Avvo has become a formidable presence on the legal landscape. So much so that at least some lawyers believe a high rating can help business, or worry that a low one will hurt them. And for those lawyers, we’ve put together a list of things that can help increase your rating.
What is Avvo?
It’s important to understand what Avvo is and does before you can know what factors might or might not have an impact on your rating.
Avvo is an online legal service created in 2006 by Seattle lawyer Mark Britton (former legal counsel for Expedia).
The name “Avvo” is a derivation of avvocato, the Italian word for lawyer.
Britton was inspired to start the service when he was vacationing in Italy (thus, presumably, the name) and couldn’t get away from clients sending requests for legal services, or asking questions. So being the techno lawyer he was, he combined the two disciplines into a platform lawyers and clients can access anytime, from anywhere.
Avvo aggregates information from public records (state bars and other attorney licensing entities) and then creates a profile using its own rating system. A lawyer needn’t request a profile; Avvo does it automatically, and in fact, will not delete profiles even if requested.
And so, Avvo boasts that it has profiles of virtually all of the lawyers (at least 97% of them) in the United States.
Some lawyers, and state bars, do not care for this approach, and have objected to it. Avvo has even been sued for making what the plaintiffs claimed were false factual statements about the lawyers being rated, but Avvo defeated the claim, the Court holding that the Avvo rankings are not fact, just opinion, which is protected by the First Amendment.
Others see it as a tool for business development, and strive to increase their ratings in the hopes this will increase business.
And Avvo has an impressive list of cheerleader quotes on its website, like these:
” Avvo is changing the lawyer marketing game. In my 25 years in the business, I have never seen a better marketing vehicle for lawyers. Period.”~ — Lou Andreozzi, former President & CEO, LexisNexis
“Two months after claiming my Avvo profile, answering a few questions and posting two legal guides, I had over 4,000 visits to my website.”— Cheryl David, Estate Planning Attorney, North Carolina
And some impressive stats as well:
- Delivering $8 billion in revenue to lawyers every year;
- More than 8 million visits per month to its website;
- With 50% of its visitors having an urgent legal issue; and
- 650,000 contacts per month between attorneys and potential clients.
For lawyers, Avvo offers what it calls Avvo Legal Services, which allows them to select from a list of fixed fee, limited scope services to offer (such as real estate, estate planning, family, business, and immigration) and receive payment from Avvo after the service is provided.
The client has already deposited the fee with Avvo before the work is started, so payment is immediate. As soon as the client approves it, the lawyer receives 100% of the fee, with no deduction by Avvo.
Avvo receives a separate marketing fee from the lawyer for providing this service. It goes out of its way to explain the fee is a separate marketing fee and not fee splitting, which would be unethical in many jurisdictions.
It also offers a $49/month subscription service to lawyers called Avvo Pro. Avvo says the additional benefits with this service include no ads, enhanced visibility, conversion tracking, spotlight reviews (allows the lawyer to select the best reviews and promote them at the top of the page). The subscription also includes a personalized headline at the top of the lawyer’s profile.
Finally, Avvo also offers paid advertising, website design and content services.
For clients, Avvo offers a large platform legal marketplace, where its customers can shop for legal services, and the lawyers to provide that service.
They can view profiles, ratings and reviews, and post their own reviews if they so desire.
Love it or loathe it, use it or not, it is undeniably a resource to be taken into account in a law firm’s marketing plans.
It ranks high in Google searches, and more and more clients are now checking Avvo ratings to confirm a decision to hire a lawyer.
What are the ratings, and what do they mean?
The ratings rank from 1-10, with 1 meaning Extreme Caution, and 9-10 meaning Superb, as follows:
• 10.0-9.0 Superb
• 8.9-8.0 Excellent
• 7.9-7.0 Very Good
• 6.9-6.0 Good
• 5.9-5.0 Average
• 4.9-4.0 Concern
• 3.9-3.0 Caution
• 2.0-2.0 Strong Caution
• 1.9-1.0 Extreme Caution
How does the Avvo rating work?
Avvo creates the rating from two sources:
1. First, the information in the attorney’s profile and;
2. Second, information collected from public sources like state bar associations and lawyer websites.
A lawyer cannot “buy” a rating by, for instance, purchasing an expensive subscription. The profiles are free to attorneys, and no amount of advertising, purchases etc. will influence the ratings.
And, Avvo will not disclose its weighting system, so it isn’t possible to put your thumb on the scale, or “game” the system.
Still, knowing the two categories above will help an attorney who is interested in maximizing her chances of a higher rating;
How To Increase Your Rating.
It should go without saying that no lawyer should lie on Avvo or any other website to gain ratings, clients or for any other reason.
And with that, below are several things any lawyer looking to increase her rating can do.
1. Claim your profile.
You may have an Avvo rating of “Attention” or “No Concern” if you haven’t claimed your profile. The “Attention” designation means there is information in the public record, that in Avvo’s opinion, the reader should be aware of, such as a disciplinary action. The “No Concern” rating means just what it suggests, that there are no red flags in the public record.
As noted above, whether you know it or not, you and 97% of the rest of the lawyers in the United States have an Avvo profile and a rating. Since it’s out there, and can’t be deleted (you can request the rating be deleted if you haven’t been disciplined, but not the profile), you should give serious thought to claiming it.
And, Avvo acknowledges that all of the information it takes into account in its ratings is contained on an attorney’s profile. Avvo says that claiming the profile will automatically get you a numerical rating. One study by Reddit (cited below) concluded that there is a default rating of 5.9 just by claiming the profile.
2. …And maximize it. After claiming your profile, maximize it by doing these things:
- provide a good quality profile picture. Resist the temptation to use a selfie. You’re putting yourself out there as a professional. Everything about your profile, especially your picture, should convey professionalism.
- check the information already on your profile, and correct it if necessary. Things such as the year you were licensed, practice areas and rates (if you choose to disclose them) are easy to quickly review and update, if necessary.
- update and add information, such as work experience and practice areas. And be sure to add any professional achievements and awards, even if you think they may be minimal.
- correct public information you believe is inaccurate by contacting the agency responsible for the information.
- ensure that any information you place on your profile (and anywhere on Avvo for that matter) complies with the rules of professional conduct regulating such information.
3. Client reviews and testimonials. Although Avvo says reviews and testimonials do not affect ratings, they would most certainly affect prospective clients. And if you happen to get a negative client review, do not respond immediately. Step away from the computer if you have to, take a run, meditate, work out or smack a punching bag. Then come back and respond, in a professional manner. Done, properly, a response can create an image of the true professional you are, and that can help. The good news, as mentioned in the first sentence, is that client reviews do not impact your rating, up or down.
4. Peer endorsements. Avvo has acknowledged that peer endorsements are a way to assess industry recognition, which it acknowledges is a factor in how its ratings are calculated. So get them, and if you can get them from opposing counsel, even better. If your relationship supports it, agree to mutual endorsements.
5. Speaking engagements. The anecdotal evidence suggests listing speaking engagements weighs heavily on ratings. Local organizations are often starved for content for their meetings, and usually welcome an offer for a short talk on an item of interest. Take advantage of this.
6. Answer questions. The anecdotal evidence here suggests just the opposite of that for speaking engagements; that is, answering questions doesn’t seem to matter. Whether it affects ratings or not, it can’t hurt as an overall marketing effort to attract potential clients.
7. Publications. Write something and find publication outlets online where you can post it, then list the article.
8. Other resources. The lawyers at Reddit have undertaken to crowd-solve the Avvo rating system. You can find it here.
So there you have it. A list of things you can do, today, to help increase your Avvo rating.
To your rating success!