When I couldn’t get a response from a medical provider after I’d written a lengthy complaint more than two months earlier, I did what any disgruntled consumer would do: I took it to Twitter. Cognizant of the possibility of a defamation claim ( been there, done that ) not to mention loss of my family’s privacy, I limited my tweets to a generic remark and a request for information to the facility’s ombudsman’s office. Still, my tweets did the trick and within 24-hours, I received two prompt replies along with an apology.

So I got to wondering, what if clients decided to do the same. For all of the thousands of words, and hundreds of hours that regulators have devoted to “protect” lawyers and clients alike from the “dangers” of lawyer review sites or endorsements or client testimonials, all it really takes is 140 characters to render those opinions meaningless. Because there’s simply no way to prevent dissatisfied clients from taking to Twitter to criticize their lawyers, or to keep them from praising their lawyers either.

Increasingly consumers are taking to Twitter to air all kinds of grievances. Why should we expect them to adopt a different approach when it comes to service providers? The short answer: we can’t. So instead of scaring lawyers off social media fora – or making it so complicated that they throw up their hands and outsource engagement to third parties – we should be encouraging them to participate because that’s what their clients are doing. 

And if you happen to be the subject of a critical tweet from a client, below are the steps to take in responding.

  1. Don’t ignore tweets that criticize your firm or the service that you provided – particularly if they’re addressed directly to @you or @yourlaw firm. On twitter, it’s all too easy for a frustrated client to repeat-tweet.
  1. Once you’ve learned of a critical tweet, respond with your email or phone number and ask the client to contact you directly.
  1. Avoid disclosing confidential information when responding to tweets. At all costs.
  1. If the negative tweets persist, but the author of the tweets doesn’t contact you, follow up with one last tweet and leave it at that.
  1. If tweets become defamatory, abusive or harassing, report them to Twitter.
  1. Whether you’re on Twitter or not, it’s a good idea to include a search of Twitter as part of your repertoire of reputation management searches. If you use services like TweetDeck or Hootsuite, you can set up a notification or list to track your name. If you’re not active on Twitter but still want to stay informed, you can use Google Alerts, here to track new content related to you or your firm now that Google and Twitter have reached a deal to make Twitter content more visible in search engines.