Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Not sure if you're Bo Derek or Dudley Moore? Avvo will tell you.

Where would you rank yourself as a lawyer?  Are you a ten or would your humility cause you to give yourself a 9.5?  Let's go a little further. Would you consider setting up a website devoted to ranking your fellow barristers in such a manner?  Chances are you might get a few angry phone calls or even a dead fish wrapped in newspaper. Of course, if you have ever wondered about how you'd stack up among your colleagues, it may behoove you to check out Avvo.com.  Someone may have already assigned you a number.

Avvo is short for avvocato which any paisano knows is attorney in Italian. Although it was founded only four years ago, the site has quickly given the folks at Martindale-Hubbell a run for their money. Co-founded by former Expedia.com attorney Mark Britton, Avvo now ranks about 95% of attorneys across our amber waves of grain.  Despite this, some attorneys are still unaware of the site.  If you fall within this category, it is probably a smart idea to see what kind of ranking potential clients may be viewing when searching you.

So where does your ranking come from? According to Avvo, the rating system is based on raw data collected about you.  The data can include how many years you have practiced, your professional achievements and any disciplinary sanctions brough against you. It comes from several sources including state bar associations, public court records, lawyer websites and other information that lawyers provide to Avvo. The fine people at Avvo then throw all these numbers into one of them jumbomatron-do-hickey counting machines that eventually spit out your score based on a 1-10 scale rating.  Your score can be affected by a variety of factors including how many years you have practiced, peer ratings and even disciplinary actions against you.  Not surprisingly, it's the latter part that brings a bit of chagrin to some practioners. The ranking of a disciplined lawyer can suffer consequences akin to sitting at the wrong lunch table in highschool.  Avvo will even tack a nice caution label onto your profile. 

You can probably guess what often comes next.  What would happen to you if you started publicly ranking local lawyers?  What if you decided to put up a billboard with red caution flags attached to the names of disciplined lawyers?  Think it might ruffle a few feathers?  Attorneys can be a litigious bunch and Avvo has been sued by several individuals who weren't quite pleased with their low Dudley rankings.  Not surprisingly, many of these lawsuits can be traced to attorneys with disiplinary histories.  Nevertheless, the company seems to continously find success in these lawsuits on a variety of grounds including freedom of speech. 

Critics argue that Avvo's ranking system is too subjective.  After all, can you really accurately summarize a lawyer's worth by jamming it into the confines of a 1-10 ranking?  Perhaps not, but when you view an attorney's profile on the whole, you can get a pretty good snapshot of your subject. (Editors note: Whether you agree with the ranking system or not,  I am confident you can rattle of the names of a few people you consider 2s and 3s).  The ranking system is only part of the attorney profile which you have the opportunity to claim for free.  The more information you add, the more potential clients can know about you.  For example. have you published any papers?  Did you recently change firms? Are there any verdicts you are fond of?  Do you speak any additional languages?  Avvo also provides a way for attorneys to give their own endorsements of fellow practitioners. While some might lean on old lawschool chums for undeserved endorsements,  I would think most lawyers would be hesitant to publicly endorse someone known to be incompetent.  Of course, I'm still at that idealistic stage in my career.  Give me a few more years to get jaded.

While I do harbor reservations about ranking lawyers, I can see the potential worth of Avvo to the general public.  Why shouldn't potential clients know if their lawyer has a disciplinary history.  Admittedly, I find myself using the site quite often.  It can be a great resource tool.   I often check up on attorneys before referring business.  I don't want to refer my clients to someone who has a caution rating because of repetitive bouts with the grievance committee.  I also use it as a quick way to find addresses and phone numbers of other lawyers.   I even use it to find out how long opposing counsel has been practicing.

Undoubtedly,  some attorneys will turn up their noses at the very notion of someone ranking them.  Others may embrace it wholeheartedly.  Whether you agree with the concept or not, it looks like Avvo is here to stay and is growing more popular among the masses. Whatever your feelings on the subject, it might not be a bad idea to claim your profile.  In my own practice, I am starting to see an increase of clients who have "discovered me" through Avvo. For solo practioners, it can be an easy opportunity to let potential clients know a little more about yourself.   You can personalize your listing with updated contact information, educational background, speaking engagements, publications and cases you've won.  You can even add photos and video regarding your practice. Avvo also offers a question and answer forum where people can ask you  – anonymously if desired – any legal question and receive personalized answers.  It's a great way to show off your knowledge in a practice area. 

So is Avvo in your state?  According to Wikipedia, as of November 2, 2009, Avvo covers...deep breath..... Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin; and has partial coverage in limited release states including Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, South Carolina and Wyoming

Do you think its fair to rank lawyers in this manner?  Feel free to share your thoughts....

7 comments:

Conrad from Avvo said...

Just a quick point of information - client reviews do NOT impact the Avvo Rating.

-Conrad from Avvo

Cliff Tuttle said...

Hello, Adrian;

I'd like to order some of that Avvo jewelry. On second thought, I don't need any more bandits assaulting my blog. It looks like you need to get a check up on your security system.

Cliff Tuttle
Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Adrian Mark Baron said...

Thanks Conrad

Promotional Pens said...

avvo.com is certainly not the end all be all grade for attorneys, but certainly not a bad piece to factor in the total grade. I dig the client review functionality and feel it's probably the most beneficial.

Promotional pens said...

I do think this is a good idea. It would be nice for some "good" attorneys to acutually advertise. It seems that more of the "bad" attorney's simply know how to advertise and have a good SEO team working for them. Which really ends up leaving people blowing there money and getting no results.

Houston said...

Certainly, the more information that consumers have regarding selecting attorneys the better. Some find fault with avvo's rating system and I am sure that they will work on improving it as the company matures.

In the past, some of the legal services have tended to favor those who spend money with their services. What we need to avoid is for consumers to get inaccurate information.

Houston burn lawyer

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