As was announced yesterday, Seattle lawyer Steve W. Berman filed this lawsuit against controversial lawyer-rating site Avvo. Later, Avvo CEO Mark Britton issued a statement in response to the lawsuit. I have not been able to find it online, so here is what he said:
“Avvo.com is designed to give consumers information and guidance to choose the right attorney. There is very little guidance available for most consumers of legal services, and Avvo seeks to fill that gap by obtaining information about lawyers and presenting it in a way that consumers can readily understand and use. Some lawyers will not like this – in particular those who have disciplinary actions in their backgrounds that will now be presented for their potential clients to see. But we at Avvo believe that disciplinary actions and sanctions are very important—and that consumers have a right to know about them. Part of what Avvo is doing is taking a great big flashlight and shining it into places that have been forever dark to consumers.
“We believe that Mr. Browne’s lawsuit is an effort to make sure these places stay dark, an effort to turn off that flashlight. This lawsuit is an effort to censor and to chill Avvo’s analysis, commentary and opinion in order to protect attorneys who have disciplinary actions in their backgrounds. It seems to reflect a belief, on behalf of the lawyers bringing this lawsuit, that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to the dissemination of opinions and information about them.
“Among all that Avvo’s beta version offers consumers, the Avvo Rating has clearly taken the spotlight. We consulted hundreds of attorneys and thousands of consumers in prioritizing the criteria to generate the Avvo Rating, and we stand behind it. However, the Avvo Rating is only one element of what Avvo offers to consumers. The site also brings together profile information for every attorney in the states we cover, including years of experience and disciplinary sanctions. Consumers can submit ratings and reviews of attorneys they have worked with, and lawyers can update their profiles and submit endorsements of other lawyers.
“We are doing something different and we have supporters and detractors. It may take some time for some to get their arms around the benefits that Avvo offers. However, in just nine days after launch, over 1,800 lawyers have already claimed their profiles and provided consumers with valuable information regarding their experience. Consumers have submitted over 800 client ratings and lawyers have submitted over 1,100 endorsements for other lawyers. We think making all of this information and the opinions that go with it available to consumers is in everyone’s best interest.”
Late this afternoon, we recorded an episode of our legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer about Avvo. We invited Britton to participate, but he declined. We do have one of the lawyer-plaintiffs in the suit against Avvo, John Henry Browne, as a guest, along with two well-known bloggers, Carolyn Elefant and Denise Howell. That episode will be available to download on Monday.