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January 07, 2009

Why AVVO Will Hurt Lawyers

Everyone who reads this blog knows I'm no fan of AVVO for many reasons. But just this week Eric Turkewitz, in a very well considered blog post, again notes the AVVO rating system is just flat out a danger to the public it purports to serve because AVVO listed a rating of 'no concern' over a lawyer convicted of a sex offense.  You should definitely read the post.

AVVO rates lawyers such as this lawyer. as 'no concern'.  If we shouldn't be concerned about him who should we be concerned about? As of this writing here is the AVVO rating listing 'no concern' and no misconduct for Michael Rumore.

I had suggested on Twitter that maybe they should have newscheckers to keep ratings relevant and current and if there is a pending action against an attorney the status be changed to 'pending review.'  But that would require too much work.

So why do I say AVVO will hurt lawyers.  Well, if lawyers like this are rated as 'no concern' when clearly they are of concern, how can we trust anything we read about any of the lawyers rated even if the lawyers are stellar? After all, they are relying upon each lawyer to update their profiles in order to keep their score fresh (as you lose rating points if you don't continuously update).  Is it realistic an attorney is going to report their own misconduct or pending suspension or that they are now serving time in jail?

And by extension, if lawyers are putting their professional 'seal of approval' by claiming their profile on AVVO they are endorsing a faulty product.

If I was a lay person and the product was flawed, I would question those who endorse it and question why they are doing so?

Just because something is 'free' doesn't mean there isn't an associated cost even if not immediately apparent.  We are not movie stars where the statement 'any publicity is good publicity' works.

In a recent Twitter exchange between myself and a young lawyer, the young lawyer rightly said, 'I don't care about AVVO and I'm certainly not going to claim my profile.'  Well, AVVO didn't like the 'not nice' things this young lawyer said. Supposedly someone from AVVO (I'm led to believe this person was high up) called this young lawyer and left a voice mail expressing interest this young lawyer 'didn't say something nice about AVVO on Twitter.'  Strikes me a little odd. And you?

If I was a practicing lawyer today, I would not claim my profile with AVVO.  There are many ways to get your reputation out there whether you want it out there or not.  The internet has no loyalty. The internet has no filter.  If you are good the world will know you are good.  If you are not, they'll know that, too.  Don't rely upon mysterious algorithms to calculate your professional worthiness.

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

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I respectfully disagree. If I believed I could secure a high AVVO rating, I would claim my profile right away. Why not? Do you really think it hurts for potential clients or clients to know that you are highly rated? Of course not.

Is AVVO perfect? Of course not. Far from it. Is it a good source? Yes. I think it should be used like the product reviews on Amazon. Not definitive, certainly, but usually a pretty good indication.

Anyone who thinks AVVO (or any other rating service) is perfect, includes all available information, is completely up to date, or rates the people or products exactly as they would, is almost certainly hopelessly naive and would probably do a lousy job in picking, with or without a service like AVVO.

Susan Cartier Liebel, Esq.

@Dan - the issue remains 'rated' based upon WHAT. There is no consistant objective criteria. No responsible and timely monitoring and if their whole message and premise from day one is to protect the unsuspecting public and 'shine a light into dark corners' of an otherwise opaque profession, its proven itself patently ridiculous and misleading.

We'll have to agree to disagree on this one. There are many other avenues for lawyers to pursue responsible recognition without jumping on board every 'new' opportunity until it proves its real worth and does so responsibly.

w.c. Brown

Great exchange, Susan and Dan!! At the LA County Bar Assoc, we are always trying to assist our members find effective ways to promote their practice - on the internet and elsewhere.

In my view, Susan wins this one. If we support anyone who throws up a "rating tool" that is essentially designed to be meaningless except to drive people to it, we are doing no one a favor. And it just ruins the good potential there.

Attorney ratingp are a great vehicle for marketing. And if anyone could approach our Association with a plan for a reasonable online rating system, we would be very interested in implementing it.

Clark Brown, Assoc Executive Director, LACBA.

Jim Reed


You know I love you and I agree with 99% of your opinions but on this one I have to disagree. Avvo, just like Martindale Hubbell before it is far from perfect but at least Avvo appears to be changing with the times and continuously improving. I recognize it's a monumental task to build a nationwide lawyer rating service and of course some errors (in this case, a whopper error for sure!) will occur, but I think its premature to dismiss Avvo at this point. I wholeheartedly agree with you that they need to add some fact-checkers to determine the accuracy of the profiles and to proactively update profiles.

In the interest of full disclosure, Avvo rates me a 10.0 (a fact I LOVED to tell my wife!) but this does not influence my opinion. Seriously, it does not! :-) Let's give Avvo some time to evolve and see whether it's something that is useful and accurate or whether it remains stagnant and not worthy of our support....

Jim Reed

Carolyn Elefant

Susan and I have gone back and forth on the Avvo issue before, and I think this is just one of several issues where we disagree.

However, I wanted to respond to W.C. Brown's comments. Until Avvo came along, many solos did not have online presences. And many bars did not have an online referral service where consumers could find lawyers. In fact, many online bar referrals are for fee, which also gives a false impression that the lawyers listed are best - when in reality, they are the ones who forked up the cash for the listing. Avvo was the first to make information on ALL lawyers easily available to consumers on the Internet. The rating system is not perfect, but it does encourage lawyers to upload information about their successes and to get testimonials from other attorneys to give prospects a full picture. If the bars don't like systems like Avvo, well, they should have done their job and made attorney information and listings available a decade ago. Avvo filled a void. Mr. Brown, I would ask you: what is your bar association doing to help members of the public get access to information about lawyers to be able to make informed decisions? This isn't about lawyers - it's about clients.

Eric Johnson

If the given rating system is rating civil litigators wouldn't one of the most important factors be the number of jury trials the lawyer has performed in the past five years and the results(s)? Or, does the litigator who is able to stay out of trial get a higher rating? I would go with the % of recent trial victories which would provide somewhat low ratings for most litigators (i.e., 'trial' lawyers)and that seems fair to me. How many 'litigators' out there get a 10.0 or 'AV' if they have never tried a case? I bet plenty on Avvo and Martindale. Avvo and Martindale have the electronic means to gather trial data but they will not because it would not help their bottomline.


I think Avvo will offer more transparency to users as they will be able to make informed decisions. However, it is generally not good practice to say bad things about lawyers when you want them to help build your site. A better way to handle it is the way that LegalForce does. LegalForce only has positive reviews/endorsements and has more questions and answers than Avvo (see: www.legalforce.com).



Important Notice to the Membership About Avvo

D.C. Bar members have inquired about the nature of the D.C. Bar’s relationship with Seattle-based Avvo, Inc., an Internet-based for-profit attorney marketing service. The Bar has not entered into any agreement with Avvo; instead, Avvo has obtained Bar member information directly from the Bar’s Web site, in violation of our restrictions on use, and used that information for its own commercial purposes (including e-mail solicitations to Bar members). The Bar has been advised that Avvo has refused requests from individual members who wished to be removed from Avvo’s Web site.
Information about Bar members is available to the general public for noncommercial purposes on the Bar’s “Find a Member” Web page, www.dcbar.org/find_a_member/
index.cfm. That information is limited to member names, business addresses, business telephone numbers, dates of admission to the Bar, membership status, and disciplinary history. In addition, member fax numbers and e-mail addresses may be listed if the individual member has provided that information to the Bar without restriction on its use, and members may opt-out of providing such information at any time. Members’ time-sensitive information on the Bar’s Web site is updated regularly.

The Bar has asked Avvo to remove all improperly acquired D.C. Bar member information from its Web site, cease all attempts to acquire such information from the Bar’s Web site, and cease using improperly acquired information for any commercial purpose.

The D.C. Bar takes no position on the voluntary participation of individual members with Avvo or similar services. The Bar does not endorse or warrant the accuracy of any information about Bar members on Avvo’s or any other third-party Web site.


Avvo is a fraud. They rate an attorney higher if they post and publish new content on their website which only helps Avvo get a better ranking by the search engines. Avvo also lists the sames lawyers in many catagories so they look like they have many more lawyers than they really have. However, if you want rank well, just keep publishing articles on the Avvo site and a scum lawyer will eventually look like a hero. "No Concern"

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