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I know somebody who is considering leaving a non-positive (though not scathing) review on Yelp, of a lawyer he used for a short period of time. I am being slightly dissuasive, arguing that since this guy is a lawyer he can open suits and appeals himself (against the critic), whereas my friend will have to pay to defend each suit / appeal / whatever else.

Am I right here? What prevents lawyers from attacking "common people" legally, and forcing the matter on until the non-lawyer capitulates?

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  • if you're in the United States you can self represent (as long as you're not representing an LLC or S-corp). Lawyers aren't the only ones that can file a law suit. Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 19:06
  • Could you be a bit more specific as to the prospective review being "non-positive though not scathing"? The latter suggests that the review will be too mild for the lawyer to care at all. Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 19:06
  • @StephenS - or any kind of corp. entity Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 22:25
  • @GeorgeWhite thank you for adding that, I knew that it was the case with LLC and S-corps but wasn't sure about any of the others. Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 23:34
  • @StephanS And anyone can work on their own car engine. Technically. Commented Aug 15, 2019 at 10:15

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Unless the lawyer is sitting around with nothing to do (in which case s/he has bigger problems than one yelp review) s/he would have to take time which could otherwise be spent on paying cases to file such a suit.

The lawyer would still have to pay court fees to file such a suit.

If such a suit were clearly meritless (say the review is not defamatory but merely an expression of opinion) then it should be dismissed early in the process, and the judge and other legal insiders who may follow such matters are likely to have a negative view of the lawyer based on such a filing. This may well hurt the lawyer. more than any Yelp review ever could.

If the lawyer files a clearly meritless suit, the court may well order that s/he pay your legal fees as well.

There are no guarantees, but the risk of a lawyer filing a "revenge suit" over a moderately negative Yelp review seem low.

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In some jurisdictions, a lawsuit like the one described may be considered a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), and Anti-SLAPP statutes usually allow for recovery of lawyer's fees from the plaintiff of the SLAPP. Additionally, such a lawsuit may be considered Vexatious Litigation, but usually this is something that would be decided based on a pattern of behavior from a litigant, not just one complaint.

Additionally, as an officer of the court and a member of the local BAR Association or equivalent oversight organization, the lawyer may face additional scrutiny. Even if just one vexatious case is not enough for them to face official reprimand, it will probably annoy the judge, who may be overseeing their cases in the future. Of course, judges should judge all cases on their merits and not the identities of the parties, but they are still human and it's better for a lawyer not to be on their bad side.

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What prevents lawyers from attacking "common people" legally, and forcing the matter on until the non-lawyer capitulates?

The same thing that prevents anyone else: time, money and the merits of the case.

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