Quote of the Day - The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated.
A brand new website called Avvo purports to mathematically rank lawyers without bias, favoritism and according to "how well a lawyer could handle your legal issue." But for others who tested the site, however, it gave lawyer who is now a disbarred felon serving time in jail the same rating as two sitting US Supreme Court Justices. It's a bit troubling when a jailhouse lawyer ranks equal to those we trust to render decisions affecting the basic fabric of our Constitutional law.
Bob Ambrogi's post notes that CNET's Declan McCullagh takes the ranking system to task. The CNET reporter documents Avvo's claim that Abraham Lincoln is still licensed to practice law after 171 years and can still update his profile. McCullagh also notes it's "riddled with bizarre errors, profiles of attorneys who have been dead for more than a century and inexplicable scores in which some felons received better ratings than law school deans and internationally renowned litigators."
Ambrogi himself is no fan: "Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito each receive overall scores of 6.5 out of 10 and ratings for experience and trustworthiness of three stars out of five. By contrast, Avvo CEO Mark Britton is given a score of 8 out of 10 and experience and trustworthiness ratings of four out of five. Are we to conclude, then, that Mr. Britton would be a better choice of lawyer than either Justice Ginsburg or Justice Alito? Avvo board member and Stanford Law professor Deborah Rhode is rated a perfect 10 and given five stars for experience and trustworthiness. Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan earns only a 6.4 rating and three stars for experience and trustworthiness. Should Prof. Rhode take over Dean Kagan's job?," Ambrogi postulates. How about the 6.5 rating Stanford Law Dean Kathleen Sullivan received after flunking the California Bar the first time? Statistically, you would think she's less qualified than the "good" rating she received.
As for me, what do I know? According to the site, I'm deceased after practicing law for some 56 years, which is quite a feat given that I'm really only 50, and actually graduated law school just 20 years ago.
And as for the ranking system, I've got at least two different ratings, one for practicing in Washington (where I was admitted to practice two years ago), and another for California (where I was admitted in 1988) (see the last link). I'm also admitted in Iowa and Massachusetts, but not ranked in either state because Avvo hasn't gotten that far yet. After posting this commentary, I will do what I can to straighten out with Avvo the issue of my alleged death, especially since I still have my birth certificate and haven't yet collected my death certificate, at least as far as I know.
But if I'm dead as I write this, then what does that make Avvo? A ranking system rife with errors and of questionable benefit, in this writer's humble opinion.
But perhaps there's hope yet: at least Avvo recognizes that Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address (listed under his "speaking engagements"), and wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment (listed under his "publications"). Unfortunately, the site doesn't report when Lincoln spoke (1863) and published the Proclamation (1862). The Constitutional Amendment was actually written, however, in 1863 by two Senators and a Congressman, not Lincoln - points missing from his Avvo profile.
Oh. More errors. Oops.
6/15/07 Update: Avvo has been sued by a Seattle criminal defense lawyer, John Henry Browne, over the ratings. He was a guest on this week's Lawyer 2 Lawyer podcast, which will be posted on Monday, June 18, 2007. Despite numerous invitations, Avvo refused to participate in the podcast.