There are few websites more controversial in the legal world than Avvo.com, the online legal services directory that currently rates more than 95% of lawyers in the U.S. Legal practitioners are profiled on Avvo whether they sign up or not, and even though claiming a profile is free, many attorneys and marketing professionals remain skeptical in the wake of numerous lawsuits filed against the site. As it is impossible to unclaim your profile, the decision to engage with the site shouldn’t be made lightly. Here are some important considerations to take into account before taking the plunge and claiming your Avvo profile.
Your rating may improve, but not by much. An attorney’s rating automatically increases after claiming their profile, but to raise it even further, you must update additional information, such as your bio, practice areas, publications, etc., as well as participate in the Q&A discussion forum and create original content. Perhaps the most common complaint against Avvo is that an attorney’s rating isn’t an accurate reflection of his or her skill, integrity or competence. A higher rating doesn’t necessarily mean a better or more successful lawyer, but instead corresponds more closely with how much the attorney interacts with the site.
Participation gives credibility. Many attorneys claim their profile only to update incorrect or misleading information published on the website, not realizing they are inadvertently lending Avvo credibility as a result. In one lawsuit against Avvo, a Florida attorney notably attempted to identify a negative reviewer on her Avvo profile. By frequently updating and interacting with her Avvo profile, she actively helped Avvo appear to be a credible and authoritative source on her practice, simultaneously exposing the negative review to anyone who searches for her online.
Avvo may benefit more than your practice does. One of the many ways to increase your rating is to link to Avvo through a badge on your law firm’s website. Not only does this boost Avvo’s Google rankings while damaging your own, but it also links directly to your competition.
Lawyers become commodities. Although it isn’t mandatory, attorneys who contribute responses to legal questions and guides on various topics are far more likely to see their ratings increase. By encouraging attorneys to create content solely for Avvo, it uses attorneys as a business tool for profit and to integrate itself into the relationship between lawyers and their potential client base.
While attitudes towards Avvo are certainly divisive, it appears as though Avvo is here to stay. Regardless of your opinion on the site, it is important to at least be aware of Avvo and discuss it when developing your marketing plan. Being knowledgeable about the website’s business practices and history will only help you in making an informed decision on whether claiming your profile is the right move for your practice.