Ah, Avvo – the new rating system lawyers love to hate. Lawyers instinctively do not like Avvo because it looks like they are using a secret formula that measures lawyer quality to try to make money off of hooking prospective clients up with lawyers.
But, for a moment, change Avvo to a non-profit, consumer rights and information organization, like Consumer Reports. This non-profit’s sole mission is to help prevent consumers of legal services from being ripped off by dishonest, incompetent, inefficient, unpleasant, or greedy lawyers. But how would one do that?
Short of some sort of court-sanctioned audit process that reviewed a lawyers briefs and transaction documents, sat in on random client meetings and negotiations, talked to the receptionist, and went to trials, it’s nearly impossible to accurately get an objective rating of a lawyer’s quality.
So how do consumers, who may only use a lawyer once or twice in their lives, pick a lawyer? Most would say get a recommendation from a friend or relative. But of course, the friend or relative only used the lawyer once or twice themselves, and a lawyer’s good work in one case is really very little indication of whether the lawyer will do a good job in your case.
Locally, the Hennepin County Attorney Referral Service (a revenue-generating program within a non-profit) has a vetting process involving a certain amount of trial work in particular areas and a review of disciplinary history. Maybe also some references (I can’t recall). They don’t have as high a profile as SuperLawyers or Avvo but they field hundreds of calls (maybe thousands) from people looking for a MN lawyer. But they don’t have a catchy name or a slick website and they’re not rolling out state-by-state.
The folks who run “SuperLawyers®“ think the best way to evaluate lawyers is to get recommendations from other lawyers. They have a secret formula that they are convinced is valid, but lawyers themselves (particularly those of us who are not SuperLawyers®) are skeptical.
Avvo apparently thinks that if you write a lot of articles, get awards, or speak at a lot of CLEs (or you’re a SuperLawyer), then you must be a good lawyer (that’s how I got my rating up). There could be some truth to that, but no one reviews the quality of the articles or CLEs. There’s a place to identify big cases you’ve handled, yet no way for transactional lawyers to discuss their good work. It also seems that if you have a lot of good friends and get recommendations, you may be able to rig the system.
On one level, Avvo seems ridiculously arbitrary. But on a different level, it is probably better than looking for the largest yellow pages ad or the first (“AAAAAEric the Lawyer”) or the biggest billboard. If you’re a consumer, and you get a recommendation from a friend AND you look up the lawyer on Avvo, AND see if everything is spelled correctly on the lawyer’s website AND you get a free consult to get a sense of the lawyer’s personality, perhaps you’re off to a good start.