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What is Avvo and the Avvo Lawyer Ranking System

Understanding the criticisms and praises of Avvo and the Lawyer Rating System

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What is Avvo? Are you using Avvo to market your law practice? Do you even know what Avvo is, or how you have been rated as a lawyer? Avvo has quickly become one of the leading websites where consumers go to find information about attorneys, but many lawyers are not developing their Avvo profiles properly. Some lawyers distrust or even hate Avvo so much that they have filed lawsuits against it (all of which have been dismissed so far), while other lawyers love Avvo and see it as a great source of new business.

Avvo goes beyond standard lawyer marketing websites on what it offers to users. While some sites enable lawyers to post their names, addresses, phone numbers, and website addresses (often for a fee), Avvo provides a much greater depth of information. Avvo allows attorneys to post what is essentially an online resume, providing a place to list academic and employment history, publication credits, awards, and significant cases. Lawyers can post links to their own website or to articles they have published (whether on other sites or on Avvo), and they can answer legal questions posted by potential clients. All of this is available for free, which enables participation by lawyers on even the tightest of budgets.

Criticisms and Complaints about Avvo

Why would any attorney object to receiving free advertising?

For starters, some lawyers discovered that they already have Avvo profiles that they did not personally create. Avvo mines data that is publicly available to create profiles for attorneys, regardless of whether the attorney is actually using their service. Attorneys can then claim ownership of the profile by following a few steps to verify their identities. However, if an attorney fails to claim the profile, then inaccurate or incomplete information about the attorney could be published on the Avvo site. Further, Avvo does not permit attorneys to delete their profiles or to "unclaim" their profiles once claimed. Thus, some attorneys feel they are being forced to use Avvo against their wills, just to keep incorrect information from being disseminated about them.

Avvo Director Conrad Saam responded to this perception by saying that attorneys can correct incorrect information without claiming their profiles by contacting Avvo customer service. Saam said, "We are not served at all by having inaccurate or dated information in any profile. Attorneys can contact us at customercare@avvo.com and we fix those inaccuracies without requiring the attorney to claim their profile." Apparently this option is not widely known, based on the number of attorneys who have voiced this concern.

A second criticism of Avvo is their attorney rating system. This aspect of Avvo is what makes them stand out the most from other lawyer marketing websites, and has been praised by many non-lawyers. While companies like Martindale-Hubbell have used a general peer-review system for grading attorneys for many years, Avvo goes far beyond a peer-review system and only considers the opinions of other lawyers as one of many factors in evaluating an attorney. Avvo gives each attorney a numerical score on a scale of 1 to 10 based on the information in that attorney's profile. The less information there is in a lawyer's profile, the less likely it is that an attorney will have a good ranking. Thus, attorneys who want to have a good Avvo score have no choice but to devote a lot of time to developing their profiles.

Avvo indicates that it should only take around 30 minutes to fill out an Avvo profile, but many lawyers have found the process to be more time consuming, particularly with regard to figuring out what items to include to increase one's Avvo score. Avvo Director Conrad Saam says that the ranking should be viewed as a "resume scoring application," and that information more pertinent to a lawyer's professional background will carry more weight. However, if an item (such as a publication or association) is not recognized by the Avvo system, you may not receive points for it until it has been manually reviewed and added to their system. I know about this issue from personal experience, having added several publication credits, awards, and association memberships to my profile only to find that they had no effect on my ranking.

Complaints about the lawyer rating system grew particularly intense in early 2011, when many lawyers discovered their Avvo scores had dropped even though nothing had changed in their profiles. Avvo indicated that it changed the algorithm used for calculating attorney rankings, which resulted in the ranks of many lawyers being lowered.

Attorney George D. Morgan said at the time this article was written that he was "on the fence" as to whether to claim his Avvo profile. He would like to correct his Avvo listing, which only shows him as being licensed in New York, to show that he is licensed in Arizona where he actually operates his law office. However, he says "their rating system doesn't make sense," and he is concerned about the number of good lawyers he knows who only have mediocre rankings. Thus, like many other lawyers, Morgan is hesitant to even participate in Avvo because he perceives their ranking system to be flawed.

(More criticisms and praises of Avvo on the next page)

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