Why the Goat Lawyer Had a “Suberb” Avvo Rating

avvo-profile-goat-lawyer

Last week, Bitter Lawyer’s Greg Luce committed “Avvocide” by sabotaging his own Avvo profile. He put more work into his fake profile than he ever put into his real one, and he was rewarded with a boost in his Avvo Rating, to 9.2 (“Superb”).

Avvo, if you don’t get out much, hosts profiles for every lawyer in the country. You can claim your profile, add your picture, information about yourself and your practice area, and endorse other lawyers. Think Yelp for Lawyers. You can also, somewhat controversially, answer consumers’ legal questions online. There’s more to Avvo, but that’s the gist of it. Some lawyers swear it gets them lots of referrals. Others just swear about it. Still others ignore it.

To find out how Avvo handles this sort of thing, as well as less-ridiculous profile problems, and why Greg’s — er, the Goat Lawyer’s — score went up as a result of his prank I called Avvo’s general counsel, Josh King.

Goat Lawyers Aren’t a Major Problem for Avvo

When Avvo was new, according to King, a lawyer did something similar to his profile as a form of protest. He used a profile picture of Bozo the Clown, and filled out his profile with bogus awards and fake information. King said they “sort of let him run with it” for a while. Greg and this lawyer are definitely outliers.

Since it’s rare, Avvo does not have formal policies on dealing with such ruffians. In Greg’s case, Avvo reverted his profile to its previous state, and, according to King, “our customer care changed the [password] on Goat Lawyer, concerned that he would continue his hircine ways.” Seems fair. King said an email to him (or, presumably, a support ticket) should get Greg’s account restored.

Policing Avvo Profiles

In Greg’s case, Avvo picked up on the prank via Twitter, where we were having fun with it all day.

Avvo does some policing of lawyers’ profiles, but mostly it relies on lawyers to police themselves. King pointed out that “the disincentive to put fraudulent stuff on an Avvo profile is pretty high.” False advertising is an ethics problem, after all, and dealing with your state’s ethics board is probably worse than anything Avvo could do. But lawyers also like to keep Avvo up to date on their colleagues, often with letters. “It’ll just be a blank envelope with an order or a newspaper article about someone being disciplined,” King said. He assumes the anonymous letters are probably coming from other lawyers, which makes sense. Nobody else uses the mail anymore.

Would ethics boards distinguish Greg’s ridiculous false information from actual misleading information in a lawyer’s profile? While ethics boards don’t appear to have much of a sense of humor, King said it would be hard to see how Greg’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Minnesota Ruminant Lawyers Association, for example, would mislead anyone.

Goat Lawyer’s 9.2 Avvo Rating

When Greg sabotaged his profile, he was surprised to see his Avvo Rating jump to 9.2. This has to do with which profile information Avvo uses to calculate the Avvo Rating, particularly the awards, publications, and speaking engagements.

Your score will not go up with every award, publication, or speaking engagement you add. King said it’s probably a good idea to add non-legal awards, for example, to flesh out your profile, but they will not increase your Avvo Rating. Avvo keeps a database of organizations, publications, and conferences that do boost the score, though.

In other words, adding a fake award from a fake organization will not increase your score. But adding a fake award from a real organization, might.

In Greg’s case, it was probably due to his fake Creighton Law Review article, “Reexamining EPA Regulations Regarding Plastic Fencing, BPA, and Chewable Contours of the Farm,” and his Minnesota CLE speaking engagement, “Tech Tools for Lawyers, Goats, and Canaries.”

A Related Issue: Endorsement Spamming

Since I had King on the phone, I also asked him about the endorsement spamming Mark Bennet discovered. King called it a fairly new development in the way lawyers use Avvo, and that they are looking into it and considering what to do with it. He did point out that, beyond a certain number, endorsements do not affect the Avvo Rating. On the endorsement spam, King said “It’s weird because it doesn’t really do him any good.” Likewise, he thinks endorsing lawyers you don’t really know just reflects poorly on the lawyers involved.

I’m not sure my endorsement of the Goat Lawyer reflected well on me, but it did make me laugh:

avvo profile goat lawyer endorsement Why the Goat Lawyer Had a Suberb Avvo Rating

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  • shg

    First, I applaud Greg for finally doing something funny, it having been such a long, long time since that happened. Way to go, Greg!

    Second, if one were to take a look at certain “favored” players on Avvo, say, oh, Avvo’s fabulous Chief Legal AnalystLisa Bloom, you would find they get a 10 rating despite a profile that pales in comparison to pretty much any lawyer capable of breathing.

    When I asked my good friend, Josh, how they could be, he responded with a bunch of gibberish about the algorithm that explained nothing. Personally, when my Avvo rating “deteriorated” because I had failed to add anything for years, it rocketed back up to a very important 10 when I included my “Fluttershy Friendship is Magic Best Dressed Lawyer” award from the Royal Order of Bronies. I was inspired by Lisa Bloom’s award list.

    Because they’re mean haters, Avvo took down my Fluttershy award later, forcing me to add in some of my many prestigious awards, all of which can be seen at my Avvo profile. Of course, try as I might, I will never be as close with Josh and Mark Britton as Lisa Bloom is with her mother, Gloria Allred, and so they may still try to strip me of the fantastic awards I was so humbled to win.

    • Ken

      “Algorithms.” Hmm. That has potential as an all-purpose excuse.

    • southcarolinalawman

      Agree. Some lawyers w lo profile in the legal community, less schooling, experience, clients, success, knowledge, articles, even social media profiles and google search results get a stellar 10. Ha.

  • James Gibbons

    Is there a disclosure missing here? The ‘claim your profile” link strategically placed is giving Avvo some new leads in its conversion funnel.

    • http://samglover.net/ Sam Glover

      What would we disclose? We don’t get anything out of it.

      Also, it’s a link to another post on Lawyerist, not to Avvo.

      • James Gibbons

        If you insist…

        • http://samglover.net/ Sam Glover

          I’m not insisting, I’m asking. What do you think we should disclose?

          • James Gibbons

            This article does appear to be some form of an advertorial, if you insist it is not, I stand corrected.

            • http://samglover.net/ Sam Glover

              We do not publish advertorials. We do publish sponsored posts, but those are always conspicuously labeled as such.

              I’m curious why you think this is an advertorial. I thought I was just writing a fun follow-up to a prank Greg pulled.

              • James Gibbons

                The ‘claim your profile’ link. I think we can all agree it sends traffic that may convert and purchase Avvo’s product(s).

                • http://samglover.net/ Sam Glover

                  First, the “claim your profile” link leads to another post on Lawyerist, not to Avvo’s website. That post (by me) does advocate for claiming your Avvo profile. I still think is a good idea, not least because it doesn’t cost anything. I also think joining Twitter is a good idea, and that you should buy an iPad.

                  I don’t see a way to write about a company or its products without potentially sending traffic that may convert and purchase products from that company. It would be pretty hard to talk about technology or marketing, in particular, without ever mentioning or linking to a company or product.

                  Yes, companies obviously like it when we link to them — at least when we mention them positively in the post. I guess it’s their reward for building something or doing something newsworthy.

                  • Goat Lawyer

                    While we are at it, let me disclose that I am paid rather handsomely by Lawyerist. I hope that was apparent.

  • Thalia

    Avvo’s “algorithms” are fascinating. Especially their definition of “experience” which claims to depend on how many years someone has practiced in the same specialty, but which actually appears to reflect something else. An associate, 4 years out, had 5 stars in experience, compared to me, 15 years out, at 3 1/2 stars? That’s some might fine algorithm there.