After reading a recent Chicago Tribune article regarding Avvo’s (www.Avvo.com) online lawyer rating system, I decided to check out the site for myself.
At first glance, the site looks interesting, useful and credible. The same as many other online consumer, ratings, networking and other business related sites. I enjoy these sites, use them and believe that they have valuable things to offer. However, as I delved deeper into Avvo’s rating system, I discovered substantial issues and came to the realization that although the concept of publicly rating attorneys and other professionals is a great idea, in terms of execution, Avvo is really lacking. Maybe it’s because the technology is still in its infancy.
My biggest concern, and I’ve already discussed this with Avvo’s customer support (see below emails between CS and me), is that I believe Avvo is medium to large firm friendly; it’s biased against solo practitioners and small firms.
More specifically, I think that because Avvo’s interface is very time consuming to use, it’s better geared towards firms that have the resources to devote to providing all of the information required and obtaining peer and client references (peer references from their own firm’s employees?). Information requested by Avvo includes a credit card number, even though the site is free. This aspect strikes me as odd, although it’s not a deal breaker. Moreover, attorney peers who want to leave an endorsement for another attorney, like me, have to sign up for Avvo (i.e., what Avvo calls “claiming your profile) and provide the credit card information, again, even though Avvo is free (except for all of the time and effort to complete a profile).
There’s another huge difference between Avvo and other online networking and business sites. Once a profile is “claimed” by an attorney (i.e., once an attorney joins Avvo) that attorney can’t quit/leave. You’re stuck.
Below is an email exchange I had with an Avvo customer service representative, over the course of a few days. It’s easy to read and follow. Although she identified herself by name, I’ve removed her name.
Thank you for contacting Avvo. Profiles on Avvo.com cannot be deleted
entirely. The information in a lawyer profile is pulled from public
records and publicly available information. Now that you have claimed
your profile it cannot be un-claimed.
If you are concerned that public information we share on our website is
incorrect, please contact your state’s association directly. Once the
information is updated in the public record, we can update it on Avvo.
Avvo Customer Care
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Monday, June 30, 2008 9:49 AM
To: Avvo Customer Care
Subject: Support Request: Cancelling/Un-claiming Profile/Account
Name: Charles Krugel
Subject Cancelling/Un-claiming Profile/Account
I’d like to cancel my membership and un-claim my profile. How do I do
|Avvo Customer Care <firstname.lastname@example.org>
|date||Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 5:22 PM|
|subject||Re: Support Request: Cancelling/Un-claiming Profile/Account|
My concern isn’t about the information available. My concern is that your website is disadvantaged against smaller firms and solo practitioners. Consider the following:
* I’ve asked some colleagues, small firm & solo practitioner, to provide endorsements. Some won’t because they find your site objectionable. Others won’t because they don’t want to feel committed to “claiming” their profile and providing credit card info., and taking up their time with needless red tape. Larger firms won’t have the same problem. They can provide a corporate credit card no. and give each other endorsements.
* It takes a lot more time and energy for a small firm & solo practitioner to complete a profile than it does a larger firm. They can devote people to fill out such a profile. It’s taking me too long and too much hassle to do yours.
I don’t care if you keep my profile up on your site or not. I just don’t want it to indicate that I’ve “claimed” it, and I want all of the info. that I added including my photo removed. Once you’ve made your site more small firm and solo practitioner friendly, maybe I’ll change my mind. In the meantime, I don’t wish to affiliate myself with your site.
I hope that you don’t plan to ignore my request or tell me that you can’t permit me to unclaim my profile as I’d hate to see something like this needlessly escalate into something bigger. I’ll wait up to 3 business days for your response, then I’ll respond accordingly.
hide details Jun 30 (7 days ago)
Thanks for taking the time to send us your feedback. I’m sorry you feel this way; we have actually created Avvo with the small firm and solo practitioner in mind. We give you a free online profile to manage your online presence and reputation, putting you on an even playing field with other attorneys in your area that focus in a similar practice area. Placement cannot be purchased, your placement in the search results is based on the information provided in your profile and how that information matches the needs of the user.
I understand there is an initial time investment to upload your information, but after you are finished uploading your information potential clients will have the ability to contact you after reviewing your information, giving you a more qualified lead. You might be interested in reading about Shelly Crocker’s experience using Avvo. She is located in Seattle and has had great success generating clients after uploading her information. http://www.law.com/jsp/legaltechnology/pubArticleLT.jsp?id=1202422012652
Profiles cannot be un-claimed. I have however removed your photo from your profile.
Avvo Customer Care
hide details Jul 1 (6 days ago)
In my opinion, you’re wrong about the “level playing field.” As I indicated previously, you’re website is much better suited for medium to larger sized firms, because they have the wherewithal to handle all of the time and energy expenses of coordinating your profile. Your website isn’t easy to maneuver through, and I’m my own webmaster. I handle HTML, CSS, FTP, etc., on my own. The reason that I’m interested in disaffiliating myself from your site is because I unfortunately came to realize your shortcomings after I “claimed” my profile.
This will be my last time contacting you directly. I’ll be posting about my experiences with your site on my website/blog shortly.