So-called "client testimonials" benefit only the lawyer, not the client. Reputable attorneys never post or rely upon so-called "Client Testimonials," nor would an ethical lawyer ever ask a client to make such an endorsement. Lawyers who use these marketing devices may call them "testimonial," "endorsements," or "client reviews," but they all mean the same thing: a plug solicited by the lawyer from the client to be published for view by the general public.
In my professional opinion, it is an unpardonable breach of legal ethics for a lawyer to solicit this type of self-laudatory
"testimonial" from a client. Quite simply, they are exploitative and unprofessional.
My reasons for these conclusions are two-fold.
A lawyer's duty to the client conflicts with the solicitation by the that lawyer for a testimonial endorsment
If a lawyer solicits his or her client to post a testimonial, it violates the attorney's duty to place the client's interests above those of the attorney, and it also creates an impermissible conflict of interest. Furthermore, soliciting a client to post an endorsement creates the danger of exposing attorney-client privileged information and the confidences and secrets of the client. It is a deplorable practice.
An attorney is in a position of control over a very important part of the client's life. Any attorney who solicits a client to post an endorsement is taking advantage of the attorney-client relationship for that attorney's own personal benefit. It creates a real conflict of interest with the client by making the testimonial an implicit condition of the attorney's best efforts for the client.
The danger of prevarication in the posting of testimonial endorsements is considerable
Even more disturbing, it is far too easy for an unscrupulous lawyer to post fictitious endorsements on the Internet and misrepresent them to potential clients as genuine "Client Testimonials."
Since attorneys must maintain the confidentiality of the client's case, a dishonest lawyer could easily post fake "client testimonials" on his or her website, listing only the first name of the client (if indeed the anonymous client ever existed at all). Such a lawyer could then hide behind the shield of attorney-client privilege if a new client wished to verify the authenticity of the endorsement.
How to spot a fake client testimonial
When you read some of the so-called "testimonials" posted on various attorneys' websites, you may get the uneasy feeling that they are written by the same person. If they seem just too good to be true, you know what that means. Competent, reputable attorneys are always preceded by their reputations.
Further, past State Bar disciplinary actions against a lawyer tell much more about the character and quality of an attorney than any so-called testimonial of dubious origin. Always check with the State Bar's page for each individual attorney you are considering. If the attorney's individual State Bar page does not state "This attorney has no record of discipline," find yourself another attorney.
A final word about lawyers and testimonials solicited from their clients
Who would want to retain an attorney with the idea that later he or she would be pressed to make a public testimonial on the attorney's behalf? Would you? Clients wish to keep their difficulties with the law confidential, and rightly so.
Do yourself a favor at the outset of your search for a reputable attorney and find one who does not rely on questionable endorsements from former (or fictitious) clients to puff up his or her resume.
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