Protecting Your Reputation and Legal Practice From the Internet
Although the Internet has certainly provided many advantages in regard to finding and sharing information, it has also introduced a number of challenges. The ease with which people can post their thoughts and opinions has also increased the potential for damaging another person’s online reputation. Blogs, chat forums and social networking websites are all places where people feel free to express both their positive and negative opinions.
Even if a person’s negative comments are completely unfounded, other people will read them and consider them factual when they’re published. If you have a legal practice, these negative comments could potentially harm your online reputation, thus negatively affecting your personal and professional credibility. Read on to learn how to protect your reputation and legal practice from negative online reviews.
Defamation can cause problems for individuals and businesses.
The right to free speech is definitely something that should be protected. However, on the Internet free speech can often cause numerous problems for innocent people and businesses. Because it’s so easy for people to post anonymous comments, they often feel empowered to say negative things they would never say in other venues. People generally feel that whatever they say online is protected by the right to free speech, even if what they say is negative or hurtful.
The speed at which negative information can be published and spread around the Internet can also be a difficult factor to deal with.
Although laws are in place to protect individuals from verbal slander and libel in other forms of media, these laws are currently not enforced equally when it comes to defamatory information posted on the Internet.
Online reviews can make or break your reputation.
As an attorney, your reputation, online or otherwise, is extremely important to your career. In fact, if you work in your own private practice, in most cases your name is literally tied to your career. This makes it more important than ever to protect your online reputation. In some cases, all it can take is one or two disgruntled clients to completely ruin your good name. When current and potential clients search for your name online, the last thing you want is for the search results to reveal negative opinions about yourself or your practice. Additionally, more people than ever before are utilizing online attorney review websites such as www.LawyerRatingz.com. Although you’ll certainly find positive reviews on these websites, there are also many negative or even downright hurtful comments.
Understand the law and free speech.
Unless your practice focuses on slander and libel issues, you may not know the full story concerning how the law looks at free speech and the Internet. The same laws that protect a person against verbal slander and libel in other forms of media don’t necessarily pertain to online sites. The law currently favors free speech on the Internet, which doesn’t give innocent people a lot of legal recourse in protecting their online reputation. In most cases, a person is required to prove that the information was published for the purpose of malice or with a reckless disregard for the truth.
Laws to protect personal opinion as opposed to statements of fact.
In most cases, when negative reviews or comments are made online about a person, business or practice, they’re simply viewed in the eyes of the law as opinion. Proving that a person wrote a review with the specific intent of malice or with a disregard for the truth can often be extremely difficult.
Additionally, the Communications Decency Act (CDA), in place since 1996, can make it even more difficult to effectively handle negative information published online. This act, although designed to help protect free speech, effectively provides immunity to the websites that publish or distribute the content of others. Because these sites are not held responsible for the information posted, even if it’s defamatory, victims of online defamation will face an uphill battle.
In most cases, even if a negative review is completely unfounded or untrue, having it removed from a website will require work and patience.
Take steps to learn how to protect your reputation and legal practice from negative online reviews.
Even though the current laws are challenging, it’s still possible to protect the online reputation of your legal practice. In most cases, a proactive attitude is your best defense. Because you already know that clients and potential clients utilize attorney review websites, you should create your own accurate profile on these sites. Be sure to include all relevant and current information that clients could find helpful. Some of these websites even allow you to answer questions or provide general legal advice to people, which can definitely improve your online reputation.
If you specialize in a certain area of law, try to find review websites geared toward your area of expertise. You should also own your own domain name, as well as all variations of it. Whether you utilize your domain for your law practice website, or simply as your own private website, it will provide you with a valuable reputation management tool.
Participating in blogs and forums is another great way to create a more positive online presence, as well as to increase the public’s perception of your expertise.
Monitor your online reputation.
Even if you’ve done everything you can to promote a positive online reputation, it’s still necessary to keep a close eye on things. Searching for your name or the name of your practice online can be an important and eye-opening experience. However, because this kind of ongoing monitoring can be quite time consuming, many busy professionals turn to reputation management services for help. By combining your own online vigilance with the help of professional services, you’ll be able to concentrate on your legal practice instead of worrying about your online reputation.
Hopefully, with these steps you will know how to protect your reputation and legal practice from negative online reviews