AWHAT AVVO WROUGHT AVVO USES TECHNOLOGY TO COL- lect online data about lawyers, picking up bits like years in prac- tice, work history, professional recognition awards and prior dis- cipline findings. Besides industry recognition, the
site generates numerical scores for
experience and professional conduct. The scores are averaged into
an “Avvo Rating,” which in Kiesel’s
case was 6. 9 (on a scale of 10) as of
Avvo users can “claim” their profiles for free, or for $49.95 a month
set up an “Avvo Pro” account to get
added services, including analytics,
participation in client question forums, and the ability to choose
which client comments appear first.
In November the site had records
for 1. 3 million lawyers, and Britton
expects Avvo will be profitable
through advertising sales. Previously, he was general counsel and an
executive vice president at the travel website Expedia, which also
offers ratings and customer
Britton notes that his site has specific rules about posting and removing client comments.
Clients don’t have to include
their names in posted comments,
Britton says, but they must register
an e-mail address with the site. All
client comments are reviewed by
Avvo’s data team before being posted, and the team is headed by a
lawyer. According to Britton, about
25 percent of the submitted client
reviews are rejected.
If a lawyer challenges a review,
Britton says, Avvo contacts the
reviewer. If the reviewer doesn’t respond, the post is removed. Sometimes, he adds, the author reflects
and decides to modify the review.
And if the client/reviewer stands
by his or her comment, it remains.
Avvo faced a lawyer challenge to
its ratings system the first month it
appeared on the Web. The case was
filed by a Seattle attorney who was
rated 5. 2, or “average,” partly due
to a disciplinary action from the
Joel Rothman’s suit contends that the Florida
Bar’s prohibitions on advertising client
testimonials violate his First Amendment right
to engage in truthful commercial speech.
state bar. The case was quickly
tossed by the court.
“If you’re a great lawyer, you have
nothing to hide. Let your clients go
out there and speak,” Britton says.
“I don’t think lawyers in general
appreciate how quickly word-of-
mouth is moving online, and these
ratings are word-of-mouth.”
And interestingly, says Will
Hornsby, ABA staff counsel who ad-
vised the ABA Commission on Ad-
vertising until it ended in 2002, in
most states if a lawyer wrote and
posted a testimonial review for an-
other lawyer, the reviewer would
not violate any professional conduct
rules provided that he did not make