Author’s Note: For professional reasons I’m positive Mazy will edit this next part, which in all fairness he should. (Bluegil)
Editor’s Note: I didn’t change much. (mhedayat)
The Avvo world is now heating up by the day and it looks like the anti-Avvo crusade has taken on a life of its own! Why, every time we turn around it seems that someone has decided to ratchet up the stakes. First criticism on the blogs, then stories about stories criticizing the site, now a (would-be) class action lawsuit. But first a little background:
Avvo was shrouded in mystery as it ramped up in Seattle, WA. It was going to be some kind of legal website, but what it would do and how it would do it would remain a mystery. We did however get a pre-launch interview with CEO Mark Britton.
Immediately after Avvo’s debut numerous legal bloggers started talking about how they were being slighted in Avvo’s rankings, how the rankings and information listings could be inaccurate, and just generally a host of reasons why Avvo should not have messed with the legal profession (seems they didn’t “understand”). When Avvo and others countered with the facts, the legal bloggers pullout the tried and true consumer protection card (“Think of the poor Clients mislead into thinking that one lawyer is better than another based on ratings …”). Yeah — giving consumers a way to rate and compare lawyers is a terrible idea. Who could see that catching on?
Next, Attorney Steve W. Berman, a managing partner at a firm in Seattle, filed this law suit. But there was more to this than met the eye. Seems that (based on public records and our research — don’t want to go too far out on a limb here) Mr. Berman has a history of filing lawsuits against technology companies. Some examples include
· Apple (iPod too loud)
· eBay (a monopoly)
· Expedia (too expensive)
· Apple (again) (iPod Nano too scratch-prone)
Come-on; how do these claims keep getting traction? Remember George Carlin? There are 2 knobs. One is for volume; the other is to turn off what offends you. We suggest you use them both. Can Mr. Berman and those like him cry wolf an unlimited number of times without reprisal? Oh, did we mention that Mark Britton was Expedia’s General Counsel? Turns out that these 2 have a history after all.
Then there is Seattle lawyer John Henry Browne, who referred to Avvo as a “joke” of a service and protested that his poor rating on the system damaged his reputation and business. In that case, Avvo had cited an “admonition” Browne received from the state bar in 2005 over compensation issues. Browne called it a minor transgression, noting he has received high rankings from Martindale-Hubbell and Best Lawyers in America. But these defenses miss the point: Martindale and Best use peer rankings. Fee disputes are brought by clients, so it seems that prospective clients ought to know what they are about to step into … doesn’t it? Long story short, the public has a right to know, and if you can’t stand the heat maybe you should be waiting tables far away from the kitchen.
Finally, there is a limited minority, including the author of this blog Mazyar Hedayat (himself a practicing lawyer), that has embraced Avvo. You would also have to include Rob Hyndman in that number; he went on record saying that in his opinion “Avvo is a sensational idea [thus far] flawlessly executed, and I hope the team is up to the trench warfare that lies ahead.” Our sentiments exactly.
Reading the comments posted on various blogs and news outlets, it looks like lawyers are leading the pack 10 to 1 with predictably negative responses. Note: Funny, no one wants to e-file or create a blog or use RSS feeds, but lawyers are eager to post comments on other people’s blogs. Sounds like some groups just don’t wan t to go on the record with their sentiments. Must be hedging their bets.
Yet just when it looks like Avvo will be bullied right out of the school yard don’t be surprised to find a user who is excited about the possibilities. In fact, I found 3 comments left at different blogs by small firms, anonymously of course, actually encouraging their members to sign-on an update their profiles. These are the groups within the profession that realize the potential in having a clear, unified, market-place.
Mark also used the Avvo blog to address some of these issues and for that we applaud him. In general we at the Practice Management Blog hope that Avvo remains focused on its initial plan to provide a vehicle for consumers of legal services. Because let’s face it, each and everyone of you belongs to, is affiliated with, or makes use of, some service or group to attract potential clients and pay for the privilege. But do those services or groups promote your interests or those of your prospective clients? If you were looking for a service or product, would you walk into a place or check a website that turned its virtual back on you? I wouldn’t, and Avvo is betting that your potential clients wouldn’t either.