You’ve been working on review generation for your law firm. You’ve been carefully building your online reputation and visibility in local search with those efforts. Everything has been going great until—shut the front door—you get a terrible review from an unhappy reviewer. 


Are you mad? Are you sad? Are you disappointed, shocked, and hurt? All those feelings are totally normal. After all, why should one person’s negative opinion have so much power over you? Why do they get to flush all your hard work right down the drain?

But here’s the thing…bad reviews happen. It’s something every business goes through at some point, and I’m here to tell you that you CAN turn it into something good for law firm.

In fact, if you take the tips below to heart, that bad review can end up making your law firm look totally awesome! So, before you hit the button to respond, let’s talk about all the ways you can get it just right.

1. Don’t Respond Impulsively to a Bad Review

It’s tough for anyone to take criticism that feels unwarranted, and it’s a whole lot harder when you feel like your business, reputation, and livelihood are in the balance. For lawyers, especially, your brand is yourself, and a bad review can really sting. 

But don’t be tempted to fly off the handle or get into a fight. While reviews DO play a big part in your local search visibility and potential clients’ first impressions of your firm, one bad review isn’t the end of the world. 

Ultimately, Google doesn’t expect or require law firms to have a perfect 5 stars to rank highly in local search. It’s understood that no one can please everybody all the time, and your potential clients understand that, too. People expect to see some neutral or negative reviews mixed in with the positive. It can even make you seem more “real” than a law firm that has pages and pages of cookie-cutter, positive reviews! 

So, relax. Don’t get mad. Don’t get even. Just get your composure and put your very best customer service skills to work. While potential clients will probably see that bad review, they’ll form their impressions and opinions based on how you choose to respond it.

2. Don’t Let Bad Law Firm Reviews Slip Through the Cracks

The absolute worst thing you can do with a bad review is to just be blissfully unaware that it’s even out there. When you find it six months or a year later, you can’t respond effectively. And, no matter what you do at that point, you look like the one that dropped the ball—even if the review is inaccurate or unfair. 

A prompt response to a bad review is always going to make you look good, and it’s going to give you the best chance to work out what’s going on with the unhappy reviewer. If you’re totally unaware of the review until months down the road, any response you give is going to look a little lukewarm.

The good news is that you don’t have to be in and out of review sites, checking it all manually all the time. There are lots of great tools that can help you automatically stay on top of it, including the Reputation Management Tool in DSS. You’ll get notifications any time your law firm is reviewed on popular review sites, so you always know what people are saying about you. 

It couldn’t be any easier! 

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3. Take the Conversation Offline for Resolution 

Let’s be realistic. You probably won’t be able to make an unhappy client happy with a single response on a review site. And a public review site probably isn’t where you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of the complaint, anyway. 

So, one of your main goals when you respond to a negative review is to get the reviewer to reach out to you personally. Don’t just apologize and leave them hanging! Instead, you should invite them to call you, email you, drop by the office, or take some other action to resolve their complaint. It shows them that you’re taking them seriously, and it gives you a chance to really talk with them about their concerns and figure out what went wrong. 

What if there is no resolution to the reviewer’s complaint? Well, even if resolution is out of the question, you can still show that you took the feedback seriously and did something about it. For example, if an angry reviewer has made it clear that they will NEVER work with you again, it an opportunity to say something like:

“I apologize for the negative experience you had with our team. I’ve used your feedback to improve our staff training and make sure something like this never happens again.” 

Even if it doesn’t change the individual situation, it shows other readers that you care about their experience and are actively willing to improve when a problem is brought to your attention.

4. Be Sincere and Specific When You Respond to a Negative Review…

A “canned” response is probably better than nothing at all, but it’s not doing a lot to show off your people skills or give potential clients confidence that your law firm can really resolve problems. That’s why you want to go the extra mile to really show that it’s YOU that’s listening. 

It’s totally fine to loosely follow a template, but you want to be specific in addressing the reviewer’s problems and making them feel like a real human is responding to their concerns. That doesn’t mean that you have to get into case details, personal information, or anything else totally inappropriate to put online. It just means that you want to make sure that you’ve thanked them for the feedback, made them feel heard, and responded with concern. 

As an example, look at these two potential responses to a bad review:

“Thank you for your feedback. You can direct any questions or complaints to our customer service team at 888.888.8888.” 

“Hi, Karl. Thanks for letting me know about this, and I’m sorry to hear that you had a bad experience. Would you be willing to talk more about it with me at 888.888.8888? I’d really appreciate the chance to make this right for you.”

Which one makes you feel like your complaints are being taken seriously? Which one makes you feel like you’re being dismissed by a robot? The difference is huge if you’re in the unhappy client’s shoes. 

So, before you post your response to a review, always read over it carefully. Does it really address the reviewer’s concerns? Does it sound sincere, or does it sound like something you could cut and paste from a script? If it’s the latter, try again.  

Potential customers will be paying close attention to the way you respond, and—even though they’re not in the carefully crafted brand environment of your website—they still forming their impressions of you from what they see. This is your chance to really show them your law firm’s core values and commitment to your clients!

5. …But Don’t Overexplain Yourself

Of course, you’re a lawyer. You deal with sensitive information for your clients, and you don’t want to get into too much detail or accidentally get too personal. That’s why you should always keep your responses short and sweet and save the rest for when you get a chance to speak to the reviewer in person. 

If you overexplain, you’re only going to look defensive, desperate, and maybe even combative. If you write five paragraphs in response, it’s likely they’ll just stop listening. 

So, just keep your goal in mind. When you respond to a negative review, all you really need to do is thank them, briefly address their concerns, and give them a path to make it better. 

That’s it!

6. Respond to Positive Reviews, Too 

Give people a quick thank-you response when they leave you a glowing review. Keep it brief, but not too brief. Everything you learned above still applies here. For example, imagine you just received this review from a past client:

“My attorney was excellent, and I would recommend her to anyone!” 

Now, consider the difference between these two responses:

“Thank you.”

“Thanks, Jenny! I enjoyed working with you, and I’m glad to hear you had a great experience with us.” 

Do you see the difference? The first response seems a little cold and canned. It could be the response to ANY review. The second response is warm and personal. It shows that you’re engaged, and it encourages more people to leave reviews because it’s clear that you care and you’re listening. 

Besides, there’s also some evidence that reviews with responses from the business are more likely to show up when people search for you. So, you definitely don’t want every review with a response to be a negative one!

7. Take the Right Steps to Deal With Fake Reviews

This isn’t something that’s a frequent problem, but it is worth mentioning briefly. Some businesses have had issues with “fake reviews” showing up on their profiles. These are reviews that—for whatever reason—come from people that aren’t clients of your firm and have never had any interaction with you. 

We’ve heard about situations where fake, negative reviews were coming from a sneaky competitor. We’ve heard about situations where hundreds of fake reviews were part of “brigading” against a business that got caught in the middle of a political issue—or maybe just ran afoul of a vindictive social media user with lots of friends. 

I’m not saying this to scare you; it’s really pretty rare. But I do want you to know what to do if it happens to you.    

On most review sites, suspected fake reviews can be flagged or reported. You typically just need to check out the review site’s FAQs or contact their customer service to figure out the best way to do so. They might take down the fake review. They might suspend reviews for a short period to stop a huge influx of fake reviews. However, this isn’t always a perfect solution.  

Review sites aren’t necessarily going to be willing to put a lot of time into an investigation. And some sites won’t take down posted reviews even if they’re clearly fake. So, it’s an option you need to reserve for the most extreme circumstances. 

Unless you’re getting tons of harassing reviews that you suspect are fake, you might be better off just saying something like:

“I’m so sorry you had a subpar experience! I don’t see your name on our past or current client list, but I encourage you to give me a call at 888.888.8888 to figure it out. Do you maybe have us mixed up with another law firm?” 

You can always offset any negative or inaccurate reviews by gathering more positive, sincere reviews. And, if it’s obvious to everyone that the review is a prank or a fake, it might be one of those very rare cases when it’s best not to respond at all. 

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8. Put What You’ve Learned Into Practice

It’s not just you. Everyone gets a “bad” or negative review once in a while. Sometimes, it’s because your office legitimately dropped the ball. Sometimes, it’s just…because. But, either way, every bad review is a big opportunity to show your customer service skills in action.

So, before we wrap up, let’s go through an example that uses everything you just learned. 

Imagine you get a review like this:

Disgruntled former client: “I’m writing today because I don’t think that ANYONE EVER should hire this ‘attorney.’ He totally screwed up what should have been a simple case, leaving me without my kids, without any money, and without a hope! I should have known from the beginning as he rarely returned my calls without repeated reminders from me and it seemed like he didn’t even remember who I was half the time! If I were you, I would keep looking for another lawyer, unless you want to be TOTALLY SCREWED and BROKE from his high fees and TERRIBLE LEGAL ADVICE! RUN AWAY FROM THIS LAWYER AND NEVER LOOK BACK!!!!”

Which one of the following responses is the best?

A. “Your claims are ridiculous. First off, you ruined your own case by missing all scheduled hearings and leaving the country unannounced for 4 months. Then you fired me because you wanted to represent yourself without any legal guidance. I’m frankly glad you won’t be coming back because…” 

B. “Thank you for your review. You can call our customer service line during business hours with your questions. We appreciate your trust in Example Law Firm, LLC!” 

C. “I understand your frustration; nobody wants a negative outcome from their case. What I want more than anything is to investigate what happened and address your issues personally. Please call the office at 888.888.8888 as soon as possible so that we can discuss your grievances and come to a resolution. I appreciate your feedback, and I will do everything I can to make this right.”

D. “Sorry you feel that way.”

Did you choose response C? If so, great job! This response hits all the marks: It’s short and to the point. It feels sincere. It thanks the reviewer for communicating, and it offers a road to resolution beyond the review site. That’s the perfect way to respond to a bad review!

Are You Protecting Your Good Reputation Online? If Not, Foster Web Marketing Can Help!

Are you doing everything you can to build on your already stellar reputation? Do you need to get more positive reviews and testimonials for your law firm or business but it seems too "hit and miss" for your liking? No worries, Foster Web Marketing can help with our Reputation Management service. Please contact us online or call our office directly at 888.866.0939 to schedule your free consultation with our experienced marketing team. We have been helping clients throughout the United States and internationally since 1998 and are confident we can help you not only reach, but exceed your goals.

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