A Silly Website
It is ridiculous to think that a person might choose a lawyer based even in part on a number spat out by a secret algorithm. Yet that’s the premise behind startup avvo.com.
Out of a very limited number of data, Avvo’s algorithm creates ratings for “experience,” “industry recognition,” and “trustworthiness” and assigns a number between 0 and 10 — “Avvo’s assessment of how well a lawyer could represent a client” — to each lawyer in its database.
A quick check of the ratings for criminal lawyers in Houston (the area with which I’m most familiar) reveals that the algorithm is — to put it gently — imperfect. The ratings generally bear no relation to the quality of the representation provided by the lawyers. Some of the 6s should be 9s and some of the 8s should be 5s. Some people listed as having criminal defense practices don’t.
Avvo seems to have very little information on most lawyers. Avvo clearly mined the Texas State Bar’s website for information on lawyers; the lawyers whose information came from there only have no practice information and are generally rated in the 5s and 6s. Some lawyers — those for whom the State Bar website reflects disciplinary history — are rated very low, in the 1s and 2s. It looks like Avvo also mined Findlaw’s (Westlaw) and lawyers.com’s (Lexis) data; lawyers with more data have practice information and are generally rated higher than those with less. Who knows where else Avvo’s initial data came from.
My own rating was initially 6.3 (all of the information they had came from the State Bar). After I spent a few minutes updating my profile, my rating rose to 9.6. Avvo did not ask about things like court admissions, trial experience, or successful results. And, most importantly, Avvo didn’t look me in the eye — something every client should do before hiring a lawyer.
Clients will, in theory, post feedback on the lawyers they’ve used. But in order to rate a lawyer, a client must register, giving his name and email address. Once we’ve beaten their cases, our clients generally have no desire to have anything to do with anything to do with the system. It’s highly unlikely that formerly accused clients will register to rate their lawyers.
A tip of the hat to SHG for pointing out that this silliness is up and live. Any bets on how long it’ll take for avvo.com to burn through $13 million and go dark?
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