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In a recent post, we discussed how to handle negative online reviews about your law firm. However, negative reviews aren’t the only thing that attorneys face in the online review ecosystem. The presence of fake reviews has increased in recent years.

There are a lot of fake reviews out there. Some attorneys write fake reviews about their competitors. There are also reputation management companies that will write fake positive reviews for your firm, and fake negative reviews about your competitors.

Unfortunately, writing fake reviews (or hiring someone to do it for you) is like hiring someone to commit a crime; it’s unlikely to pay off in the long run or even the short term and can get you in a lot of trouble both online and offline.

You should never write fake reviews or hire someone to write fake reviews either for your firm or against your competitors. If you are paying an outside company to manage your reviews and you’re taking a “set it and forget it” approach, it can be problematic: If you’ve accidentally empowered them to write fake reviews, and you’re not regularly checking in with them, you’ll never know it. If you engage an outside company to manage your reviews, make sure that you know what they’re doing. You’ll want to make sure they’ve kept a log of everything they’re doing, and you should regularly review that log. You are ultimately responsible for things that are done for you online by a third-party provider that you’ve empowered.

Just like writing content for your website, it’s you — the attorney — who’s in the best position to manage your reviews. If you get a review that you know is fake, and you’ve exhausted your remedies trying to get it taken off the web, it can make sense to respond to it and call it out as what it is: Fake.

Sometimes a fake review is written for an attorney by someone with no legal expertise at all. Call it out calmly but rationally. (“The facts of this case don’t match with any fact pattern of any case we’ve ever done…”)

What if you suspect a competitor has written this fake review or has paid someone to do it? Many times, it makes sense to pick up the phone and call your competitor. Your competitor may not necessarily confess to having written the fake review or paying someone to do it. However, by calling them and noting that you’re investigating the issue, it can cause the attorney to pay attention. 

You may want to say something like, “I’m investigating what seems like fake reviews that are being posted about my firm. While I don’t think you would have done it personally, it’s my understanding that some law firm reputation management companies can sometimes go rogue and write bad reviews about other attorneys. Have you used anyone like that?”

They may or may not fess up to it. But if the attorney has hired somebody, that attorney will usually confront the person that they’ve hired and ask if they created a fake review. If that ends up being the case, oftentimes, it can result in that review being removed from the review site(s) where it was posted. 

Learn more about getting reviews for your law firm the safe way

When it’s done right, collecting positive reviews from happy clients can be an easy process that’s baked into what you already do on a daily basis. To learn more about the dangers of fake reviews (and how to get positive reviews), see: “Are You Getting Law Firm Reviews & Recommendations the Safe Way?