Quote of the Day - If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.
So far, the legal community has railed, and railed hard against the new lawyer rating site, Avvo. First I complained about the problems with the site here, and then Lawyer 2 Lawyer hosted a podcast about the problems with the site. We had as guests the lawyer from Seattle who filed a class action suit against the company, and two voices of reason, Denise Howell and Carolyn Elefant.
This blog was among the initial critics because my rating on the site showed I was dead. Shortly after I registered my complaint, my profile was fixed, and my rating shot from a 5.4 to a 10. I'd like to think that my credentials were the reason my rating recovered, but certainly my loud complaint may have played a part. It may have also been that I simply rose from the dead; I discovered after my own investigation that others who complained did not see their ratings likewise change.
Blog posted, podcast broadcasted and rating fixed, it was on to the next issue. I didn't give Avvo much of a second thought beyond my impression that it was just another rating site and it would never change.
At least that's what I thought until the site's founder, Mark Britton emailed and called me. We spoke for nearly an hour about the stinging criticisms his site had received, and how he and his team responded. Surprisingly, the company listened.
More important, the site changed. After Mark pointed out the changes Avvo has instituted in our telephone conversation, I offered to give him equal time on this blog, and invited him to participate in next week's Lawyer 2 Lawyer show. He accepted both invitations, and below is his "bullet point" summary of how he views the effects of social networking on his site. You'll have to stay tuned for next week's Lawyer 2 Lawyer to hear how Avvo co-founders Mark Britton and Paul Bloom respond to this criticism. If my telephone conversation with Mark is any indication, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Here's Mark Britton's summary (MIPTC has not received any compensation or expects to receive any from Avvo):
"♦ Avvo's mission is to help consumers navigate the legal industry. When it comes to choosing a lawyer, your average consumer has no idea where to start.
♦ Lawyers can tell you how often friends and family call for advice in selecting a lawyer; however, to bring some statistical color to consumers' predicament, Avvo commissioned a survey through Ipsos (http://www.ipsos.com/), the large multinational research firm, which surfaced the following data:
° Only 17% surveyed said that it is easy to research detailed information about attorneys
° Only 17% surveyed said that they are very confident in their ability to choose the right attorney
° Over the past two years, 25 million Americans were faced with a situation in which they considered hiring an attorney, but they didn't because they didn't know how to choose one.
♦ From the lawyer's standpoint, the fact that 25 million Americans are staying out of the market should be alarming enough. It should be clear to all lawyers that we need to get consumers more information and build their confidence in the lawyer selection process. But in a world where the Yellow Pages is still one of the top resources for attorney selection, there is clearly still work to do.
♦ That is where Avvo comes in. For consumers, Avvo seeks to provide consumers FREE information and guidance to help them choose the right lawyer. The information comes in the form of all the data we collect or others contribute to the site. The guidance comes in the form of the Avvo Rating, client ratings and peer endorsements - all opinions, all imperfect, but all valuable to a consumer that is considering hiring a lawyer.
♦ For lawyers, we give them a FREE web presence that they can claim and update as often as they want. Over time, we will have more and more types of information that an attorney can add to his/her profile.
° This is a fairly significant benefit of Avvo considering the ABA study that says 60% of solos do not have a website.
° Through our peer endorsement tools, we also give small firm lawyers the ability to show their network - their virtual law firm, if you will (i.e., the resources they can bring to bear on a prospective client's case).
♦ While all of this seems pretty simple, the key to building a website - of any business, for that matter - is continuing to refine it everyday. That is why we released Avvo as beta - so that we could tap into the wisdom of the user community as we continued to develop this early version of our product. We have been making tweaks to the site from day one. And that was our offer to the user community - give us feedback and we will listen; because the site that has a tin ear to its user community should count its remaining life in months not years.
♦ In this regard, one part of the beta that generated a fair number of questions was the Avvo Rating in those cases where we had only an attorney's public licensing records. We had to explain it too many times; which, consistent with our philosophy of listening to our user community, led us to tweaking the Avvo Rating. So, beginning last week, we adjusted the Avvo Rating so that we apply a numerical Avvo Rating to a lawyer's profile only when, in addition to having the lawyer's licensing records:
° we have collected information from the lawyer's website; or
° the lawyer has claimed his or her Avvo profile.
♦ Where we have only a lawyer's licensing records, we will display an Avvo Rating for the lawyer of either "Attention" or "No Concern."
♦ We display the "Attention" rating if there is information in the licensing records that, in our opinion, a consumer should pay attention to, such as a disciplinary action against a lawyer without offsetting positive information.
♦ If an "Attention" rating is not warranted, then we display a "No Concern" rating, which essentially says, "no red flags, only positive information found."
♦ Two other changes that we are working on:
1. email verification as an alternative to credit card verification to claim a profile. We are just starting to test it. In short, if we have a lawyer's email from the public records and they can receive an email we send to that address, then they can claim their profile without a credit card.
2. allowing lawyers to merge profiles. If a lawyer has more than one profile due to being licensed in more than one state, he or she will soon be able to merge those profiles together into one.
- Mark Britton"