspended for 30 days for revealing a client’s identity and the details of his criminal conviction in response to negative online reviews.

Isn’t it Self Defense?

We don’t really know.

The trial panel did not consider the “self-defense” exception to Oregon RPC 1.6, finding the lawyer did not show that the details contained in his rebuttal were “reasonably necessary” to reveal.

The bar argued the “self-defense” exception applies only to formal proceedings, such as responding to a legal malpractice claim or bar complaint.

Read the full post on NW Sidebar.

What We Do Know

  • The identity of your client is confidential.
  • Revealing details about a case can be equivalent to revealing the client’s name in a universe where people can follow the dots.
  • If you engage online, the fuel you add to the fire will likely push the negative post upward in search results.

What You Should Do

Going back to my post from 2017, here are some suggestions:

  • A reasonable and measured response is key. Blasting people who give you a negative review is not a good business model.
  • You can try contacting the review site and asking for the review’s removal if you can prove the review is false, defamatory or written by a competitor. In the case described above, the lawyer contacted Google, Yelp, and Avvo to have the negative reviews removed. All three sites refused, telling the lawyer they considered the reviews the former client’s personal opinions. In another instance, the Washington Court of Appeals refused to force disclosure of an anonymous online reviewer’s identity. See Thomson v. Jane Doe, 189 Wn. App. 45, 356 P.3d 727 (2015).
  • You can respond directly to the review on the site. Be courteous and explain that due to your duty of confidentiality, you can’t address the facts of the complaint, but that you do not believe it presents a fair and accurate portrayal of the events. Make clear that you are always available to meet with former clients and address any concerns they may have.
  • If possible, try to contact the reviewer directly and seek to ameliorate the situation or explain to them further why the representation unfolded as it did. If this is successful, don’t hesitate to ask for an updated review.
  • Try to avoid further negative reviews by soliciting client feedback directly as the representation continues and in exit interviews. Try to give your clients every opportunity to air their grievances with you and your firm directly so they don’t have the need to vent in public.
  • Lastly, the best antidote to a negative review is positive reviews. Keep your profile updated and facilitate the opportunity for your other clients to post their own satisfied reviews.

We’ve all heard the old saw, grow a tough skin. If you’re a lawyer, it better be twice as thick as everyone else’s.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

OJD Webinars on New Court Rules Today and Tomorrow

New eSignature and Remote Hearing Rules

On Friday, March 27, 2020 Chief Justice Walters amended CJO 20-006, which in section 7 allows parties to electronically file exhibits for remote hearings. In addition, CJO 20-008 allows filers to submit declarations signed by non-filers using eSignatures. In eCourt parlance, “non-filers” are represented parties and non-party declarants.

OJD Webinars Today and Tomorrow – Sign Up Now!

OJD is holding webinars to go over these changes on Monday, April 6, 2020 from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM and Tuesday, April 7, 2020 from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM. If you are unable to attend at either of these times, the webinars will be recorded.

Register now!

Questions, Concerns, or Comments About the New UTCRs

Please send your questions, comments and feedback to: oeto.webinar@ojd.state.or.us.

File & Serve Upgrade Postponed

The File & Serve upgrade originally scheduled for April 10, 2020 is postponed. If there is sufficient time during the eSignature and remote hearing webinars, OJD staff will cover this topic.

When is the Upgrade Happening?

Hopefully in June. Watch for announcements via email and in the News section of the OSB website. When the upgrade occurs, File & Serve will be offline for at least 4 hours.

How is File & Serve Changing?

The new version of File & Serve will look and function the same as the current version of File & Serve. The only substantive difference will be the addition of case subtypes as a filing option.

The new version of File & Serve has other optional features that will be evaluated after the upgrade. If OJD decides to add other optional features it will provide notice to all filers before the changes are made.

What Do I Need to Do?

Nothing for now. OJD will host specific File & Serve webinars prior to the upgrade. More details will be provided in the coming months.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Breaking News: eFile & Serve Upgrade Postponed – Webinars Coming on UTCR Amendments Allowing Remote Hearings and Expanding eSignatures

Register here for the Webinars and pass on this news!

Chief Justice Order Amended Today

This evening Oregon Chief Justice Walters issued amended CJO 20-006.

In addition to continuing the Level 3 health restrictions already in place, the Chief Justice is seeking legislative authority to (1) extend or suspend timelines currently set by statute or rule, and that apply after the initiation of both criminal and civil cases; and (2) ensure the ability to appear in court by telephone or other remote means in most circumstances. If that authority is granted, a supplemental order will be issued.

With exceptions, proceedings and trials scheduled to begin earlier than June 1, 2020, are postponed, and no trials will be scheduled to begin before June 1, 2020.

The Chief Justice also ordered temporary suspension of collection fees and amended UTCR 21.090 and repealed UTCR 21.120. The net result of this change is to permit the use of electronic signatures by declarants if created with secure software.

Read the full press release here.

Court Operations Update

Trials and hearings likely to be postponed at least through April

Message from Chief Justice Walters, March 24, 2020