Lawyer Rating System Endorsed by WSJ - Does This Make You Feel Better?
(UPDATE: 12/27/07 - Scott Greenfield pulls off the gloves at Simple Justice as he dukes it out with Paul Bloom of Avvo...see comments.)
(UPDATE: 12/26/07 - Carolyn Elefant at MyShingle takes up the discussion including my response to her considered opinion. And take note, people can agree to disagree and still be personal and professional friends as Carolyn and I are.)
(UPDATE: 12/24/07 - Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice posted his view of Avvo...it's a must read as are the comments. The discussion is very englightening, to say the least.)
Wow. I can sleep a whole lot better knowing the WSJ endorses lawyer rating systems, particularly Avvo. I feel as good as I do about any 'publication' ranking law schools. (Read with 'dripping sarcasm.')
This idiocy that because other things have been ranked before from manicurists to dog food makes it OK is just beyond any rational thinking.
At a time when the judicial system is under increasing scrutiny, the courtroom performances and verdicts of its practitioners would seem a reasonable object of public interest. For those shopping for legal counsel, an online rating service might at least provide some measure of transparency in an otherwise opaque profession.
The site, called Avvo, does for lawyers what any number of magazines and Web sites have been doing for other professions for years. Magazines regularly publish stories that rank an area's doctors and dentists. There are rating sites and blogs for the 'best' hairstylists, manicurists, restaurants and movie theaters. Almost any consumer product or service these days is sorted and ranked.
Professional ego aside, it's hard to see why lawyers or judges should be any different.
This is not about lawyers having egos. This is about someone or some people deciding there is an incredible profit to be made by rankings and they are attempting to capture a previously otherwise not fully exploited segment of a profession. Any one talented person or persons can put a public service spin on its benefits. We've seen it time and time, again.
Imagine if U.S. News and World Reports rankings did not exist anymore. We might have law schools which followed their own mission within certain parameters of the ABA Accreditation Committee (which leaves much to be desired). They would be working for the student's best interests, not a slave to USNWR. Knowing what law schools know now about its impact 20 years later and students knowing now how manipulated and misleading the system is, they would have destroyed it at birth. And don't be surprised if Avvo then gets involved with an aggregator of legal blogs (including yours) to incorporate into the ratings system and then they will have everyone by the ...well, you know what. It's just ugly.
Today, we have an opportunity to not let it happen to the legal profession as a whole. Super Lawyers, Martindale Hubbell has an elitist element to it which doesn't impact the profession or consumers in any meaningful way. Avvo will be visited in every corner of the professional world because of its business objectives (follow the money) and it will impact every lawyer like Big Brother. It WILL NOT. I repeat WILL NOT help the consumer as they claim it will. The single most bogus claim they are making is it is for protection of the consumer. It is for the protection and profit of their investors and those who decide to climb into bed with them, period. And if anyone running it or advocating for it has pictured themselves as a knight in shining armor here to defend the unsuspecting, ignorant public they need serious deprogramming.
If consumers want to learn about their lawyers track record they can have free access to any lawyer's disciplinary history. The same with judges. If they want today to see if their lawyer has made news in a way that is favorable or unfavorable, they can google their name and it will reveal plenty.
Do not participate in this system which has already shown how dangerous it is. Read from other lawyers who have already been asked to game the system. Read how their 'algorithm' gives convicted felons higher ratings then those who are known stellar attorneys.
Don't buy into it even if you have a good 'score' because you will be sorry later when you get hit with a meritless grievance or another lawyer threatens you by stating they will start an anonymous Avvo commenting campaign to destroy your professional reputation . Or a client threatens you in the same manner unless you refund their money or any other manner of professional intimidation. Now there is something to ponder. And then ask yourself, why would any reasonable attorney support this? Don't know? 'Follow the money.'