Thursday, June 7, 2007

Seattle Start-Up Rates and Profiles Lawyers

A Seattle start-up company hopes to help people look for lawyers. Avvo (for "avvocato," the Italian word for lawyer)"claims to list every licensed attorney in Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington." For each lawyer, it lists practice areas, indicates whether the lawyer has been disciplined by the bar, and gives a rating. Hiring a lawyer? Avvo can help you, Seattle Times, June 5, 2007.

Since the system is new, many attorneys have not yet been rated by either a client or a fellow attorney. Paul Luvera, a very prominent litigator, has been endorsed by one lawyer. Jeffery Robinson, a Trial Ad instructor, hasn't been rated by a client or a lawyer but has a 10.0 ("superb") Avvo rating, based on experience, industry recognition, and professional conduct.

There are gaps. For instance, when I searched for Bobbe J. Bridge, the system told me that she had been licensed for 31 years but listed her "current areas of practice" as "unknown." (She's a member of the Washington State Supreme Court.) Norm Maleng? Also "unknown." (Until his death last week, he was the King County Prosecutor.) Rob McKenna? "Unknown." (He's the state's Attorney General.)

Avvo is assessing industry recognition based on publications, speaking, and awards, but misses outstanding public figures. OK, so you wouldn't hire these public figures to represent you anyway. But my point is that if the system is purporting to cover every licensed attorney, it still has some work to do. There might be many very able attorneys who have mediocre scores simply because they don't have many years of practice and haven't yet been rated.

Last week I saw an article about the old standby lawyers' directory, Martindale-Hubbell: Anthony Lin, Martindale to Change Focus as Some Firms Opt Out, N.Y.L.J., May 21, 2007.

For decades, all the big firms -- and most of the small firms -- paid to have profiles in Martindale-Hubbell in print and more recently at But now a firm can have a slick website with all the information Martindale-Hubbell would have and more, and there's also a free rival, the Findlaw Lawyer Directory (a/k/a West's Legal Directory). Some top firms have stopped having profiles in Martindale-Hubbell.

So now Martindale-Hubbell is reworking itself. It will start having reviews of firms (from corporate counsel and others) and hopes that this added value will get firms to buy profiles again. (The firms will be reviewed whether or not they buy

It now appears that Martindale has another rival to watch out for in Avvo. And lawyers and clients have more resources to use.

Thanks: Kelly Aldrich, Jonathan Franklin.

Update (June 8): See the longer article on Avvo in today's P-I: Online rating system Avvo puts attorneys in the hot seat, Seattle P-I, June 8, 2007.

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