Attorney Michael P. Ehline, Esq., of Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC, is one of the first 5000 or so original Avvo members. His partial public profile is above for reference. In 2006, Avvo was founded by Michael Britton, a former expedia.com executive, according to their website here. He proclaimed that there must be a more efficient way to choose experts, other than the ‘pay-to-play’ of the Yellow Pages. At that time, attorneys and physicians frequently used the Yellow Pages as an avenue to advertise their specialized services. Here is an example of an attorney user profile on AVVO. The mission of Avvo is to ensure people have the best opportunity to make sound decisions for vital matters like legal and medical requirements.
This is purportedly achieved by:
1. Supplying consumers with the advantage of being able to look at the professional information of attorneys, including reviews made by clients about specific attorneys.
2. Providing Avvo’s rating of a lawyer to consumers.
Examination of Avvo’s Criteria and Practices
The process is as follows:
1. A profile is created by Avvo which consists of 90% of all practicing attorneys, which includes professional information about the attorney and a rating by Avvo (It appears AVVO initially lists and creates lawyers’ profiles without their knowledge, from publicly available sources)
2. An attorney has the option of claiming the free profile Avvo creates, and they can edit it as many times as they’d like via use of their username and password assigned after registration.
3. Once an attorney claims their profile, they are provided with the choices below:
a. Keep the basic profile for free (contains ads purchased by other attorneys).
b. Upgrade profile to “Avvo Pro” for a monthly fee of $49.95. (does not contain ads and provides advanced marketing tools).
c. Purchased advertisements:
d. An attorney ‘Sponsored Listing’ includes a picture the attorney provides, preferred tagline, and the choice of having their rating and customer reviews by Avvo on their listing. Sponsored Listings are placed randomly on Avvo’s advice and search sections.
These are for consumers to use when they are looking for law services.
e. Display advertisements
f. A display ad is paid for by the attorney and is placed on the pages for attorney search results, competitor profiles, Q & A pages, and legal guides (pages for legal advice). Display advertisements are typically what will be seen first by potential clients and are displayed on pages consumers commonly use according to Avvo’s site.
It is apparent that the more time an attorney stays on Avvo’s site, the more business from potential clients they are likely to generate. It is ironic that Avvo’s site is somewhat like the advertising model ‘pay-to-play’ version of the Yellow Pages, that purportedly caused Britton to start the Avvo website to begin with.
The generation of Avvo ratings is done with the use of attorneys’ profile information. Avvo obtains more of this information when attorneys claim their profile and, as stated above, it is also gathered by the site independently. Different weights are assigned to an attorney’s profile information in order to calculate ratings, according to Avvo. Avvo’s opinion on the importance of attorneys’ profile information is what these weights reflect. While the weighting gets produced from legal expertise and heavy research, they are still just generic opinions. Ultimately, the smarter and more technical the firm, or their SEO guy, the better they should do on AVVO.
Similar to Google, Avvo also uses a mathematical algorithm and creates ratings from the use of their secret mathematical system that they developed. Background attorney profile information is the basis used for the Avvo rating. However, Avvo claims the weight the information is given is not disclosed. This is mainly because Avvo does not want bets made on the rating system. Avvo states, they want the reliability and of their ratings to be maintained, which is why their inner-workings are not shared. A little reverse engineering can tell you a lot about the Avvo algo.
The data collected on attorneys is done independently by Avvo, as well as from attorney profiles created by Avvo. Avvo’s attorney ratings are calculated from information placed into a secret system used by Avvo, where specific weights are given to various kinds of attorney information.
The basis of Avvo’s ratings is:
- Critical factors in selecting an attorney, according to Avvo’s opinion.
- When it is provided, attorney information, they have provided on their profile.
- The manner in weighting information provided by the attorney is not disclosed to consumers.
- Regardless of the weight, there is no sign that attorney information entered is confirmed to be factual.
- Information that is obtained from the internet is not verified, which is obviously not a precise source for obtaining information that is true. (online user reviews and even colleague ratings can be faked by use of algo defeating methods, by use of voting rings, etc.)
- Avvo has demonstrated many cases of researching the experiences of lawyers where the data gathered was a misrepresentation of the attorneys’ information. For example, the specialties provided by attorneys have not been correct.
- Attorneys are not assessed, interviewed, or met in person when information is collected. The attorneys are being evaluated blindly.
The following describes Avvo’s practices:
The mission of Avvo is to provide consumers with the help needed to make sound choices when they require legal or medical services. A basic amount of information about attorneys located in their general area is in a sense provided to consumers. However, in another sense, when a search is run by a consumer for an attorney or a doctor, the search is slowed down with listings and ads that have been paid for by attorneys promoting their practice.
Our Closing Opinion:
In a world of automated algorithms, Avvo is a smart business model for those wishing to make money off of publicly available attorney information, and then charge a fee to enhance the listings, and/or sell other forms of advertising to lawyer and law offices. For finding an attorney, it is probably better to go online and do a search, and then browse the recent verdicts and settlements of the website that you like, to call the attorney who looks good, and get a free legal consult.
All online user ratings are suspect, can be easily faked and gamed, and are not the last word in your search for the best personal injury lawyer. Avvo is useful as well, if you pay to get your listing on the home page, for example. Other lawyers and consumers may click your enhanced or PRO listing, and drive traffic to your website, which can also help your Alexa rating!