Love it or hate it, Avvo has a strong presence in the legal space when it comes to creating a reputation online. When your considering how to market yourself, Avvo can’t be ignored. The website has quickly become one of the leaders in providing information to clients about attorneys and general legal advice. Of the lawyers that do use Avvo, there is some stark contrast in the way that the website is perceived. Some lawyers distrust and even hate Avvo for various reasons, while others love the site and see it as a great way to generate new leads for clients.
What is Avvo?
There are strong opinions on both sides, but it’s important to first know what Avvo is. Avvo is a Q&A discussion forum where people can get their legal questions answered by lawyers for free. Avvo also a rating scale element added to this forum; however, they go beyond the generic, standard lawyer ranking website. This can be done through research on discussion threads, where others have asked similar questions, or by submitting your own question and receiving answers from attorneys who use the site.
The other half of the equation allows site users to find lawyers. You can use criteria such as location and practice area to narrow your search. You can also review lawyers; this will allow others to see the ratings when they’re looking for their own attorney on the site.
In addition to allowing lawyers to display their name, address, phone numbers, and website, Avvo permits attorneys to essentially post their online resume. This includes such things as a list of academic and employment history and significant cases they have worked on. Lawyers are also able to post links to articles they have written or find interesting. There are many pros and cons of Avvo; consider them carefully so that you can make a decision for your own law firm about how to best approach this online rating system website.
- Avvo provides free advertising for lawyers. While there is an upgraded membership that can be purchased, most of Avvo’s services are available for free. Similar to Yelp’s business pages, an attorney simply has to claim his or her profile to start using Avvo’s system. This allows you to be proactive in how clients and potential clients perceive you on the site.
- Avvo allows past clients to write reviews about their experience with their respective law firm. This allows a certain level of transparency with law firms and attorneys, specifically. Avvo also has a feature that prominently displays information if a lawyer has been disciplined by his or her state bar association. Many attorneys and clients appreciate the fact that Avvo publicly shares information about unethical attorneys.
- Avvo has a feature that provides various perspectives of an attorney. This feature really separates Avvo from the other ranking and review sites. Avvo uses a combination of three different ratings – the Avvo Rating, Client Ratings, and Peer Endorsements – to evaluate the lawyers featured on their site. Unlike any other online rating marketing system, Avvo’s ability to provide more information about lawyers helps prospective clients make more informed decisions when it comes to selecting their attorney. Avvo also allows clients to compare the accomplishments of each various attorney to see which one best fits their case and needs.
- The biggest reason that lawyers love Avvo is because it actually does a good job of sending them new business. This is especially true of law firms and lawyers who take the time to answer legal questions posted on Avvo through the above-mentioned free research tool. Answering the quality questions posted onto this website provides a great platform for lawyers to connect with potential clients who are actively looking for legal service help and to show off their knowledge on certain subjects.
- The peer endorsement feature of Avvo is slightly biased. While the idea of having peer endorsements available for consumers to see seems like a great way for lawyers within fairly large firms to endorse each other, the execution of these endorsements intrinsically adds some bias to the results. In order to endorse an attorney, a lawyer has to claim his or her own profile on Avvo. This added constraint limits the pool of who can and cannot endorse other lawyers, thereby naturally adding some prejudice to the results. However, as more and more lawyers begin to activate and use their Avvo profiles, this bias will slowly diminish.
- Avvo has some issues with inaccuracy and inconsistency with their ratings. There are often instances of inexperienced attorneys that are given high rankings for no justifiable reason, while more experienced lawyers are getting lower rankings. This generally makes sense if the more experienced lawyer did not complete their profile to the same extent as the less experienced attorney. Avvo does not disclose the algorithm they use to determine their Avvo Rating so as not to allow lawyers to game the system and unfairly boost their ratings – an understandable goal, but one that can frustrate attorneys who don’t understand their received rating.
- Lack of control is a big con for most lawyers who are on Avvo. Attorneys cannot completely control what is on their profile. Avvo creates a profile for attorneys regardless of whether or not they want one (similar to Yelp business pages). The website uses public information, some of which can be inaccurate, to create the profiles. The only to correct or remove the incorrect information is to join Avvo. Also, as mentioned above, if an attorney is involved in any disciplinary action by the state bar association, Avvo displays that information on the lawyer’s profile.
Further, Avvo gives attorneys a ranking that they cannot control, except by adding more information to their profile. Avvo also lets virtually anyone write reviews about attorneys without verifying that the author was really a client. However, this is fairly consistent throughout most online rating systems, from consumer product reviews to business ratings. The final complaint about control is that once a lawyer claims a profile they cannot unclaim it. This last point turns away many attorneys from ever claiming their profile in the first place.
- Some lawyers complain about Avvo’s unresponsiveness. Questions about ranking justification, the logistics of paid ads, and other potential issues receive only vague answers. Negative reviews from clients that attorneys insist are fake are still displayed on their profiles regardless of bringing them to the site’s attention.
Regardless of which side of the Avvo debate you fall on, it’s something that must be discussed when planning your marketing strategy. Even if you choose to not join the site and claim your profile, it’s important to be aware of it. The last thing you want is to have new information change your marketing plans. You want to be aware of any negative opinions that appear online so that you’re able to address them if clients bring them up, but it’s also good to note the positives so they can be incorporated into your brand positioning. As the world of online marketing continues to evolve, Avvo is another piece of the puzzle to consider.