Do Attorneys Need to Respond to Comments and Messages?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
The legal industry is much like that of any other in the sense that it’s generally a good idea to respond to comments and messages as long as you refrain from disclosing any confidential or sensitive information. Comments and messages directed to attorneys may come in many forms; from Facebook, Twitter, and blog comments to direct messages and attorney reviews, it’s important to know how to respond. The question in responding to comments and messages as an attorney is not usually whether or not to do so, but how to do so. Attorneys are expected to conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism at all times, so it’s important to convey professionalism, authority, and kindness in any response.
Responding to comments and messages in a timely manner can help build a connection of trust with clients.
This is particularly true when receiving messages. Responding within 24 hours or less to any messages received as an attorney is a good way to strengthen your impression of availability and professionalism. Waiting to respond to a message or comment until days or weeks after the fact may hurt your reputation, and will almost certainly not contribute to a bond of trust between a past, future, or potential client. It’s also important to do a general sweep of your response to a message or comment before clicking the “send” button. Typos, missed words, information that may be confidential or simply in bad taste to include, should be carefully vetted for and removed. Just as in conversations it can be easy to forget exactly what you said, but if you made a mistake or came across as abrasive in some way, the person you said it to is likely to remember.
Respond to the positive and the negative.
Responding to a positive comment, message, or review builds on both the existing relationship with that client or potential client, but also with your overall impression as an attentive and engaged legal representative—especially if the comment or review is public. Responses to positive communications should include a message of gratitude for the client’s expression of the positive sentiment, as well for the chance to work together at all. It never hurts to drop in a line establishing your openness to continue the relationship if they should ever have any questions or need further assistance. Responding with appreciation and timeliness to a positive comment or message can be the bow on top of a good client-attorney relationship.
However, responding to the negative comments, messages, and reviews is arguably even more important. Not to put too fine a point on it, an attorney’s ability to properly respond to “bad press” can largely decide their success or failure in the legal industry. A response that comes across as aggressive, defensive, argumentative, or simply never comes at all will likely only increase the bad impression the author of the comment or message already had. If a public comment or review is obviously unauthentic, you may be able to have it removed, but this should be done with caution. Deleting every bad comment or review can get an attorney in hot water and actually do more harm than good to their online reputation.
When responding to comments, messages, and reviews as an attorney, keep the following in mind:
- Be timely. Try to respond in 24 hours or less to all comments, messages, and reviews. If you know your schedule for the day will not allow for a detailed enough response, reply with a brief message saying that you have received the message and in an effort to devote the attention their message deserves you will reply within X amount of time.
- Be kind. Kindness can go a long way, especially in the legal industry where the media often portrays lawyers as cold, calculating, and impersonal. Remembering a personal anecdote or experience can help humanize you, or simply expressing gratitude for the opportunity to work together and/or get to know them or their family depending on the case.
- Acknowledge the writer’s experience, good or bad. A key skill in any customer service strategy is to acknowledge the writer’s perspective and experience. If a client had a bad experience, regardless of whether or not you think it’s valid, it’s important to acknowledge their feelings and express sympathy for the fact that they did not enjoy their experience. If the writer had a good experience, this is where you get to express your happiness that they enjoyed their experience with you.
- Do not argue. An online argument has rarely changed anyone’s mind. Not only is arguing with an online commenter or messenger ineffective, but it is also unprofessional. It’s important to ignore the bait and rise above the instinct to fight back, even if the commenter or messenger is obviously in the wrong.
- Do not share confidential information. This is a reminder that most attorneys are well aware of, but the American Bar Association reminds lawyers to avoid. This can be particularly grating when a negative comment, message, or review could be refuted with the facts of a case or situation that are unfortunately confidential. When this situation arises, you may remind the author of the comment or message that due to your ethical obligations you are not permitted to share the information, but continue to express a willingness to resolve their complaint if possible.
- Communicate a willingness to work together in the future or toward an acceptable solution. This applies to both positive and negative comments and messages. Communicating a willingness to answer any future questions or to be available for future help for a client who had a positive experience is both friendly and professional. Even more professional is to communicate a willingness to work toward a resolution for someone who claims to have had a bad experience. If the comment or review is public it might be a good idea to invite them to a private conversation via email or a messaging system.
For more attorney tips on responding to comments and messages, reach out to an attorney marketing expert.