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Reputation in Family Law

Tonight's post about a downside of being a public figure in family law was written by our Savannah Family Law Attorney, David Purvis.

I received my first bad online review recently. After practicing for many years now, it was bound to happen. There are few businesses that serve the public that don't, at some point, suffer from someone emboldened by the distance and anonymity of airing their grievances online. My favorite restaurant has its share of bad reviews online, but I have never had anything but a truly exceptional experience when we have dined there. The food is great. The service is great. But some people aren't happy unless they are saying bad things.

What was glossed over by this reviewer were a few important facts about our approach to family law. First, our bill was 40% that of opposing counsel's. Or to put it differently, it was 60% less. Yet I knew every financial document between the parties (approximately 500 pages worth) and every relevant fact of the 22 year marriage. Both sides showed up to mediation equally prepared and knowledgeable of the facts of the case, yet my client paid 40% of what his wife paid to get to that same point. This reviewer was upset because his wife didn't agree with him and would not settle on his terms. Not all cases settle at mediation, particularly when reason and logic are eschewed for bitterness, anger and a desire to punish. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a way to compel an opposing party to forego that mind set and focus on achieving a result that is fair and reasonable. It takes two to tango and it takes two to settle. Some cases just have to go before the judge.

I take solace in the reviews that other past clients have posted. Every other review I have has been extremely positive. I don't write the reviews for my clients. They are my former clients' words about their own experiences with me. They mean a great deal to me because of that and they clearly mean a great deal to those who come across them when looking for an attorney that will be the best fit for them.

I also take solace that my reputation is more than what floats about in cyber-space. Two hours after seeing this negative review, I found myself in a courtroom waiting my turn before a judge before whom I regularly appear. A pro se litigant was on the stand, having attempted to proceed with his divorce on his own and had made several fatal errors on the child support worksheets. This isn't uncommon as the worksheets can be rather involved and complicated for someone who is untrained on them. The judge surveyed the attorneys in the courtroom and called me to the bench, asking me to take the case. The judge was familiar with our Justice Café limited scope model and knew that we could assist this person with just the items he needed without incurring additional legal expenses for the work the party had otherwise correctly completed on his own. I cannot think of a better compliment from this judge or a more timely example of my actual reputation within the local Savannah legal community.

Few things are more valuable to me in my professional life as my reputation. Reputations not only follow us through life, they can often be what others know about us long before they meet us. I initially took this hostile and false review quite personally, in large part because I am genuinely concerned about my reputation. The review itself is rather telling - it is so skewed and illogical that surely its credibility will be questioned immediately. More importantly, it is but one person's opinion and clearly not shared by any one else.

I am not immune to nor above criticism and quite frankly, without meaningful critique, none of us would improve personally or professionally. But when the apparent sole purpose of bashing someone out on cyberspace is nothing but an effort to try and ruin them or vent misplaced frustration at a soon-to-be ex, I can't help but believe that informed consumers will read such a review for what it is and dismiss it accordingly.

On-line reviews should not be the beginning and end of anyone's search for an attorney. If you're looking for a family law attorney, online reviews are certainly helpful. But there is far, far more that you can learn about someone you might hire. At The Manely Firm, we offer free consultations to anyone who is facing a family law issue.  Do your research online, but come speak with us for free and decide for yourself whether I or any of my colleagues at the firm are the right fit for you.

My reputation as a family law attorney will remain intact.  My desire to provide excellent, affordable service to my clients will ensure it.  That's what matters to me.

David Purvis

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