The number one reason clients post negative online reviews is because their attorneys made promises that weren’t kept.
As a result, the client’s expectations were dashed and their trust was eroded.
Another reason for negative feedback: rude, impersonal or unprofessional behavior by the attorney or their staff.
“Every client review is a big deal,” writes Steven Chung in Above the Law. “And if you are like me, you are probably going to skim through all of the same, bland-sounding five-star praises and look for the negative reviews. Because negative reviews combine two things that go well together: snark and drama. If someone was willing to spend an evening writing a scathing, emotional review, it must be true. And the customer is always right, right?”
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“I combed through a number of online attorney reviews, focusing on the snarky, angry, ‘I wish I could give zero stars to this @$$%&*%#!’ reviews,” writes Chung. “Here are the most common attorney complaints.”
- Broken promises and unmet expectations. Many of these complaints came from clients who felt they’d been burned on a contingency fee arrangement. “The client was under the impression that he would be awarded a certain amount of money and the attorney would get a percentage,” writes Chung. “However, after the case settles, the client does not get anywhere near the money he was either led to believe or had hoped to receive. He also learns that he is also responsible for certain costs like medical bills. So after everything is paid, the client ends up getting substantially less than he thought and sometimes even nothing at all.” Risk management takeaways: Explain fees and costs up front; put your agreement in writing; manage client expectations, especially if you advertise your big verdicts and settlements.
- Rude behavior. “The cause of the rudeness varies. Sometimes the client is rude and the person on the other end eventually responded in kind. Other times, someone at the office may have had a bad day and took it out on the next client on the phone. Or the client might be overly sensitive.” Risk management takeaways: Courtesy counts; emphasize this to your staff.
- Failure to communicate. Rarely if ever do clients complain that their lawyer communicates too much and gives them too much information. “Failure to communicate with a client can be a serious ethics violation. But in the age of the internet, this can also cost you business. So if the client is trying to get a hold of you, communicate with them.” Risk management takeaways: Return phone calls, texts and email messages; discuss your communication policy with your clients in the initial interview.
- My case was assigned to a paralegal or junior associate. Clients complain that their attorney ghosts them after the initial interview, passing their case to a subordinate instead. “[Clients don’t mind working only with the staff so long as their case is progressing along. But clients want to speak with the lawyer because they believe the lawyer is the authority. After all, that’s who they are paying. When these clients are only able to talk to a staff member, even a good one, they start to feel unwanted or question whether their case is winnable.” Risk management takeaways: Give clients the personal touch throughout the case.
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