Understanding your Avvo Rating: How It’s Calculated and Why You Should Care

by Chris Mommsen on January 6, 2012

Avvo is a free online directory of lawyers that the public can use to search by state and practice area. You may be asking yourself, isn’t that basically the business White Pages, or the bar association’s Find-A-Lawyer directory, or Martindale-Hubbell revisited? Pretty much. A lawyer’s Avvo profile is essentially an online résumé or portfolio that lists achievements, publications, biographical information, and, if the lawyer is so inclined, photographs and videos of his or her choosing.

Unlike those more, ahem, venerable (or stodgy, depending on your perspective), ways to find a lawyer, lawyers seem to absolutely hate Avvo. It raises the ire of lawyers, in part, because Avvo represents a visible credibility check. A lawyer’s Avvo profile frequently will show up in the top 10 Google results, and Avvo crawls state ethical records and posts any run-ins with the Office of Attorney Regulation. This has resulted in several lawsuits from lawyers with a rap sheet.

That’s not the greatest criticism though—most of our fellow professionals keep their noses clean. The greater complaint is that, along with your fluffy profile, Avvo posts a rating out of 10.

According to the site: The rating is calculated using a mathematical model that considers the information shown in a lawyer’s profile, including a lawyer’s years in practice, disciplinary history, professional achievements, and industry recognition.

The term “mathematical model” is something I tend to associate with being what I would be unable to calculate. Avvo also claims their model is proprietary, which leads me to believe that it is a formula for some amazingly strong, light, and beautiful polymer—or something. With those considerations in mind, I set about cracking their formula by adding and subtracting credentials from my profile.

Essentially, every lawyer starts at 5.6. The “formula” is this: for every credential added in a different category, an attorney gets three tenths of a point. Peer reviews are worth the same. Publications in the same periodical are discounted a bit. That’s basically it. Add three publications and a presentation, and, by their formula, you are now a 6.9-rated lawyer.

There is a caveat to the site: The Avvo rating is not intended to be the only thing you use in choosing a lawyer.

Yeah. Right. Just like how Ebert’s thumb or Pitchfork’s numerical rating is only a small consideration in figuring out what movies to watch or music to buy. It’s absurd to think that legal services can and should be rated this way, but the Avvo profile is there, whether or not you claim it.

The best solution is just to spend a few minutes filling out the profile. We already have LinkedIn, Facebook, Justia—what’s one more? It really is nothing more than a summary résumé. In the event that a lawyer doesn’t choose to claim and fill out the profile, his or her information still appears on the website, along with any ethical concerns. However, an ethically clean but otherwise unknown (at least, to Avvo) attorney is not assigned a rating and is tagged as “no concern.”

Although building your Avvo profile is the practical solution—and it is a bit silly to get worked up about some website—something still rankles about the idea that the quality of a lawyer’s services can be determined by adding and subtracting résumé lines. To the extent that consumers are buying what Avvo is selling, complaining about it isn’t going to help. It’s up to us to manage the public perception of our profession relationships and public service.

Chris Mommsen is a criminal defense attorney in Denver.

This article originally appeared in the January issue of The Docket.

{ 1 comment }

Barb Cashman January 6, 2012 at 9:45 am

Hi Chris, excellent post about Avvo! I have found there are still many solos that don’t know about Avvo and other online profile opportunities. I think Avvo and its controversial reputation surrounding its “secret sauce” formula for rating lawyers is a bit more mysterious than adding lines to your resume (otherwise lawyers wouldn’t have sued over it), but it did spice up the then rather stodgy ratings game monopolized by Martindale-Hubbell. I have to admit their recipe agrees with me. It does provide easy access to information about lawyers with disciplinary histories. I can’t say I’ve gotten leads through Avvo, unlike the CBA’s Find-A-Lawyer, which has brought me several propsects and clients. I do think Avvo is a bit less problematic for most of us than say, asking your clients to recommend you at other places.

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