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  • Paul Richardson

Online Reputation Management: Ignoring the Negative Reviews Won’t Make Them Disappear

Even people who love attention usually get butterflies in their stomachs when they Google their own names, especially now that so many people use the Internet as a place for the ugliest and most misanthropic parts of their souls to run wild. Most people don’t have to worry about what the Internet might be saying behind their backs; they only Google their names when they are about to have a job interview.


For better or worse, though, lawyers cannot run from their online reputations; it is usually the first thing that prospective clients see. Negative online reviews, which are theoretically visible to everyone in perpetuity, are such a source of anxiety for lawyers and practitioners of other reviewable professions that online reputation management has become a major industry.



The Old Ways Don’t Work Anymore


In the old days, it was possible to deal with negative online reviews by simply waiting for them to go away. The domain name might expire, or people might write enough positive reviews to boost your average score and push the negative review so far down the list that hardly anyone would read it. Today, web content is more permanent, and it is much harder to fool search engines with fake reviews. The negative publicity is much easier to find, so now you must deal with it instead of just trying to paint over it.


Telling Your Side in a Respectful Way


Getting involved in flame wars online is unbefitting of a lawyer. When a negative review misrepresents you, though, it is fine to write a respectful rebuttal. It is bad enough when a jury finds your client guilty, but it is worse when, the next day, you find an online review entitled “Branwell Bloggins Is a Lousy Lawyer.” The reviewer goes on to say that, because of your incompetence, her brother is serving a ten-year sentence for drug possession with intent to deliver. You, of course, know that the review doesn’t tell the whole story. You counseled the defendant to plead guilty and offered to try to get his charges reduced to simple possession. He had a previous possession conviction for which the charges could have been dropped if he had followed his previous lawyer’s advice and completed a pretrial diversion program. At trial, you made every effort to establish reasonable doubt, but the defendant was obviously guilty. For a variety of reasons, he might be eligible for parole or be able to get his time reduced.


In a Word document, offline, write what you wish you could say, all of it. The defendant was obviously guilty, but his sister is delusional about her brother’s drug problem. His previous lawyer didn’t do a good enough job of getting him into a pretrial diversion program and supporting him through it. A few days later, reread what you wrote, and edit out the parts about what the defendant’s sister and previously lawyer did wrong. Do say, “I advised this defendant to plead guilty, but he chose to exercise his right to a fair trial,” and then go on to explain the laws and processes of plea deals, pretrial diversion, repeat offenses, and so on. Meanwhile, on your website, highlight cases you have won.


Let Law Blog Writers Do the Writing


You can count on Law Blog Writers to produce engaging blog content that gives readers a refuge from the troll-infested swamp that is most of the Internet.

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