“It created a story where there was none: Now it will show up in search, now it will attract attention. … It’s snowballing now, and it didn’t have to.” – Jay Pinkert
Here’s the question of today: what do you do when your law firm gets a negative online review?
- a. Ignore it.
- b. Sue the anonymous blogger.
- c. Comment on the negative post
- d. Never use a computer again.
After thinking about the question and asking for feedback from my peers, we have decided that (c) is the best answer. The problem with suing the anonymous blogger is that you make a story where there would otherwise be none.
A Dallas law firm recently faced the same dilemma. An anonymous blogger had left negative comments about the firm. Here is what ‘Ben’ wrote:
After doing a little investigation the firm found out that the comments originated from Oregon. Since the Texas firm had never represented anyone from Oregon they deduced that the anonymous blogger was not a former client.
The firm then turned to Google to remove the comment … but by then it was too late. Google is like Hotel California – your comments can never leave. Once Google’s search engine ‘picks you up’ those negative results will still continue to turn up in searches – just ask Rick Santorum. Since the Texas law firm relied on Internet traffic for a large portion of its business, it decided it had no alternative but to sue the anonymous blogger.
However, I read about this story on the law technology news – an outlet for law/technology geeks like myself. By filing a lawsuit, this firm had taken an issue would have gone relatively unnoticed and greatly magnified it.
Here, instead of turning to litigation, the better course of action might have been to write a follow up post to the review and then let the situation die down. Once your firm picks up some more positive reviews, the one negative comment will be overshadowed. You could also seek further facts about why the consumer left the negative review or you could even get creative – offer ‘Ben’ further legal representation at no cost since he was not previously satisfied. That might make the situation better.
I think we’ve come to the point now when most of us know about online reviews – and the people that write them. And if a person doesn’t know the difference between an online rant and an intelligible review, then maybe you don’t want to represent that person anyway.
In the age of Avvo.com some attorneys and firms have become obsessed with managing and defending their online reputation. And there’s nothing wrong with that – you should actively monitor what’s being said about you online (Google alerts are a good start).
But when you or your firm get attacked online and it’s time to respond, try to use common sense instead of turning into a lawyer and suing the reviewer. Is the $50,000 really going to make you whole again? The damage has already been done – and it’s probably worse than $50K … and only getting worse the more people hear about the story.
For a link to the complaint, click here.
 Dallas Firm Sues ‘Doe’ Defendant Over Online Review
 Slightly unrelated to the law, but an online of a local hiking trail comes to mind. The online reviewer gave the local San Diego trail one star because it didn’t compare to Yosemite. Well, very few trails do and I can’t get in my car and drive 8 hours to the Sierra Nevada Mountains!