Sunday, December 11, 2016

Consumer Review Fairness Act & Lawyer Reviews

Congress has recently passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act which voids any provision in a form contract that prohibits or restricts customers from posting reviews about the goods, services, or conduct of the company providing the product or service.

When I first heard about the law I was excited because I thought it would protect people who wrote online reviews of lawyers. But unfortunately, I do not think that is the case. It would prohibit a lawyer from putting a clause in a contract that reviewing him or her online is prohibited but would not, as far as I can tell, make it any more difficult for a lawyer to sue for defamation.

Here is what happens if you say something negative about a lawyer online. First off it probably disappears in short order because lawyer will intimidate the site owner where the posting was made into removing it. This happens even if your posting was 100% truthful and backed up by facts.

Have you ever wondered why Angie's List has reviews for plumbers, electricians, mechanics and other services but not lawyers? They have made a conscious decision that it is not worth cost of dealing with all the lawsuits that would result. Oddly, there had been a bit of a backlash against this as some people will not sign up for Angie's List because they won't allow reviews of lawyers.

Here is the case of one poor woman who was told to pay $558,000 to a law firm because posted a one star review on Yelp. I don't think the court would award that amount or any amount of money if she gave a one star review to a restaurant, do you? Unfortunately the legal system is able to get away with actions, often criminal actions, that the public is not. Classic corruption., a site that explicitly allows you to review lawyers, simply removes bad reviews. I know, I posted one on Nelly Wince and it went away. Presumably because she had it taken down. Nice review system.

If you are say hosting your own site then the lawyer or law firm will intimidate you directly.  They likely will file a defamation suit even if you are clearly within your rights in making the posting. The merits of suite do not matter a whit. The point is to use the legal system to make you spend money and time in defending yourself. It is to ruin you financially.  It is to subdue you. This was pretty much Nelly Wince's tactic during Spring's divorce suite against me. Lawyers, at least the bad ones, are really good at using the law to harm the innocent. And there is precious little anyone can do to stop them.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that many states, including Minnesota, have SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) designed to prevent just this. But unfortunately they do not work well when the abusive party is a lawyer. As I say, classic corruption.

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