Is ‘Dunwello’ the Next Big Lawyer-Rating Site?

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When the lawyer-rating site Avvo was launched in 2007, some lawyers were so incensed at the idea of being rated that they filed a federal lawsuit to shut it down. A judge dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that Avvo’s ratings were protected by the First Amendment, but even he called the idea of rating attorneys “ludicrous.” Fast forward to 2014, and lawyer ratings have become so commonplace that you can find them on Yelp.

Given this, I was interested to learn — via this Boston Globe column — about a potential new site for rating lawyers. Called Dunwello and launched in beta last month by a Boston-based start-up, the site encourages users to rate peoples’ performance of their jobs on a scale of 1-10 and to add comments explaining the rating.

The site can be used to rate any kind of worker, from a yoga instructor to a hair stylist to a realtor, but it expressly lists “lawyer” as a category. In fact, as of this writing, lawyer is listed as the top search, ahead of realtor and crossfit instructor.

That said, only one lawyer so far is listed on the site, Kevin Mahoney, a Cambridge, Mass., criminal defense attorney, and there is not yet a single review of him.

As the Globe piece notes, one of the first profiles to appear on the site was of Boston hairdresser Erika Alvarez, who happens to be the hairdresser of the fiancee of the site’s founder Matt Lauzon. So far, her rating is a perfect 10.

Users who submit reviews are asked to rate the worker on a scale of 1-10 in response to the question, “How likely are you to recommend this person to a friend or colleague?” They have 1,000 characters to explain the rating. Ratings can be sent to the subject anonymously, but the site requires the reviewer to provide a verification name and email address even for anonymous reviews.

The site itself is short on details about how review scores are compiled. But in a recent blog post about Dunwello, New York venture capitalist Steven Schlafman provided this information:

All feedback can be submitted publicly or anonymously. Negative reviews are sent to the professional. The reviewee can choose to hide negative reviews on their profile but every single review will still impact the overall score. The idea is to aggregate these scores to build a portable and accurate online professional reputation. Over time Dunwello profiles will help consumers and employers make informed decisions about which professionals to work with.

On Avvo, lawyer ratings are based on information collected about the lawyer from publicly accessible websites and from the lawyer’s profile. Dunwello is different, in that the ratings appear to be based solely on user reviews.

Dunwello is also marketing a version for businesses, which it describes as a “social recognition platform for your company.” The overall concept of the site may still be a work in progress, given that what it offers already exceeds what is described in its terms of service. (“The Services are designed to be a platform where employees working at the same company can exchange feedback and recognition between one another.”)

Some of the comments to the Globe piece call Dunwello “a lawsuit waiting to happen.” But blogger Schlafman sums up the site with a quote from Gandhi: “Truth never damages a cause that is just.”

Will Dunwello become a popular site for rating lawyers, alongside hairdressers and yoga instructors? Only time will tell, of course, but I think it is inevitable that at least some lawyer reviews will begin to appear there, provided the site survives.