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Unbiased Lawyer Reviews

By Byron Warnken, on May 28, 2013

There are numerous problems with “unbiased lawyer reviews.”  Some of the problems are related to unbiased, some to lawyers, and some to reviews.  Put them all together and unbiased lawyer reviews are nearly impossible in practice.  Let’s work backwards.

Reviews

The Internet has taught us how problematic reviews are.  In essence, anyone can leave a review on anyone else.  This creates an easy opportunity for unscrupulous competitors or unreasonably disgruntled customers to smear a quality business.  Even Amazon.com had a review scandal.  Reviews are tough.

Angie’s List is helping to change the reviews problem.  By reversing the model, and charging customers for hopefully unbiased information, Angie’s List has made reviews more reliable.  Service providers can’t pay to be on Angie’s List.  Therefore, in theory, the reviews can be trusted.  There is no Angie’s List for Lawyers, however.  There likely never will be for one reason.  In order for a consumer to pay for an Angie’s List membership, the consumer usually wants to feel like they will use the access to reviews more than just once.  However, consumers don’t usually hire lawyers with any regularity.  Someone might create the Angie’s List for Lawyers model at some point and defy my reasoning.  I do not believe it could be profitable, standing alone.

Lawyer

Lawyers have unique problems when it comes to reviews.  Attorney-client relationships are confidential for a reason.  Do you really want to review your DUI lawyer, using your real information?  Former clients often want to keep the relationship confidential.  Even if the client doesn’t care, settlements are often confidential, prohibiting the former client from discussing the matter.

Furthermore, it’s generally accepted that Internet reviews can be responded to.  After all, how can you allow someone to post whatever they want without a chance for the smeared to respond?  It goes to our notion of a fair fight.  However, if a lawyer responds, have they broken attorney-client privilege?  This question is not rhetorical.  It’s actually a point of debate among the bar.  I don’t think the answer is determined.  Reviews of attorneys have implications other reviews do not have.

Unbiased

As has been said, “unbiased” and Internet reviews are having a tough time co-existing.  It’s too easy for the motivated to leave a review.

Looking at it deeper, are reviews ever unbiased?  What motivates someone to leave a review they have no financial stake in?  Chances are they either developed a friendship with their service provider or they have anger that needs to be worked through in writing.  It’s often on either end of the spectrum.

Problems aside, word of mouth is still the most common way a message spreads.  When a recommendation is given, it’s not unbiased.  It’s loaded, insofar as the recommender wants credit for a good recommendation.  This doesn’t inherently change the quality of the recommendation.  The process of moving from simple conversation to a written review changes the dynamic to some degree, however.

And of course, nothing above addresses another point – your experience is not necessarily going to be my experience.

Statistics

Reviews should not be the primary way service providers should be chosen, unless there are numerous reviews, the reviews can be trusted, and they say largely the same thing.  Reviews should be a complement.  Complement to what, you might ask.  Our answer is statistics.

A lawyer’s statistics are an excellent indicator of what kind of work a lawyer handles.  Stats also speak to how much work is handled, and what kind of results have been achieved in the past.

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