The lawyer-rating site Avvo.com is taking on a whole new profession with its launch today of doctor ratings. As of today, Avvo is adding an entirely new section of its site that contains profiles and ratings of medical doctors from all 50 states. As it does with lawyers, Avvo is rating doctors on a scale of [...]
TAG | Avvo
Lawyer rating and directory site Avvo has received $10 million in a new round of financing, led by Silicon Valley venture capital firm DAG Ventures. Current Avvo investors, Benchmark Capital and Ignition Partners, also invested in this round. The funds will enable Avvo to further expand and enhance its products and services for consumers and lawyers.
Launched three years ago, Avvo has grown to become one of the largest lawyer directories on the Web and one of the most highly trafficked — with some 2 million unique visitors a month. Its goal is to provide profiles and reviews of every lawyer in the United States. So far, it covers 41 states and the District of Columbia.
This latest investment brings the company’s total financing to $23 million. Founder and CEO Mark Britton said the investment will be used to further expand and enhance Avvo’s products and services for consumers and lawyers. “We remain supremely focused on building that win-win for consumers and lawyers.”
The company’s growth so far has been “planned and rational,” Britton said, and its future development will continue along that course. “We have a number of initiatives that I feel are game changing. But to fund those initiatives is expensive.” He declined to provide further information about the initiatives.
“We will continue to build out these win-win situations for consumers on the one hand and lawyers on the other,” Britton said.
Britton credited the company’s growth to its employees. “I am proud of the team. We’ve built something that works, and that works well, and we built it from scratch.” Avvo currently has 35 employees and plans to add more.
Lawyer-rating site Avvo will introduce a premium version next week that will enhance lawyers ability to customize their profiles, enhance their visibility in other Avvo sections, and provide them with more detailed analytics. Called Avvo Pro, it will be available starting Nov. 6 for a monthly subscription of $49.95. (An initial promotion will offer the first month free.)
Avvo Pro will feature three components:
1. Enhanced profiles. Subscribers to Avvo Pro will be able to add a custom field at the top of their profiles that lets them add a tag line or a brief description of their practices. Also near the top of their profile, they will be able to feature two client testimonials that they select from among those that have been submitted.
Enhanced profiles will feature a prominent “sticky” contact box that remains visible on the page even as a reader scrolls down. The subscriber will be able to customize the contact information provided here and tie it into the analytics that Avvo will be offering in order to track responses.
Other enhancements of the profile will include integration of the lawyer’s blog and Twitter feeds and a Google map showing the lawyer’s primary office location.
2. Enhanced presence. Wherever an Avvo Pro subscriber shows up on the site, the lawyer will be identified by a “Pro” badge and other graphics that help the lawyer stand out. Thus, if a Pro subscriber answers a question or contributes to a legal guide, the lawyer will be highlighted. In search results, the lawyer’s ranking will not change but the lawyer’s appearance in the listings will include the Pro badge and also will include the lawyer’s contact information.
3. Detailed analytics. Avvo will be adding basic analytics available to all lawyers who have “claimed” their profiles. Pro users will get more detailed analytics than other users. These will show how many people saw you, where they say you (e.g., your profile, an answer you posted, etc.), and other information.
Pro users will also get reports on visitor conversions. The analytics will show how many people who saw a lawyer’s profile then visited the lawyer’s Web site or contacted the lawyer by e-mail or by phone. Lawyers will have to opt to enable call tracking, which will give them a phone number to use that will dial directly into their offices but allow collection of the analytics data.
Lawyer-rating site Avvo expands this week to Massachusetts and Florida, bringing its coverage to 60 percent of licensed U.S. attorneys and spanning 11 states and the District of Columbia. Launched in June 2007, Avvo’s goal is to serve as a consumer resource by rating and profiling every U.S. lawyer. Initially, I was somewhat skeptical of Avvo, expressing concern when it launched that it could mislead rather than guide consumers. But as it has refined its ratings and responded to concerns raised by the legal community, I’ve become a convert. In fact, I’ve provided the company with a “testimonial” to use this week in announcing its expansion.
Avvo officially launches in Mass. and Florida on April 2. The site operates by collecting information about lawyers from multiple sources — bar records (including disciplinary sanctions), court records, Web sites and the lawyers themselves — and assigning each lawyer a rating of one to 10. For lawyers for whom only minimal information is publicly available, Avvo provides no rating but labels them as either “Attention” or “No Concern.” Lawyers can “claim” their own profiles and add information about themselves and also request peer endorsements and client ratings.
Avvo also includes Avvo Answers, a forum in which consumers can ask questions and lawyers can post answers with links back to their profiles. In addition to Massachusetts and Florida, its profiles now cover lawyers in Arizona, California, D.C., George, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.
You can see all my prior posts about Avvo at this link. I also co-author Legal Blog Watch for Law.com, where my colleague Carolyn Elefant and I have posted about Avvo frequently. You can find those posts through this Google search. Lastly, on the legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer that I co-host along with blogger J. Craig Williams, we have had two episodes about Avvo, one on July 11, 2007, in which we interviewed Avvo’s founders, President and CEO Mark Britton and VP of Products & Marketing Paul Bloom, and one on June 18, 2007, in which we discussed Avvo’s launch with guests John Henry Browne, the Seattle attorney who was a plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit against Avvo (since dismissed), the aforementioned Carolyn Elefant, and Denise Howell, author of the blog Bag and Baggage.
A federal judge in Seattle yesterday dismissed the class-action complaint filed by two lawyers against lawyer-rating site Avvo. U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik ruled that the opinions expressed through Avvo’s ratings system are absolutely protected by the First Amendment. Here is the money quote from the opinion:
“Rather than seeing the Avvo ratings for what they are — ‘that and $1.50 will get you a ride on Seattle’s new South Lake Union Streetcar’ — plaintiffs Browne and Wenokur want to make a federal case out of the number assigned to them because (a) it could harm their reputation, (b) it could cost them customers/fees, or (c) it could mislead the lawyer-hiring public into retaining poor lawyers or bypassing better lawyers. To the extent that their lawsuit has focused a spotlight on how ludicrous the rating of attorneys (and judges) has become, more power to them. To the extent that they seek to prevent the dissemination of opinions regarding
attorneys and judges, however, the First Amendment precludes their cause of action.”
The judge also ruled that Avvo does not violate the Washington Consumer Protection Act.
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Federal judge: Web site is free to rate lawyers.
- Avvo press release: U.S. District Court Dismisses Case Against Avvo.
- Avvo Blog: Judge Dismisses Browne v. Avvo.
- Order Granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.
Update: More on this in my post today at Legal Blog Watch.
The lawyer rating site Avvo today announced two new features: “Avvo Answers,” a Q&A; forum in which lawyers can answer questions posted by consumers, and “Track Record,” a free option by which lawyers can post and showcase their cases and deals. I have more details in a post today at Legal Blog Watch.
With all the attention paid to last month’s launch of the lawyer-ranking site Avvo, it was only a matter of time before copycat sites began to appear. One such site, About My Lawyer, launched Friday, and it is so amateurishly executed that I cannot tell whether it is legitimate or a joke. The announcement of the new site, datelined San Juan, P.R., says, in part:
“Today begins in the world the new era in the justice. We the people have our website (aboutmylawyer.org), right now we can express, evaluate, and comment widely about the legal services that we contract. We can share information and the different point of view of everyone.”
If the announcement reads like mangled English, wait until you visit the site, where there are statements such as, “The clients can speech about the lawyer service widely. (Some restrictions can apply).” Much of the site’s copy reads as though it was written in another language and run through Babel Fish.
The apparent concept of the site is to rank lawyers using the “T.L.E.M.” or “Traffic Light Evaluation Method.” That’s right — every lawyer gets a green, yellow or red light. Lawyers who register with the site are allowed to respond to comments posted about them. Unregistered lawyers automatically get a red light. The site also promises to list the 100 best and 100 worst lawyers every six months.
There are no rankings or listings on the site so far. The only way to register, either as a client or as a lawyer, is to send an e-mail to a Yahoo.com e-mail address. Little information is provided about the company behind the site, although it does provide this boast: “In our mangement we don’t have Lawyer’s, and we don’t accept any person associated to Lawyer’s to work with us.” The domain name is registered to Eduardo Ojeda in Aguirre, P.R.
As I say, I almost want to believe the site is a practical joke, but I am afraid I would be wrong.
In today’s edition of the legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer, we interview the founders of the controversial lawyer rating site Avvo, President and CEO Mark Britton and VP of Products & Marketing Paul Bloom. The two discuss their reasons for founding the site, their responses to criticisms and their future plans. They also respond to points made during our first program on Avvo, posted June 18, on which they declined to appear.
Listen to or download today’s program at this page.
This week on the legal affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer, we speak with attorney John Henry Browne, a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the new lawyer rating service Avvo. Also joining us to discuss the legal and professional issues surrounding Avvo are bloggers Denise Howell and Carolyn Elefant.
We invited Avvo CEO Mark Britton or any other company representative to be on the show, but they declined.
Listen to or download the show from this page.
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.