Five-star lawyers are not necessarily good lawyers.
Attention readers: this is what legal staff know but they are not allowed to tell you.
It is a good idea to hire a lawyer based on your interactions with them and their staff instead of relying on online ratings.
If you have ever attempted to call a lawyer to discuss a family law matter, the chances are you are familiar with the consultation process. Each firm has different procedures, but generally, the process starts when you call the firm and the receptionist requests your personal information, the other party’s name and a bit of background information. The receptionist advises that they will complete a conflict of interest check then they will call you back to schedule an appointment or after they speak with the lawyer or the lawyer provides their availability, etc.
What you may not be aware is that the lawyer may refuse to take a consultation with you if the receptionist collects information that suggests your matter is high conflict or you are low income. Scheduling consultations is usually not an equal opportunity processes. In fact, if the receptionist asks about how much money you or your ex makes before they will schedule a consultation, the lawyer is probably trying to determine if you are even worth meeting with because you may not be able to afford their fees. If a law firm will is willing to schedule a consultation after collecting the minimal information needed (both parties names), the lawyer is likely not money motivated or harshly judging potential clients.
Unsurprisingly, the lawyers that are not passing judgment are usually willing to meet with as many people as their schedule permits. These lawyers also tend to meet with people for free or a greatly reduced rate. On the other hand, the lawyers screening their callers usually want full payment for their time and restrict their availability and quantity of consultations scheduled. The selective lawyers also tend to have higher online ratings.
You should use extreme caution when judging a lawyer based on online reviews. From our experience, the lawyers with the inflated ratings are not the lawyers their staff would recommend to friends or family. Highly rated lawyers tend to charge more and have less empathy for their clients. Higher rated lawyers tend to aim for low conflict files to avoid poor ratings and they tend to refuse to help people that need it most. Higher rated lawyers also tend to ask for ratings whereas good lawyers tend to be more reserved when it comes to soliciting reviews.
At the same time, many good lawyers do not receive the good reviews they deserve online. Many good lawyers put in hours of unbilled time and work late into the evenings for their clients without recognition. Sometimes clients become frustrated for a variety of reasons and lash out online. Does the client have valid concerns or are they attempting to bully their former counsel and damage their reputation? At the end of the day, we would be more leery of the five star lawyers.