Your Online Reputation

The July issue of the Oregon State Bar Bulletin features an excellent article by Linn Davis entitled “Responding to Negative Online Reviews: Reputation Management.”  If you’ve ever received a negative review, or fear that negative content is inevitable, this post is for you.

While Davis’ article focuses on ethical dos and don’ts, it also contains solid practical advice.  The following excerpt describes what you cannot do, what you should not do, how to preempt negative reviews, and how to respond to a negative review. Also included are my two cents on best practice recommendations.

What You Cannot Do

  • Reveal information relating to the representation of a client
  • Post inaccurate content
  • Allow misleading information that creates false expectations regarding fees, results, or your firm’s resources
  • Use subterfuge (employees posing as satisfied clients offering glowing reviews)
  • Fail to promptly update information when it changes
  • Engage in real-time interactions that violate in-person solicitation rules

What You Should Not Do

  • Sue the source of the negative review for defamation
  • Attempt to restrict clients from posting negative reviews
  • Form an unintended attorney-client relationship in an online legal forum
  • Fail to screen for conflicts in an online legal forum
  • Offer incentives for a positive review without considering the ethical and legal implications. See Oregon RPC 1.8(a), and 16 CFR Part 255 relating to FTC regulation of endorsements.

How to Preempt Negative Reviews

  • Contribute accurate and valuable information regarding yourself and your firm
  • Use disclaimers when participating in online legal forums
  • Provide clients with professional and competent work product

How to Respond to a Negative Review

One possibility is to do nothing.  As Davis points out, “not every opinion (on the Internet) must be contested.”  If, however, you feel you must respond, Davis offers three ethically permissible approaches:

  • Encourage the client to contact you to resolve the concerns expressed (this could be done online or offline)
  • Post that you disagree with the client’s account but are prevented by your professional standards from responding in a public forum without the client’s consent
  • Direct readers to other forums where your representation is regarded more “fully, accurately, and favorably”

Best Practices – My Two Cents

If the negative review comes from a client:

Your best tactic is to encourage the client to contact you. I suggest doing this privately and leaving the online post alone.  Why?  Responding to a negative review in any fashion will cause it to rank higher in search results.  Remember: search engines use algorithms based on quantity and quality. The more online engagement surrounding a negative thread, the more prominent it will become.

The good news is that you can exploit the quantity/quality preference of search engines by contributing your own accurate and valuable information.  In addition to Davis’ suggestions about adding basic biographical data and a description of your services, list yourself on free online legal directories, blog, update your Website, post to social media, share photos, and reshare/repost content.  It will take time and effort, but your content can and will push the negative review below the first page of search results.

If the negative review comes from a non-client:

I’ve known many lawyers who received negative “reviews” from non-clients – either disgruntled opposing parties or those who are motivated to attack the lawyer because of her practice area or representation of a particular client. Examples include immigration law, debt collection, or defending a client accused of a crime. Other than overwhelming the negative review with your own positive content, there isn’t much you can do when a non-client complains. Responding will only spur on the commentor.

Parting Thoughts

While it is important to monitor what people are saying about you online, try to have a thick skin. I know that negative reviews can be hurtful and maddening – especially when the source is motivated to keep attacking.  However, and pardon my French, but most of us can spot a “whack job.” Therefore, if a potential client decides not to meet with you because of what he sees or reads on the Internet, it’s probably a good thing.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017

Best of 60 Tips in 60 Minutes – 2017 ABA TECHSHOW

Yesterday I shared the Best in Mobile Apps for IOS and Android from the 2017 ABA TECHSHOW.  Today: the Best of 60 Tips in 60 Minutes with ideas on:

  • Blockchain Technology [A direct payment solution that bypasses banks]
  • Document and Workflow Automation
  • Document Indexing
  • Email
  • eSignatures
  • Facebook Advertising
  • Hardware Hacks
  • Lawyer Websites
  • Meeting Apps
  • Microsoft Office
  • Mirroring Content from Mobile Devices
  • Mobile Scanners
  • Note Taking
  • Online Collaboration
  • Online Intake
  • Organization
  • Outsourcing Tasks
  • Practice Management Software
  • Productivity
  • Proofreading
  • Saving Money
  • Scheduling Assistants
  • Security
  • Social Media Management
  • Slide Presentations
  • Spam
  • Timekeeping
  • Travel
  • Virtual Assistants
  • Web Conferencing

For a recap, click here or on the image below.

Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets – What Does It Mean to You?

Maybe you recall these headlines:

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act aims to solve this problem for fiduciaries – conservators, trustees, attorneys-in-fact, personal representatives, and the like.  For an overview, check out this post on FindLaw published yesterday.

If the RUFADDA is adopted in Oregon, suing Apple or Facebook should no longer be necessary. In the meanwhile, estate planning lawyers should talk to clients about this issue.  If you are drafting a will, trust, codicil, power of attorney, or similar document, instruct clients to create a “Digital Asset Instruction Sheet” so loved ones have direction on what to do and how to access these accounts.  A sample “Digital Asset Instruction Sheet” is available to Oregon lawyers on the PLF website, courtesy of Beate Weiss-Krull.

[All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis]

It’s Social Media, Not Anti-Social Media

To start out the week I have more great tips from the 2014 ABA TECHSHOW.  To begin:  “Think before you post” on social media @bobambrogi – @Westlaw [good advice!]

The Whys and Wherefores of Having a Facebook Page

Does a law firm need a Facebook page? What are the benefits over having a great website? Do firms want likes or comments? – @MrsMacLawyer RT @JamesWegener

Designate other Admins for your #Facebook firm page, esp if you will be too busy to keep it up. @sammiem – @MrsMacLawyer

Why social media? (See pic.) But know ethics rules. Useful session w/ Jeff Lantz, @JLE_JD @bobambrogi – @rocketmatter [Oregon lawyers can start here.]

70% of folks are checking FB pages from a mobile device. Make sure your photos are sized right for mobile screens. @sammiem – @MrsMacLawyer

Once you have 30 Likes on your firm #Facebook page, it opens up a lot more things you can do with the page. @sammiem

Twitter

Are there ethical concerns using twitter? There is an ethical issue with you NOT being on it.” @bobambrogi – @legalcurrent

Not mentioned in social media session but it’s not wise to cross post to Facebook & Twitter. Customize for platform. Via @RealSheree

Yelp

RT @Westlaw: Dealing w/ negative yelp reviews – @GallagherLaw

Blogging

Your blog should not be an ad.” @rbcater #ruthbook – @familyLLB RT @MarkRosch

Wise words. @JLE_JD “Don’t insult the judge” when blogging about your case (or any case, really) – Judges read blogs too! – @JamesWegener

If you blog about client work, even if anonymously, get clients’ permission. And wait until case is finally resolved – @RealSheree

Blogging is a fun way to drive traffic to your firm’s website #ABATECHSHOW Quality content can boost traffic +1000% – @VinceDePalma RT @invinciblecrtv

[All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis – 2014]

Social Media Bill Passes Oregon Senate

Today the Oregon Senate passed HB 2654B which would forbid employers from demanding access to potential employee’s social media accounts. Read the full story at KATU. Maryland started the trend, which has spread to other jurisdictions. Twenty eight states are entertaining similar legislation.

For a related discussion, see this post.