Tuesday, March 01, 2016

What Goes Into an Avvo Rating, and Why Should You Care?

By Gina Rubel

As legal marketers, we field questions from attorneys all the time about Avvo – what it is, what its lawyer “ratings” are based upon, and whether attorneys should pay it in any mind.

Founded in 2006 in Seattle by former Expedia general counsel Mark Britton, Avvo is an attorney rating and directory website that aims to “match consumers with the best possible fit for legal representation.” It enables potential clients to research lawyers by city, state and practice area and to submit requests for legal advice, among other things.

Lawyer referrals go high-tech

Britton and co-founder Paul Bloom raised millions in venture capital to launch Avvo, which they envisioned becoming a name brand nationwide resource.

“When you are looking for a book, there’s Amazon; when (you) travel, you have Expedia; for jobs, there’s Monster; and when it comes to search, there’s Google. But when it comes to legal, there’s nothing,” Britton told the Seattle Times in a 2007 interview.

In the years since then, Avvo has raised millions in funding, including $71.5 million in 2015 to expand its product offerings, boost its headcount, and increase its marketing efforts. According to Bloomberg Business, the site is valued at $650 million.

Attorney ‘ratings’

By far Avvo’s most contentious offering is its ratings system, which assigns a numerical value to attorneys in its vast directory. Shortly after the site’s launch in 2007, it found itself in the legal crosshairs of two Seattle attorneys who took umbrage at the site’s ratings, alleging it engaged in “unfair and deceptive practices by falsely claiming to be objective, reliable and factual.” The suit was dismissed by a federal judge who wrote, “Neither the nature of the information provided nor the language used on the Web site would lead a reasonable person to believe that the ratings are a statement of actual fact,” Lasnik wrote.

So what does all of this mean for attorneys? Should lawyers care about their Avvo rating?

In short, yes, but first, it is helpful to understand how those ratings come to be.

Avvo calculates a rating for a lawyer, with 10 being the highest, using a mathematical formula based upon the information provided to Avvo in a lawyer’s profile and from public records such as state bar associations and law firm websites. Therefore, an Avvo rating often has little to do with an individual attorney’s prowess, and instead is based upon how thoroughly an attorney has filled out his or her Avvo profile. That sometimes leads to situations where well-regarded attorneys who have practiced for decades will have lower Avvo ratings than less experienced attorneys who have claimed and updated their Avvo profile.

Avvo’s marketing investment can benefit your practice

Remember that $71.5 million in funding we mentioned? Avvo is pouring some of that money into advertising its site, which now claims 8 million unique visits each month. Attorneys can benefit from that traffic in various ways:
  • Individual Avvo profiles appear very high in Internet search results. If you’re an attorney, Google your name and see if your Avvo profile appears on the first page of results; there’s a good chance it will.
  • Avvo provides free online real estate of which attorneys should take ownership. If your name is on it, you want to be able to exercise as much control over it as possible.
  • Avvo ratings are important to consumers (just like Super Lawyers).
  • High Avvo ratings can be used for firm marketing efforts.
  • Avvo profiles allow attorneys to link to their firm’s website, boosting the traffic to the website.
Although claiming your Avvo profile sometimes can be tedious, we advise clients to invest the time in doing so. But don’t stop there; a surprising number of lawyers claim their Avvo profile and then do nothing with it. It is important to fill in an Avvo profile completely in order to ensure it accurately reflects a lawyer’s credentials and experience. It’s also just as important to maintain that profile and keep it updated.

Adding relevant, current information to a lawyer’s profile can translate into “points” toward Avvo’s calculated rating. We advise attorneys to fill out as much of their Avvo profile as possible, to help achieve as high a rating as possible.

In a future blog post, we will share tips on ways attorneys can boost their rating, looking at the factors that influence an Avvo rating – and those that don’t.

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