Responding to Negative Reviews: Keeping It Confidential

Responding to Negative Reviews

When it comes to internet reviews, you either get really good ones or really bad ones. Most people don’t go online and put on their Op-Ed hat when something meets expectations. Nobody ever argues with a good review, it’s the bad ones that can be hard to refute, especially when you’re an attorney. This is because of the presumption of attorney and client confidentiality which states in Rule 4-1.6 that:

The duty of confidentiality continues after the client-lawyer relationship has terminated. See rule 4-1.9 for the prohibition against using such information to the disadvantage of the former client. – Page 37, Chapter 4, Rules of Professional Conduct, Florida Bar Association.

How much this applies to the client sharing their opinion of your services on a web site such as Yelp or Avvo is uncertain, and attorneys trying to respond end up on some uncertain footing. One such attorney was disciplined for disclosing too much information in responding to a bad review on Avvo. On the other hand, attorneys have taken their former clients to court for libel, and sued them for reviews that were considered to be defamatory.

Now for some stone truths: You can’t make some people happy, and it doesn’t matter what you do. There are people who would complain about the goose laying the golden eggs messing up their carpet. If they won the Powerball, they’d complain about the lottery office being too far. If you won their case, getting them the result they wanted, they’d still find something to kvetch about. There are also some people who think lawyers can produce facts out of thin air, or who will lie blatantly to their attorneys about their side of the story, then explode when their case nosedives like a faulty paper airplane.

Where you have the chance to do it, de-escalate the situation. It’s natural to want to defend yourself

  1. Do not respond on the forum other than to say that because of confidentiality you can’t respond, and that you are sorry that they are dissatisfied, but would like to speak with them and hear their grievance.
  2. Attempt to contact by phone. Emails or other methods can be posted on social media, and add fuel to the fire.
  3. If you can, offer to ameliorate the problem in return for retracting the review.
  4. Think very carefully about taking legal action, and remember – a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. Get a cooler, third party head to tackles something like this.

Remember most of all not to try to bury the review with glowing five stars. You can’t pay for good reviews and you can’t go around writing them yourself or have other people who have not used your services post them as if they had. Both of these breach the rules of ethics. Sometimes the best strategy may be to do nothing at all, other than to allow the good reviews to accrete and the bad ones slowly become outweighed by the good ones. What is one start against ten or twenty four and five star reviews? And your potential clients will know it.



4 Step Studio is an online marketing agency that specializes in website design and redesign, SEO, social media and more. Our team of experts focuses on helping small business get found online, while educating them on what will make them successful in the digital world. To learn more about what we can do for you, visit our website at

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Posted in Digital Marketing, Reputation Management

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