How to Respond to Negative Reviews of Your Law Firm

You’re the managing attorney of an established firm in your area. Your firm boasts all positive reviews, but one day you log on and see the unimaginable – a terrible, negative one-star review. 

It might read something like this:

poor attorney review


That’s harsh, and you’re worried the review will disrupt business. But before hitting ‘Respond’ and defending yourself with a snarky comment, consider how your response will influence dozens – maybe even hundreds – of potential clients’ opinions of your firm.

More importantly, your response needs to be ethical, at least in the eyes of the American Bar Association. Not sure what that means? You could be on the verge of breaking client confidentiality rules. 

How you respond to negative reviews can be just as impactful as the reviews themselves. In this blog post, we’ll explore the dos and don’ts of responding to negative law firm reviews, empowering you to turn criticism into an opportunity for growth and improvement.

Why Responding to Negative Reviews Is So Important

Responding to negative reviews demonstrates professionalism, a commitment to client satisfaction, and a willingness to address concerns, all of which are essential for maintaining a positive reputation and attracting new clients.The BrightLocal 2023 Local Consumer Review Survey found that over 88% of consumers are likely to use a business if they can see the business owner responds to all reviews, positive or negative.likely respond negative reviews


No one trusts perfection, but everyone trusts honesty. Research suggests that potential clients who see one or more negative reviews of a firm are five times more likely to interact with your website. 

Having a perfect five-star rating may seem like a good thing, but actually perceived as too good to be true. 

Long story short: clients want to find out why someone left a bad review because this helps them decide whether or not to use your services. 

Additionally, responsiveness, specifically within Google My Business, is considered a ranking factor by Google. This is one of many reasons why responding to reviews, negative or positive, is crucial as Google rewards this practice with increased visibility.

What to Do if Your Firm Receives a Negative Review

1. Don’t respond impulsively. Give yourself time to calm down

You’re probably itching to type out the perfect retort, but don’t fire from the hip. Heat-of-the-moment responses rarely get you anywhere, and just one snarky comment could spell big trouble apropos of client confidentiality.After all, responding with derision to an individual’s review makes it pretty obvious that they were your client – or you at least know who they are. And disclosing that information to millions of potential readers? That’s a major violation of the client-lawyer relationship.

2. Respond to the negative review within 48 hours

The only thing worse than a callous response is a late one, or, even worse, no response at all. It’s entirely unprofessional to “ghost” a client and leave their comment abandoned in the ether of the internet. People will notice, just as they’ll notice a two-month delay in the initial review and your response.Don’t give angry reviewers the opportunity to “prove themselves right” about you. After you’ve had the time to calm down and think from their perspective, you need to respond to their review within 48 hours.businesses respond negative reviewsThink about it – someone was so frustrated that they took the time to download an app, then draft and submit a complaint. Do you really think they’re just going to forget about it as soon as their phone says “Review submitted?” They won’t forget, and neither should you. Respond promptly and respectfully – more on drafting ethical responses below.

3. Take the conversation offline

Rule 1.6 of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules for Professional Conduct states:“A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.”Let’s break that down.“Reasonable Effort”A “reasonable effort” to prevent disclosing the fact that you represented a certain client is fairly simple. Thank them for their review, let them know you are using their feedback to make improvements, then invite them to contact you directly. This demonstrates your willingness to address their concerns in a private and confidential manner. Information Relating to the Representation of a Client”One of the most important pieces of information is that this specific person was, in fact, a client of yours. To protect their info, you need to refrain from acknowledging that they were your client. Avoid saying things like, “In our last meeting…” or, “You didn’t seem like you wanted to take that route.” It’s best to keep online responses broad, but warm. Again, ask the reviewer to contact your office directly, where you can confirm that you represented them and work to resolve their concern.

4. Showcase your firm’s values and commitment to client satisfaction

Negative reviews provide an opportunity to showcase your firm’s values and commitment to client satisfaction. Emphasize your dedication to providing high-quality legal services and your willingness to go above and beyond to ensure client satisfaction. By highlighting your firm’s values, you can mitigate the impact of negative reviews and reinforce your reputation as a trusted and reliable legal provider.

5. Make sure your response is personalized and sincere

Using a generic response is better than none, but it doesn’t showcase your interpersonal skills or reassure potential clients about your firm’s problem-solving abilities. That’s why it’s important to personalize your response and demonstrate genuine engagement.While it’s okay to use a template as a starting point, aim to address the reviewer’s specific concerns and make them feel valued as an individual. This doesn’t mean divulging confidential details but rather expressing gratitude for their feedback, showing empathy, and offering assistance.For example, compare these two responses to a negative review:

  • “Thank you for your feedback. For further assistance, please contact our office at 123.456.7890.”
  • “Hi, Sam. I appreciate you sharing your experience, and I’m sorry to hear about your disappointment. Would you be open to discussing this further? You can reach me directly at 123.456.7890. I’m committed to resolving this for you.”

Which response do you think would make you feel heard and valued? The difference is significant for the unhappy client.Before posting your response, carefully review it. Does it genuinely address the reviewer’s concerns and convey sincerity? If it feels impersonal, consider revising it.Remember, potential clients observe how you handle feedback, even outside your website’s controlled environment. 

6. Reflect on the review and consider possible ways to improve

As you cool down from the blistering review, reflect on the plausibility of their comments. Are the reviewer’s concerns at all valid? Can you think of something you said that may have been misinterpreted by the client? Did you say something that went against your subsequent actions? Did you make promises you couldn’t keep?It’s okay if you have no recollection of possible short-sightedness, but you should absolutely take this opportunity to improve. For example, if a former client leaves a review saying you were impossible to get in touch with, you may want to switch communication channels to something more reciprocal.Check out our top three picks for lawyer-client communication:

What to Do if a Review Is Misleading or Threatening

Some attorneys receive factually incorrect, misleading, or even threatening reviews by disgruntled clients or people operating some kind of retaliatory spam.If this happens to you, you may request that the platform host remove the review. If the review is particularly egregious or if the perpetrator has been found to leave lots of falsified reviews, the platform host may remove them indefinitely.Here are some important links to help report threatening reviews:

  • Click here to request the removal of a review from your Google My Business profile.
  • Click here to report a review on Yelp.
  • Click here to request a review be put through the dispute process on Avvo.

By now, you should feel confident responding to even the most spiteful of reviews. Remember, your response to negativity shapes the way clients perceive you and your firm. It’s important to show potential clients that you’re reasonable, understanding, and can keep a cool head.

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