Hey, you do you, right?
I mean, that’s the way of the world anymore. Except … when what you want to do is not cool.
So, real talk. Sometimes, we have clients who aren’t happy. I think probably just about every professional service group (doctors, lawyers, accountants, therapists, whatever) ultimately have some unhappy clients sometimes. Just about every business does, too.
Some of that is just a function of real life. We deal in divorce so, statistically speaking, our client base isn’t the happiest group of people. Because some of them are pretty unhappy, it can be hard to find happiness with your divorce lawyer. The process is too long, too expensive, too painful, and, unfortunately, as the ringleader of the whole affair, it can sort of foster the feeling that the attorney has something to do with that, even if it’s not true.
Some of that is also just that there are a certain number of people – should we call them Karens? – who would never be happy with any outcome, at any restaurant, in any business, with any professional, under any circumstances. No doctor prescribes enough narcotics, no restaurant provides flawless enough service, no manicurist gets perfectly even coverage, no hair stylist does the absolute most perfect blowout in the history of the universe, and no divorce attorney gets near enough spousal support to satisfy this person. Right? That happens. It happens everywhere, no matter how good the experience or the customer service.
Sometimes, too, we all make mistakes. We’re human. It happens. There’s not a single one of us out there who hasn’t made a mistake, probably both personally and professionally. So, sometimes, we have unhappy clients because of a mistake we made – though its the very, very rare mistake that we can’t fix, sometimes the relationship still can’t be repaired.
Sometimes, any one of those people takes to the internet to air their grievances. It’s the way of the modern world. We all leave feedback, for products or services we’ve purchased or received, online for other consumers. We do this, typically, when we’re super happy or when we’re super not happy. There’s often not that much in between, because it takes effort to physically write and share a review, and who is going to go to that kind of a trouble for an experience that was just meh?
Most consumers make decisions about whether to buy a product or a service based on those reviews, at least in part. It definitely makes up a part of that analysis. Divorce lawyers are no different. Whether you’re looking at Amazon reviews to find the best air fryer or Google reviews to find the best divorce attorney, you know you’re reading them. You want to see both what’s been written – about the firm and about the individual attorney, if possible – and how the business has responded, especially to the negative reviews.
It probably goes without saying that most businesses will have some negative reviews. You can usually get a pretty strong sense of things by the reviews. Does that person sound unreasonable? Were her expectations sky high? Is she just a Karen? Or is there something more legitimate there?
You’ll also see how the business handled the bad reviews. Did they respond? Was action taken? Can you even tell for sure that the person was a client? (Yes, we’ve gotten bad reviews from people whose names don’t show up ANYWHERE in our files! It’s hard to know how to respond to that.)
It’s a consumers prerogative to share their experience, and it’s really important that prospective clients are able to look through the reviews to get a sense of the client experience. We encourage our clients to write reviews about their experiences because we know how important it is for others to see. Hiring a divorce attorney is a big decision.
Knowing what others have said about that attorney, and that firm, is important to your ability to make a big decision and feel like an educated consumer. You should be able to share these experiences, provided that they are true, freely and fully. You should be able to read the feedback other consumers have shared, and use that to guide the choices you make yourself.
A big red flag – like a huge red flag – would be if a lawyer, or really any other business or professional service, tried to prevent you from doing that. I’ve heard recently that there are firms who provide in their retainer agreement that their clients are not allowed to share negative feedback about the firm and that, if they do, they’ll be sued for defamation. It even – and this is particularly shocking – includes an ‘escalator clause’ that says that, if the firm has to sue for damages, they’ll sue for the amount of fees paid by the client and multiply it by a certain amount, which seems both absurd and egregious to me.
I mention this, not to name names, but to urge you to do your due diligence. Read the retainer agreement. Ask questions about anything that doesn’t seem to make sense to you. If you meet with multiple attorneys, compare the retainer agreements – see whether anything stands out to you. If it doesn’t seem right, ask around. Ask another attorney. Ask that attorney, even.
But just know that there is nothing like that in our retainer agreement. You can be sure that the reviews you’ve read on Google and Avvo are 100% real and accurate. We haven’t tried to shape them in any way; they’re completely honest feedback. Not everyone is always happy, of course. But it’s all real.
So, as you’re looking at reviews, expect to see some bad. If you see a firm with all 5 star, glowing reviews, maybe schedule a consultation – but make sure you also read their retainer agreement first! No one should prevent you from sharing your experiences, good and bad, with others. No one should manipulate their feedback to bamboozle other clients into hiring them. It’s not cool.
You do you. But you shouldn’t do that!
For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.