Lawyer Reviews – Reader Beware!

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers!”  Clearly, William Shakespeare was not in the midst of an ugly divorce or custody battle when he wrote those immortal words.  Had Will actually needed a divorce or custody lawyer, instead of killing them, he would have done an internet search on family lawyers and carefully read all of the reviews before considering which lawyer was represent his rights in court.

Everyone hopes that they can share the opinions of William Shakespeare and never need the assistance and guidance of a family lawyer.  What do you do however, when the unexpected happens and you are in need of someone who is going to fight for you and more importantly your children?  The decision to hire a lawyer can be one of the most impactful decisions of your life.  It is imperative that you find the best fit for you.   A savvy consumer will research websites, consider experience and read reviews.  When you read the reviews, however, you need to consider if you are reading an actual client review of an attorney or if you are reading a story of defeat, retaliation or just plain vengeance. Some clients will turn to the internet to share their opinions of the legal process and their respective attorneys.  However, many times, reviews that are written, are written by opposing parties who left the process scorn and need to seek vengeance on the attorney that made the legal process so unpleasant.

When you read a negative review, consider the author.  Is the author actually a client of the attorney?  If, in reading the negative review, it is obvious that the author is the opposing party then consider why the opposing party took the time and energy to write a negative review of the other attorney.  Sometimes the best compliment of an attorney doing his or her job comes from the other side leaving the courtroom upset.

If the negative review is written by a client, read and consider the other reviews.  Does the negative review conform to what others are saying or is the negative a review a stand alone?  There are times when a client wants a lawyer to take a position contrary her advice.  When that happens, an ethical lawyer will withdraw from the case, likely leaving the client upset.  Is the negative review written by a client who is upset that the attorney did not do what he wanted her to do?  Or, perhaps the client is upset at the amount of fees which were charged.  However, that could have been due to circumstances beyond the lawyer’s control such as a difficult client or difficult opposing counsel.  Some clients are upset at the situation itself but the lawyer is the handy target to blame.

Most people do not realize that ethical rule prohibit lawyers from responding in detail to a negative review.  Always keep in mind the old adage, there are two sides to every story.  There have been times when an attorney reads a negative review and literally screams at her computer screen, “that is not what happened at all!”  The reader of that negative review will never know the “other side” because the ethical lawyer is prohibited from sharing any details that could even remotely violate the attorney client privilege.   A savvy reader of lawyer reviews will consider the fact that there is an explanation (or even correction) to the negative review, that that explanation will never be known by the reader.

Make sure that you read all the reviews from all sources.  A client may review an attorney on AVVO, but not on Google.  Make sure that you research several review platforms (Google, Yahoo, AVVO, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc.) to obtain a full picture of what clients are saying about your potential lawyer.  While reviews are pivotally important, you must also consider experience.  The more experienced the lawyer, the more likely he is to have a negative review or two.  It is simply the law of averages.  Do not let a negative review deter you from scheduling a consultation.   If reading a negative review gives you pause, ask the lawyer about it in your consultation.  For instance, if a negative review indicates that the lawyer was unresponsive, ask the lawyer, “what is your policy for returning phone calls and emails?”  If after reading a review, you have concerns about a lawyer being unnecessarily litigious, ask the lawyer what her policy is on settlement.

In summary, it is imperative to read attorney reviews prior to selecting an attorney.  However, it is just as important to be smart about what you read and consider the author.  Finally, never let a review stop you from consulting with a lawyer that you feel will be a good fit.  You can judge for yourself after that meeting whether you are comfortable with the lawyer after listening to what he or she has to say.