Local Voice: Avvo : 'Be rated' or even 'berated'

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Laurie Longo

What’s Avvo? If you’re an attorney you need to know, particularly if you have a small firm or are in solo practice. Avvo.com is a website founded in Seattle in 2007 with venture capital of $13 million which purports to rate more than 90 percent of attorneys in the country on a scale of 1 to 10. Avvo generates revenue by selling advertising and other services to lawyers.

Never heard of them? That’s OK, they’ve never really heard of you either. Unlike most of us, Avvo does not consider the absence of substantive information an impediment to judgment; if you are a member of a state bar, you have already been “rated” by Avvo. 

To find your own Avvo rating, simply Google your own name plus the word “attorney,” as many prospective clients will do. Avvo’s “profiles” and “ratings” consistently appear in the first few results in Google searches for lawyers by name. Be forewarned, you may want to be sitting down when you do this.

Avvo claims that its rating system is valid because it’s based upon information provided by lawyers, their clients, and colleagues. This is not entirely true. The initial basic profiles are formulated using only membership lists provided by state bar organizations. And Avvo’s initial rating is very weak: 5 out of 10. This is true whether you’re a lawyer who has never practiced or someone who’s won multi-million dollar verdicts and every award in your state and local community. Avvo’s initial math isn’t pretty.

As you look at your 5 out of 10 rating and hear the sound of your hard-won reputation starting to shatter, your mind may turn to a possible lawsuit against Avvo. A quick Internet search will reveal that every case against Avvo has been dismissed under Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute. Avvo is apparently here to stay. You might call Avvo and ask that your unauthorized profile be removed. They will not remove your profile as long as the state’s records show your membership in the bar. See anti-SLAPP lawsuits, supra. 

So, now what?  First, breathe. Then repeat after me: “This is a free online marketing opportunity for me, my firm, and all my lawyer friends.” Breathe again and repeat. Are you there yet? You can change your initial 5 out of 10 rating a little bit very easily, but to get your best possible rating you will have to spend at least three to five hours engaging with the Avvo system and you will have to get others to do so as well. Here is a short list of what you will need to do, all of which can be done at no charge:

1)    Claim Your Profile: Simply logging into Avvo and claiming your profile will immediately bring your rating up at least one point; 

2)    Fill Out the Questionnaire: Answer the Avvo prompts after you claim your profile. Even answering the most basic questions will register as a benefit in their point system;

3)    Details Count: If you want to get your best possible score, be sure to include details wherever requested. For example, when listing the associations to which you belong, include your title within that organization. Extra weight is given to members with special designations, whether you are a member of the board or just an “attorney member;”

4)    Include Everything Relevant: Avvo provides an opportunity to post what is essentially a detailed professional resume with your academic and employment history, publication credits, awards, significant cases, and more. The Avvo algorithm weighs the volume of information you include, so answer all questions as completely as possible; 

5)    Link to Good Press: Be sure to include descriptions and links to any online articles about yourself, your firm, or your cases. Do a Google search on your cases - you may be surprised to find that professional associations and others have published articles or summaries about your cases online. Don’t be shy - include that article focusing on your little league coaching or your role in the local theater. Your extra-legal participation in the community helps show potential clients who you are;

6)    Focus on Recent Events: Avvo’s “aging” algorithm weighs recent activities and accolades more heavily than those from the past, so don’t rest on your laurels. Update your profile every six months or so or your rating may begin to slide;

7)    Reciprocal Links: Lawyers can post links to their own websites on the Avvo.com profile.  Because of the number of sites linked to Avvo, doing this one small thing will automatically ramp up the visibility of your own website to the search engines; 

8)    Peer Endorsements: Considerable weight is given to first-hand recommendations by colleagues in the legal community and Avvo provides a mechanism to request a recommendation. Don’t be shy about asking - every lawyer you know has been tossed into the same Avvo boat and this is something that you can reciprocate so everybody wins, including prospective clients who will see a more comprehensive and accurate assessment by professionals who know you. 

Avvo appears to be here to stay, for better or worse, and has become a resource for consumers and potential clients seeking information about attorneys, about you. You have a profile there whether you want it or not and the rating, for better or worse, shows up well whenever your name is Googled. Resist falling into the outrage of having your reputation held hostage by complete strangers 3,000 miles away. Turn Avvo on its head. If you spend some time honing your Avvo profile, it can be turned into a sweet, free marketing bonus. Pass it on.

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Laurie Longo is a solo practitioner in Ann Arbor, specializing in civil appellate work. She can be reached at (734) 730-3036 or by visiting http://JustMichiganAppeals.com.
 

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