It Is Time to Rethink The Rules on Responding To Negative Reviews

The American Bar Association has an advisory opinion, No. 496, and an article on how to respond to negative reviews.

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/publications/litigation-news/top-stories/2021/how-to-ethically-respond-to-negative-online-reviews/

I tell lawyers not to respond to negative reviews. However, I believe that it is long past time for the rules to change. Under the current system, clients have free rein to disparage lawyers and lawyers can do little about it without incurring discipline.

Here is how I would like to see the rules change.

First, a client who writes a negative review of the lawyer should be on notice that the lawyer may respond to that review. The lawyer should be able to say “The review is false” or “The review is misleading.” The lawyer should be able to say “We did not represent this person.” or “We declined this person’s case” without any fear of a disciplinary proceeding.

Second, if the lawyer is falsely accused of a wrongful act, the lawyer should be able to respond to that accusation without fear of discipline, including explaining the facts necessary to rebut the false accusation.

Third, unless the client reveals her name and discloses confidential information, the lawyer should not reveal the client’s identity or any confidential information.

Note that the rules now do not allow the types of responses I have outlined above. The system is not fair to lawyers and it should be changed.

www.clintonlaw.net

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