Originally published in Law Week Colorado.
Meranda Vieyra co-authors “The Ethics of Soliciting Client Reviews and Testimonials” with Margrit Lent-Parker in Law Week Colorado.
Client testimonials and referrals are the lifeblood of any business, but they are especially crucial for professionals like doctors, engineers, and of course, lawyers. Naturally, folks want to highlight their best reviews as a way to boost their reputation and establish credibility in their industry. However, the solicitation of these testimonials is especially tricky for lawyers, as the regulations can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
First, is this a prohibited “solicitation?” Model Rule of Professional Conduct 7.3(a) and Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 7.3(a) define a solicitation as “a communication initiated by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm that is directed to a specific person the lawyer knows or reasonably should know needs legal services in a particular matter and that offers to provide, or reasonably can be understood as offering to provide, legal services for that matter.” Thus, the “solicitation” of a testimonial from a client or other person with whom you have a preexisting relationship is not the kind of solicitation prohibited under Rule 7.3(a). Across jurisdictions, however, there is some variation on the ethics of displaying testimonials and how to solicit them . Despite varying rules, most Rules of Professional Conduct allow you to display client testimonials on your website. The trick, then, lies in knowing how to ethically ask for them.
As you seek out and display testimonials, bear in mind Model (and Colorado) RPC 7.1 that prohibits false or misleading communications about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. Comment 3 to that rule further explains that even truthful reports can be misleading if they lead a reasonable person to form unjustified expectation that the lawyer or law firm can deliver the same result without regard to the specific facts and circumstances of each case.
Also bear in mind your duty of confidentiality in Model (and Colorado) RPC 1.6(a) (see also Rules 1.8(b) and 1.9(c)). Obtaining permission to display a client testimonial on your website necessarily implicates Rule 1.6 and the requisite informed consent to publicly share “information relating to the representation of the client.” Many clients are involved in legal proceedings that, if publicized, could harm their personal or professional reputations. Thus, if clients are willing to provide a testimonial, be sure to heed any associated request for anonymity. (Whether and to what extent an attorney may respond to negative online reviews with otherwise confidential client information is beyond the scope of this article, but Colorado attorneys faced with this dilemma should at minimum consult Colorado Bar Association Ethics Opinion 136, adopted March 2019.)
How Does a Lawyer Ask for a Review or Recommendation?
It is not unreasonable to feel a little hesitant when asking a client for a testimonial. After all, what sane, well-adjusted person feels comfortable asking other people to tell them how great they are for business purposes? If you feel inauthentic doing this, you’re not alone.
But at the end of the day, you are in the business of helping others (or at least you should be), so of course you would want to showcase your success to prospective clients; it is what they are looking for, anyway. In fact, data collected by The Modern Firm shows that testimonials are in the top three most-clicked pages on a lawyer’s website, coming in after the homepage and lawyer’s profile.
Read the full article at Law Week Colorado.