Avvo is a leading website for consumer information regarding attorneys. Some lawyers distrust or even hate Avvo so much that they've filed lawsuits against the site. Other lawyers love it and see it as a great source of new business.
In either case, Avvo has become one of the top services for information about attorneys, and this would not have happened without the participation of thousands of professionals across the country.
What Is Avvo?
The Avvo consumer information website goes beyond standard lawyer marketing in terms of the information it provides to users. Some other sites enable lawyers to post their names, addresses, phone numbers, and links to their websites, often for a fee, but Avvo provides a much greater depth of information.
Not all states permit their attorneys to participate with Avvo. The Virginia Bar Association banned the practice in 2017.
Avvo allows attorneys to post what are essentially online resumes. They can showcase their academic and employment histories, publication credits, awards, and significant cases. They can post links to their websites or to articles they've published, either on Avvo or on other sites.
They can answer legal questions posted by readers and potential clients who can search attorneys based on their field of practice, by city or state, or by a certain topic they're concerned about.
The website claims to have more than 8 million visitors each month, and it indicates that approximately 650,000 of them ultimately end up contacting one or more of the participating attorneys.
Types of Avvo Information
Avvo features attorney profiles, a rating system, and client reviews of lawyers.
Some lawyers have discovered that they already have Avvo profiles that they didn't personally create because Avvo mines data that's publicly available and uses it to create profiles. It doesn't matter whether the attorney is actually using their service.
Attorneys can claim ownership of their profiles by following a few steps to verify their identities. Inaccurate or incomplete information about the attorney could be published on the Avvo site if an attorney fails to claim the profile. Some attorneys feel they're being forced to use Avvo against their will just to prevent incorrect information about them from being disseminated.
Avvo does not permit attorneys to delete their profiles or to "unclaim" their profiles once they're claimed.
Conrad Saam, the Avvo Director of Marketing from 2006 through 2011 and currently CEO of Mockingbird Marketing, responded to this perception. He stated that attorneys can correct incorrect information without claiming their profiles by contacting Avvo customer service.
Saam said, "We were not served at all by having inaccurate or dated information in any profile. Attorneys could contact us at email@example.com, and we would fix those inaccuracies without requiring the attorney to claim their profile." This option is apparently not widely known based on the number of attorneys who have voiced this concern.
The Avvo Rating System
A second criticism of Avvo is its attorney rating system. This system is what distinguishes Avvo from other lawyer marketing websites. Companies like Martindale-Hubbell have used a general peer-review system for many years, but Avvo goes beyond this type of system and considers the opinions of other lawyers as just one of many factors required to evaluate an attorney.
Avvo gives each attorney a numerical score on a scale from 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.
Attorneys who want to have a good Avvo score have no choice but to devote time to developing their profiles.
Avvo indicates that it should take about 30 minutes to fill out a profile, but many lawyers have found the process to be more time-consuming, particularly because users must identify the items to include that will increase their Avvo score.
Saam has said that the ranking should be considered a "resume scoring application," and that information more pertinent to a lawyer's professional background will carry more weight. But a lawyer might not receive points for information until it has been manually reviewed and added to the system if an item such as a publication or association isn't recognized by the Avvo system.
Complaints about the lawyer rating system grew particularly intense in early 2011, when many lawyers discovered that 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 lower rankings for many lawyers.
Client Reviews on Avvo
A third criticism of Avvo concerns how their system allows anyone to write a client review of an attorney. This makes many lawyers extremely uncomfortable because it creates the possibility of information appearing on the profile that's completely out of the lawyer's control.
Clients who are angry or dissatisfied in some way are far more likely to post a comment about a lawyer than someone who was pleased with the services they received. Thus, many lawyers fear that one dissatisfied client could post a negative review that would hurt the attorney's image, and the criticism might not be fair or accurate.
There's no mechanism in place to ensure that a person posting a comment is really a client, so someone who wasn't even represented by the lawyer, such as the opposing party in a lawsuit, could post a negative review.
Avvo doesn't provide a way to have reviews removed if the comment makes it past their approval system, and lawyers worry that one person could wreak havoc on their profile. Avvo says that client reviews are not factored into a lawyer's professional ranking in their algorithm, but the presence of a severely negative client review might easily outweigh any numerical score.
Saam said that Avvo actually rejected approximately 30% of client reviews that were posted to the site during his tenure. Each client review is manually reviewed to ensure that it complies with Avvo's community guidelines, and they don't approve reviews that are primarily personal attacks or that come from people who aren't clients.
Praise for Avvo
Avvo has been praised for providing a level of transparency in the legal profession that didn't previously exist. For example, the information is posted prominently on the lawyer's profile if they've been disciplined by the state bar association.
Not surprisingly, this has generated anger and even some failed lawsuits from previously-disciplined lawyers. But most of the general public would consider this information to be relevant in evaluating a lawyer's credentials.
Additionally, clients can make their complaints publicly known if a lawyer has a habit of taking money from clients without doing any meaningful work. The answers are linked to that lawyer's profile if the lawyer has answered questions posted to the Avvo site, so people can see the type of advice typically delivered by the attorney.
More important to the lawyers actively using Avvo is the business it can generate for their law practices. The search engine optimization (SEO) value of the Avvo system is high. A search for the names of many attorneys will bring their Avvo profile up on the first page of Google. Some lawyers like having their profiles on such a visible site, particularly those lawyers who have received a high Avvo ranking.
Some lawyers are discovering that responding to legal questions posted on the Avvo website is a great way to find new clients.
Do I Need to Use Avvo?
Avvo provides an opportunity for attorneys to interact with potential clients who have specific legal questions, or who are in need of specific legal services. That interaction creates at least the possibility of the question turning into a fee-generating client. It hasn't worked for all lawyers, but many are pleased with the results they have achieved.
- Avvo is a consumer information website that specializes in providing data about practicing attorneys.
- The site offers profiles, a rating system, and client reviews of each attorney.
- Lawyers don’t have to actively participate in creating their profiles, and it can happen without their knowledge.
- Attorneys can’t amend misinformation in their profiles without claiming their profiles.