The Truth About Lawyer Review Sites
It’s not surprising that in this digital day and age, the Internet has become a “go to” place for people in need of help to locate, analyze, and select legal representation. As a result … like it or not, it is imperative that attorneys who want to have profitable law businesses have a stellar online presence.
Here’s the thing: lawyer review websites can play an integral role in how you are perceived by potential clients and also people (like other lawyers and other service professionals) who can refer your legal services to others. The ratings and comments that are left by clients on these types of sites directly impact your reputation and ultimately your ability to leverage the Internet to (i) attract new clients and (ii) convert the prospective clients who are searching for you online in order to validate your credibility – into paying clients.
As an attorney, it is important to manage your online reputation on lawyer review websites because to avoid the potentially disastrous impact of negative clients reviews – which can not be deleted, only managed.
Consider the following:
In 2012, Adrian Philip Thomas (principal of The Law Offices of Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A.) asserted that his law firm lost business based upon negative ratings and reviews posted on LawyerRatingz.com. The firm threatened legal action against LawyerRatingz.com unless all reviews – both positive and negative – were removed from the site.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) (an organization dedicated to protecting rights in the digital world) decided to represent LawyerRatingz.com. EFF filed a lawsuit again Mr. Thomas in federal court to block threats against LawyerRatingz.com and in pursuit of a judicial ruling that LawyerRatingz.com is not legally responsible for material posted by third parties (like law firm clients) – in addition to other things.
In their complaint, the EFF asserted that LawyerRatingz.com is protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which states that “interactive computer services” cannot be “treated as the publisher or speaker of any information” provided by a third party.
EFF further said:
“Mr. Thomas's claims are merit-less and run afoul of bedrock legal principles protecting website operators. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act categorically protects providers of ‘interactive computer services' from suits such as this one seeking to make them responsible for the speech of their users. Without such protections, valuable sites like LawyerRatingz.com – or Facebook or Yelp or individual blogs that rely upon user comments – simply could not exist.”
At the end of the day, a settlement was negotiated in which LawyerRatingz.com dropped its lawsuit and Mr. Thomas agreed to release his ability to pursue any future claims related to the posting of negative reviews on LawyerRatingz.com. No ratings were removed as a part of the settlement.
The above scenario illustrates precisely why it is important for lawyers to manage their online reputations by systematically directing testimonials from their best clients to lawyer review sites. Manage your online reputation – or leave the clients who need you without the help only you can provide – and money on the table.
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