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Top 5 Tips to Take Control of Your Online Reviews

There are few things in a lawyer's life worse than losing a case. One of those fates worse than a defeat is the dreaded negative online review.

Review sites like Yelp! allow the public to review attorneys based on their experiences. That means if you simply fail to return a potential client's phone call, they can go online and post a one star review, and say you never even bothered to call them back.

Below, you'll find five of the top tips to help you control your online reviews and reputation.

1. Don't Be Afraid to Ask

Clients want to leave you positive reviews. Reminding them that you like getting online reviews from your clients, and which sites you want reviews on, is generally permissible. But be careful not to imply, or specifically assert, that you only want good reviews, or that you're offering anything in return for good reviews. Though this shouldn't be an issue as you probably shouldn't be asking dissatisfied clients to leave reviews in the first place.

2. Regularly Read Reviews, Address Negative Reviews

Reviewing all the sites where your firm can be reviewed online should be done with regularity. Negative reviews, especially on sites like Yelp!, can seriously hamper the incoming flow of potential clients.

When you get a negative review, you have several options on how to respond. Often, by reaching out to the reviewer, you can often find out what went wrong, and maybe even make things right and get the review taken down or changed by the reviewer. However, tread lightly and carefully as these situations can quickly turn litigious.

3. Sue the Bad Reviewers, or Not ...

Suing a person who leaves you a negative review may or may not be such a great idea. It really depends on the situation and the review. If the review is clearly false, then you may actually be justified in pursuing a defamation action. But, if there is any truth to the review, or if it is clearly an opinion, then a lawsuit might not be such a great idea.

4. Avoid Fake Reviews

Do not pay for fake reviews, do not ask friends or family to post fake reviews, and definitely do not create fake accounts to create fake reviews. Seriously, it may seem innocuous, and other businesses on Yelp! are clearly doing it, but you're not "other businesses" -- you're a law firm with serious ethical duties and other lawyer stuff. You can get in real trouble.

Regardless, consumers can smell the lack of authenticity on social media from a dozen servers away.

5. Do Good, And Be Nice

When it comes to protecting your reputation online, the best thing you can do is be good at what you do, uphold the ethical standards of the profession, be honest with your clients and the public, and deal fairly with adversaries. It also doesn't hurt to volunteer your time to help your community, as well as do some pro bono work to help the traditionally underrepresented.

If you espouse any of the stereotypically bad personality characteristics of lawyers, such as being an arrogant jerk that thinks they're more important than everyone else, don't be surprised when an online review calls you out for being you.

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