Avvo, Endorsement, Fraud.

 Posted on October 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

Framingham, Massachusetts divorce lawyer Howard Lewis endorses Taylor:

...and Weston:

Also Ware:

...and Bellotti:

...and-oh, hell. 9,000-plus others, all of whom he couldn't possibly know:

This practice of endorsing strangers on Avvo makes actual endorsements worthless. It's as bad as-worse than-falsifying client reviews.

You don't think Lewis picked 9,000 strangers to endorse, do you? It's possible-he may have some paid marketeer posting endorsements to random accounts for him. But some of those endorsements are for people who have solicited them.

Those lawyers who solicit these reviews from people who don't know them are committing a fraud on potential clients.

Do you think Avvo knows?

Of course Avvo knows. Avvo encourages it. I regularly receive emails such as this one:

They're sent out by Avvo, I suspect to everyone in the perp's email / Fæxbook / LinkedIn address book. Avvo wants lawyers who don't know each other to endorse each other because it gives an imprimatur to the site as well as the lawyers.

Why would Lewis endorse 9,080 people-or, more likely, pay someone to post cookie-cutter endorsements? Is it out of the goodness of his heart? Oh, no. Howard Lewis knows lethal generosity. He knows the truth of endorsements-what I tell my friends when they ask for Avvo endorsements: it's better not to ask for them. If you really want people to endorse you, endorse them.

I have endorsed several lawyers on Avvo; none of them asked, and each of them is someone I know well enough that I would refer potential clients to them in the real world. A number of lawyers have endorsed me; each of them knows me outside Avvo as well. I have removed Avvo endorsements when their subjects went off the rails. An endorsement means something to me-when I endorse someone I'm putting my name on the line. If I endorse a dud, my reputation suffers.

Guys like Howard Lewis? You can see the value they put on their reputations. And he's nowhere close to the only one. He's just the worst offender of the many-Eric Stepanov from Plainview, New York; Charles Franklin of Orlando; Edward Beckham of Caldwell, Idaho...-I quickly found by googling the boilerplate from some endorsements.

Avvo's encouragement of fraudulent endorsements devalues real endorsements. I'll still endorse those who deserve it, but I've also started giving endorsements like this one (to Bart Charles Craytor of Atlanta, Texas) to those strangers who send me solicitations:

In truth, I don't know Mr. Craytor; never heard of him. But he doesn't have many typos in his "about me" page, so when he had Avvo send me an email asking me to endorse him, I thought, "what the hell?" Why not endorse this guy who has this marketing website spam every stranger in his email address book with a request for an endorsement? That's good enough for me. After all, it's really hard to find a lawyer who offers contingent fees in criminal cases. And if I know nothing about him, so what? I don't have to know him to endorse him, amirite? You don't think the other lawyers endorsing him know him, do you? Why shouldn't I bump up his endorsement numbers-that's what uninformed potential clients are looking for ("Oooo, 35 endorsements. Shiny!")-and help a brother out? After all, dear reader, we're lawyers, and if we want to write endorsements that make you think that Bart is our nearest friend, the fact that we've neither met him nor seen him work won't get in our way.

If you'd like an endorsement like that, then by all means have Avvo send me an email requesting an endorsement. If you wouldn't, you'd better make damn sure I'm not in any of your contact lists before you sign up to have Avvo solicit endorsements on your behalf.

Better still, don't let Avvo solicit endorsements on your behalf. Let your great work be your solicitation.

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