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Negative Reviews

The online marketplace has forever altered the way customers and clients interact with the businesses that they work with. And your firm is no different. The more clients you represent, the greater the likelihood that you will receive your share of online reviews. Although every attorney prefers to have perfect marks across the board in regards to feedback from their services, not all comments are created equal. In some cases, you’ll need to be wary of unsatisfied clients who may attempt to tarnish your good name in the form of negative reviews. Whether it’s the result of an unfavorable verdict for a client, or simply someone who is trolling just for the fun of it, it’s important to understand how to appropriately respond to negative reviews that are posted on your website or social channels.

So how should an attorney handle negative reviews?

Understand the Client’s Point-of-View:

There may be many factors that led to the negative review. Before making assumptions and formulating a response of your own, take some time to understand the rationale behind your client’s comments. Who posted it? Are the criticisms/concerns mentioned valid? Look back at your previous case files to refresh your memory on the kind of encounter you had with this particular individual. The first step is determining whether or not the comment deserves your utmost attention or if it’s just a mere instigator.

Where Was the Review Posted?

Sometimes client information may not be available so you need to work with other factors that the review provides – such as grievances listed against your professional conduct and so forth. If the review is prominent on the first page of a Google search for your firm, it’s probably impacting customer traffic to your firm. Reviews posted on any of your social media platforms are typically the most prominent, considering that social posts are usually the most viewed on a regular basis. Concerns posted on social feeds should be addressed as soon as possible, despite their validity. But if a bad review is buried on an obscure review site somewhere, it may not be worth worrying about.

Respond Professionally:

In the case that the review is buried somewhere obscure, is a little outdated and doesn’t seem to be impacting your business, you’re probably safe with just ignoring it. If it’s blatantly wrong, or mistakenly posted on the wrong firm’s page entirely, you can flag the review or report it as spam, depending on what the review platform offers. However, carefully consider doing this, as it can be taken poorly, especially if you start flagging legitimate negative reviews.

If you do decide that the negative review is worth responding to, remember your position and treat the situation as professionally as possible. Keep your cool and avoid personally attacking the individual’s integrity, as this could fuel their anger even further. Your best bet is to keep your response short by apologizing for their disappointment. Encourage them to contact your office via phone to further discuss the issue so that the venue of the disagreement is taken offline and out of sight from the general public. In addition, don’t do anything that may give away personal details or provide a breach in ethical conduct.

First and foremost, your goal is to neutralize any and all negative reviews with complete respect and understanding of the client’s dissatisfaction. A mishandled complaint could mean the difference between a civilized resolution and possibly further damaging your professional reputation. Always leave lines of communication open and offer a listening ear should your client wish to discuss the matter further. So remember to listen, sympathize, and of course… always remain enchanting!

Have you or your firm ever received a negative review online? How did you personally handle the situation and what would your advice be to others on how to effectively appease a disgruntled client?

I’d love to hear from you, so be sure to share your experiences in the comment box below!

Social Media Blunders

Social media is a powerful tool for connection with friends and colleagues. Many professionals of all stripes have flocked to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to expand their networking circles. However, lawyers on social media need to consider the ethicality of their online actions. We’ve all seen social media blunders on personal social pages, but attorneys, in particular, should be taking strict precautions online to avoid falling into ethical pitfalls.

5 Social Media Blunders to Steer Clear From and Why.

1. Don’t Reveal Classified Information:

It may be obvious that sharing classified information is a no-go for social media posts, but sometimes a tweet fired off in jest or mentioning someone you know through your job may tip your hand. Always think twice before posting or replying to other posts to ensure that you don’t accidentally let something slip.

2. Avoid Anything that Looks or Sounds like an Advertisement:

In order to keep your social media activity above board, you need to carefully vet the way you present yourself in your media profiles. Your ethical responsibilities as a lawyer compel you to avoid posts or profile information that conveys any type of marketing representation or anything else of an ad-like nature.

You also want to avoid any type of post that could be constituted as a prohibited solicitation. While communications with your close friends and family may not present a problem, the public nature of social media may broadcast your information to a wider audience.

3. NEVER Give Legal Advice:

Though social media may present an easy way to stay in touch on the go and offer a quick note for friends seeking advice or clients who want after hours consultation, don’t use it for this purpose. Keep your legal communications professional and on-the-record to avoid running into problems with your social media communication.

4. ALWAYS Proofread:

Misspellings or grammatical errors may fly on a personal account, but not on a social business account intended to paint your practice in a professional light. Before posting or sharing anything on your feed, always double and even triple check your content for possible typos or verbiage that may be difficult to understand. The same goes for all profiles, tags, ‘about’ sections and responses to followers. Since no one wants to hire an attorney that can’t properly spell or speak eloquently, your credibility depends on it.

5. Mind Your Friend/Follower Lists:

Some states are very particular about who lawyers may befriend in social media circles. In certain jurisdictions, lawyers and judges may not friend or follow each other on social networks in order to avoid improper mingling. If you have close professional relationships that spill over into your personal life, take care to verify the propriety of your social media activity as it pertains to these individuals.

Clients, too, are best avoided on social media. Do not friend or connect with individuals who are directly related to cases that you or your firm are representing or have represented in the past. And don’t use social media as a tool to check out important players to situations you have privileged knowledge about. While social media posts have a very public nature and things posted to a wide audience may cross your path, do not use questionable manners to look for information beyond the surface.

Careless social media blunders are things that attorneys and their firms simply can’t afford to make. What may seem like a harmless comment or action on a global social platform could significantly affect your reputation and online brand. Keep these suggestions in mind every time you sign into any of your social accounts to remain neutral, professional, and enchanting!

Have you seen a social blunder? Share below, I would love to hear your story! Be sure to follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/myimmigrationlawyer/

Conflicts of Interest

Unraveling the details of a case takes dedication and persistence to learn the truth and accurately communicate it. After all, that’s why your clients hire you in the first place! However, there are some gray areas that make transparency complicated. Some of the biggest areas of concern are conflicts of interest.

Conflicts of interest are a definite no-no when it comes to representing your clients, but they can be tricky to spot. And while you personally may not be impacted, it is important to keep your firm in mind before proceeding with a potential conflict of interest.

Perform a Conflict Check:

Always double-check for potential conflicts before digging into a case. Sometimes clients may have relationships with other clients that you or your firm have represented. Other times, conflict may not be evident until later on in a case. Either way, keep an open mind and stay alert of possible things that could compromise the outcome of a case.

Implementing a system that provides facts and information that will help you to discern whether a conflict exists can help you to be better informed before you proceed. These are some conflict instances that you need to remain mindful about:

  • Connections between current clients and prospective clients
  • Links between former clients and prospective clients
  • Complications that relate to the lawyer’s/firm’s best interests

Keep Lines of Communication Open:

It is important to remain constantly vigilant that an issue could arise at any time. If it does, it’s essential not to ignore it, but to face it head on. Be open with clients about any existing or potential conflict that arises as you go proceed with. Finally, be prepared to discontinue representation of a client if circumstances surrounding their case become too conflicted.

What to Do When Conflicts of Interest Crop Up:

When a conflict of interest is uncovered, you have two options for proceeding:

  • Discontinue working with your client. The most obvious solution is to cease working with the client in question as soon as a conflict is discovered. Withdrawal of representation can be as simple as sending a non-engagement letter to a potential client or may be more involved, depending on which point you’re at in your case.
  • Continue client representation. Depending on the level of conflict, you may be able to keep working with your client by having them sign a waiver. This will allow them to acknowledge the conflict and permit you to continue work on the case.

Staying aware of conflicts of interest is crucial to successful client relationships and representation. Protect yourself and your firm by doing your due diligence to research clients and communicating with them throughout the legal process.

Check out more insights from industry experts on the Enchanting Lawyer Podcast!

File Management

Many people joke about professionals with messy desks and piles of papers. It can even be seen on social media through memes and graphic images illustrating how individuals with messy desks are often creative and well balanced. An attorney’s office with these file management habits, however, is no laughing matter. With client information and confidential details, one paper lost in the shuffle can drastically affect the outcome of a case.

The Importance of Proper File Management:

Organization is the cornerstone to success. Not only does it help operations run smoothly at your firm and aid in customer service, but staying organized is also an ethical and legal requirement as an attorney. The ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct discusses the need for lawyers to safeguard client property while maintaining their own records and copies.

This applies to an active client/lawyer relationship as well as a relationships that have been terminated: Rule 1.16(d) says that “upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to…protect a client’s interests, such as…surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee or expense that has not been earned or incurred.” They note that you may retain some papers to the extent of the law, but you may face consequences for the loss or destruction of client papers, materials or property.

Files You Need to Keep:

While there is no comprehensive list of the files you’re required to keep, a general rule of thumb includes:

  • Records of account funds and other property — like original papers
  • A copy of the statement of client rights, signed by you and your client
  • Trust account records about the funds or property of a client

It is also advised to hold on to papers from cases regarding:

  • Minors
  • Guardianships
  • Bonded Attorney Performance
  • Insolvency
  • Bankruptcy
  • Probate
  • Trust accounts
  • Criminal Law

The ABA has noted that “a client is not entitled to papers and property that the lawyer generated for the lawyer’s own purpose in working on the client’s matter.” However, if the client is terminated before the matter is resolved, you may need to turn over some of these files to the client.

Electronic Files:

Electronic files, such as emails, documents, and even voicemails, often have several backup copies. Just deleting one copy doesn’t mean you’ve gotten rid of everything. Ideally, look into a cleaning software program that permanently erases hard drive data by an overwriting process. This can prevent certain sensitive data from ever being recovered. Appointing a tech-savvy staff member to organize your electronic records is another great practice for file management.

How to Dispose of Files:

The best bet before destroying anything is to first contact the client. Verify what the client’s preference as to what should be done with dated files. Do NOT destroy anything before you get the proper approval. For large quantities of disposable files, services are available to shred them for you in bulk. This may spare you the stress of having to personally shred them which can prove to be tedious and time-consuming. One would hope this goes without saying, but NEVER throw any office papers with personal or professional information directly in the trash. Files left intact and thrown out haphazardly open the floodgates for a number of security breaches.

Now that we are officially in the 2017 New Year, there’s no better time than the present to stay on top of the crucial aspects of managing your firm such as file management. One way to do this is by subscribing to my weekly RSS feed. Receive bi-weekly notifications containing helpful tips and insights on how to become the enchanting firm you’ve always strived to be!

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Boost Staff Morale

Before you know it, the holiday season will have come and gone, but the spirit of giving and goodwill should be prevalent all throughout the year. Giving back to the community is one of the best things that any business can do, both for the people around them and the morale of their employees. Law firms are no exception and even offer unique skills that they can use to give back even more. Why not utilize these skills to help those in your community through your time and knowledge? Here are a few suggestions of ways your firm can make a difference, all while involving your employees to boost staff morale.

How Can You Boost Staff Morale While Serving the Community?

Collect Food, Toys, and Clothing:

The holiday season is an especially difficult time for those less fortunate to go without food and other everyday necessities. Consider arranging a collection area in your office for people to donate food, toys, clothing, and any number of other nonperishable items that can benefit local families. Get your staff involved with organizing and dispensing the items to appropriate food banks and charitable organizations.

Volunteer Your Time:

Your time may be considered the most valuable thing you can donate, by either volunteering your physical presence or your knowledge. Reserve a day to take your employees out on a volunteer team-building excursion. This could be anything from serving the homeless at the local soup kitchen or spending time at a nearby children’s hospital. Getting your staff members out of their comfort zones and face-to-face with real people just like them who have been dealt a raw deal can spark that true spirit of the holidays.

Provide Pro-Bono Services:

In regards to ways you can volunteer your time and/or expertise, you can provide legal advice or services to someone who may not otherwise be able to afford it. Project H.E.L.P. is a great group for helping match attorneys to homeless individuals in the area. Schools and hospitals are also in need of legal advice, and they are certainly always looking for volunteers. One way you can also personally contribute is by mentoring an aspiring law student or give a lecture at a local college.

Set Up a Non-Profit:

Is there a cause that holds a special place in your heart, but you struggle to find an organization for it? Why not set up your own non-profit? Keep in mind, however, non-profit organizations require a serious commitment. You must be determined and willing to designate an appropriate amount of time to manage it for the long-term. That is why sharing the workload with your employees can have a dual purpose. It can unite them to work together as a team while also giving them a better understanding of the particular cause you are organizing for.

Contribute to Charities:

Share the wealth with causes that matter the most to you and your staff. You can make yearly contributions based off of how successful your firm was that particular year. Go a step further and find out what causes those on your staff care about. Not only will this help those charities, it will show your staff that their interests are also taken into consideration by making a difference in something they believe in.

The opportunity to pay it forward and improve your local community is always available. By joining forces with all of your employees, you won’t only boost staff morale but you’ll also have more manpower to make a significant impact. Exemplified perfectly in the musical lyrics of the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, “Heal the world. Make it a better place, for you, and for me, and the entire human race!”

I hope you and the ones closest to your heart have a wonderful holiday season and an enchanting New Year! And in the spirit of staying connected, be sure to visit the Enchanting Lawyer Facebook Page!