Avvo and The Attorney

There are numerous attorney rating services out there, ranging from the peer ratings of Martindale-Hubbell, the answer-based ratings of LinkedIn, to the “neutral” ratings provided by services such as Avvo.

Avvo claims on its website that “It’s unbiased. Because ratings are calculated using a mathematical model, all lawyers are rated by the same standards.”

Multiple lawsuits have attempted to challenge Avvo ratings. The latest, Davis v. Avvo, 2:11-cv-01571-RSM (W.D. Wash. March 28, 2012) has been dismissed as Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP), and the attorney has been ordered to pay Avvo’s attorney fees as well as an additional $10K punitive damages, as described on the Technology & Marketing Law Blog.  You can find numerous other examples of Avvo’s lawsuit history on that same blog.

So, suing Avvo is a bad plan. But is Avvo truly neutral?  It is highly doubtful.

An easy example of this is my profile. When I first became aware of the service I looked myself up, and found that I was rated at 2 ½ stars for experience. A quick glance showed that another attorney at my firm, who started at the same time and had identical career path to mine, had 3 ½ stars for experience. Given that the “experience” rating depends, per Avvo entirely on “a lawyer’s years in practice” I found this surprising. When I contacted Avvo, via email, my rating was quickly updated. I now have four stars of experience, which apparently corresponds to my 15-years of practice as a patent attorney.

However, when I look at their “recommended” attorney (which appears directly next to my listing, and is someone who has paid for their listing), it appears that a Stuart James West, who graduated law school in 1998 and was admitted to practice in California in 1999 has 5 stars of experience.

Even more surprisingly, Kirupa Pushparaj, who graduated law school in 2007 and was admitted to the bar in 2008, apparently has a 5 star experience rating.

I would be very curious to have Avvo explain these discrepancies. In the meantime, I recommend ignoring Avvo ratings entirely.