How’s that for ironic? Seattle-based Avvo, a site for finding, rating and profiling lawyers across the U.S., has been sued by a group of lawyers for being deceptive and violating state consumer laws. Earlier this year, Avvo received $14 million in funding from Benchmark Capital and Ignition Partners, co-founded by Microsoft alum and Avvo board member Brad Silverberg.
Avvo ranks lawyers on a scale of 1 to 10 with categories such as caution, strong caution and extreme caution. Steve W. Berman, managing partner at a Seattle based law filed the action Thrusday in federal court and called the rankings “unreliable and meaningless, misleading to a consumer trying to find a lawyer.” The suit was filed as a class action, meaning that the lawsuit was filed in the name of many different plaintiffs.
The site has received a great deal of criticism from legal blogs around the internet, some of it very justified. For instance, the Stanford Law School dean has a lower ranking than one attorney who has been disbarred. Some Avvo board members on the site have received higher rankings than current Supreme Court justices.
The attorney who filed the suit sent out a press release saying: “When the site launched, they had a very slick media campaign that led consumers to believe the site would give them accurate and insightful information about attorneys. In reality, we believe the site’s rating methodology is prone to error and wide open to manipulation.”
Sites like Avvo can be easily manipulated, and do often give poor results. However, the Internet should be left as free and open as possible. If consumers want to rely on a site like this with flawed results, they are taking a giant risk. Hiring poor legal representation can have serious consequences, and using a site like Avvo to choose a lawyer is probably not a wise move. I do understand the knee-jerk reaction of lawyers who rely on their reputation for finding clients, but I think a better reaction than a lawsuit would be working with Avvo to make the results more useful and accurate.