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Gregg J. Stark Indianapolis DUI Attorney Gregg J. Stark Indianapolis DUI Attorney

False Lawyer Reviews & Paid Rating Websites

Let me let you in on a harmful secret. Defense lawyers and other professionals throughout America are increasingly in the business of actually creating their own positive online reviews.  Even more destructive, most negative online reviews posted against other lawyers are suspected to be from other competing lawyers and not actually represented clients.

Terrific lawyers nationwide have been victimized and have had legal reputations ruined by legal competitors who seek to profit, not by the hard work of earning a quality legal reputation, but by conveniently creating a falsified negative review against a more established lawyer they seek to lower in standing. It is unfortunately far too easy to do.

Thankfully, I have not been the victim of such misconduct. However, what an absolute shame for honest lawyers or those in any profession to become the victim of online defamation. This is a real and continuing tragedy and must be recognized by the general public.

Real people who have been accused of a crime are not eager to broadcast such information for any member of the public to discover online.

Think about it for a moment. If you had been charged with a crime would you be inclined to post an online review for your lawyer if it meant exposing you and your criminal charge to public scrutiny? Not likely.

Would you loathe your attorney so much as to risk a defamation lawsuit as well as to announce your criminal charges to the world by posting a negative online review against your lawyer? Very rarely.

As an attorney of over 20 years, I have been defending grateful clients since the internet began. Despite the daily gratitude of the people I fight for every day, the amount of favorable online reviews from my past clients is relatively low.

If the number of online criminal lawyer reviews appear questionably high and substantially outnumber those lawyers with many more years of experience, there is good reason to question such a lawyer’s ethical practices.

For a brief period of time I was advised that I should request reviews from clients I had recently represented. I discontinued the requests after a few weeks when a common theme emerged; good people understandably do not want to publicize that they were charged with a crime online. While typically a client would express that they would gladly be available for a reference upon request, they felt uncomfortable taking the chance of exposing their criminal charges to an employer, family and/or friends through an online review.

As the internet has become the foremost marketplace for goods and services, so to has an emergence for businesses to manipulate online reviews as a foremost means by which to market to potential unsuspecting individuals seeking the most credible service provider.

In fact, the practice of falsified customer ratings and reviews has become so widespread that there are now many businesses nationwide who have specialized in selling online businesses with fictitious reviews with which to trick consumers.

As a result, it has become increasingly difficult to determine what positive reviews of a professional or business have truly been earned. Conversely, what professionals or businesses have been unfairly tarnished by a falsified negative review of a business competitor.

No search engine or so called “objective review website” is immune to this increasing problem that serves to undermine the ability of the best legal professionals to have their efforts recognized.

In fact that across the internet, lawyer referral websites distribute ratings that categorize my legal abilities¬†as excellent. Unfortunately, I must confess that I believe that far too many legal online networks to be disreputable and populated by lawyers who pay money for “high lawyer rankings” and positive reviews created by the lawyers themselves.

In the new age of internet online advertising, intelligent people who in good faith believe that they are doing adequate research in finding the most competent attorneys are falling victim to emerging schemes perpetrated by “for profit” legal websites.

It is easy to be fooled. Through the most professional of online website advertising, the marketing of lawyers has become big business. Through impressive, carefully crafted websites devised to appear professional and trustworthy, these online referral pages have been created to lend credibility to the lawyers who advertise within them.

National companies profiting from these legal websites claiming a desire to “help” consumers find the “best” or “super” lawyers in a given field of practice often appear top ranked, credible and unbiased. However, these money making ventures carry great risk in steering one toward a lawyer who has paid such websites to provide them with the appearance of credibility and credentials that have not truly been earned.

It is no accident that it is usually difficult to know that the “helpful” legal website you considered relying on is actually a skillful advertising forum for lawyers; lawyers who often pay big money for high rankings and/or the glowing image they present to the public.

Finding the best lawyer should not be as easy as one click to a top ranked website or reliance on an attorney advertising a “lawyer ranking” that has been paid for. The pursuit of the most competent lawyer for your case requires discussion with a number of lawyers, research through as many independent outlets as possible, as well as the advice of friends and neighbors.

Yes, finding the best lawyer for your case often takes work. Yet, the businesses behind these online legal referral websites and the lawyers who pay them rely on gaining the trust of good people willing to simply retain the first highest ranked attorney they see; a ranking and online reputation that too often has been bought and paid for.

In reality we all know better. If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times, that if something sounds too good to be true it usually is.

How refreshing it would be if by one click of an impressive looking website I could rely on securing the best lawyer for my case without any further effort. However, across the country, in greater numbers than ever, unsuspecting individuals in need of an attorney are doing just that; too often with disasterous consequences.

One of the most disturbing trends has become the advertising of lawyers touting a “positive lawyer ranking” from one such for profit legal website. Although I somehow have been determined to be “Excellent” on this particular website, how such a numerical lawyer ranking is determined has never been fully explained and from what I can gather has been challenged in courts of law nationwide.

What is undisputed is the fact that such legal websites presently in existence are online to make a profit from lawyers who pay to advertise within their respective webpages. In some cases these legal websites allow these lawyers to actually place a badge within a website to help promote the paid listing website offering them the positive numerical rating in question.

Humorous to many veteran attorneys, but not at all comical to the innocent people who have fallen prey to such created “advertising” is the reality that many of the highest ranked attorneys marketed by these for profit websites often find themselves seeking employment from the lower ranked veteran attorneys on these paid attorney listings who have little need to participate in such online marketing schemes.

Often geared toward young lawyers seeking to build up a law practice or otherwise unaccomplished lawyers left with little alternative but to advertise on paid lawyer ranking websites, these services offer those lawyers willing to pay the price the ability to promote the positive rankings such legal services are willing to distribute. As an added bonus they are more than willing to look the other way in allowing such lawyers to host and distribute made up positive reviews that cannot be independently verified.

Despite legal challenge, at the present time such websites are presently permitted to list all attorneys upon their pages whether the lawyers choose to appear or not. The result of such actions are that such websites attempt to appear credible by listing the most well known attorneys on their lsitings. In this way these for profit entities attempt to make it appear as though the most respected lawyers are lending an endorsement to their marketing efforts.

As far as I know I have received nothing but “Excellent” ratings on these paid lawyer rating listings that have included me most often without my knowledge or participation. However, many of my colleagues known to be among the most respected defense lawyers nationwide somehow show up with poor rankings.

For someone in need of the most capable attorney within a state where such an inaccurate ranking would appear, that individual could easily be mislead into entrusting their legal care and future to a substandard attorney with misleading paid or at worse falsified credentials.

The lesson to be learned is this: unless you have been referred to me by someone you trust, take the time to speak to me as well as other attorneys to get a feel for the knowledge and competence of a variety of lawyers available to you. Only then can one truly know whether a lawyer is the best fit to protect your legal interests.

Although I believe you will come to the conclusion that I am, in fact, the excellent attorney that these paid websites say I am, do not come to that conclusion relying upon the word of a legal referral website in business to make money from attorneys in need of clients to believe in them.

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