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A Tale of Two Lawyer Ratings Systems

by Carolyn Elefant on June 15, 2007 · 6 comments

in Ethics & Malpractice Issues, Ratings/Testimonials

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Imagine a lawyer rating system that assigns lawyers different categories of grading and purports to provide an objective way to assess a lawyer and through “third party validation of ethics and legal ability provides that extra level of confidence that the right lawyer or firm has been selected.” A ratings system that takes years of experience into account in issuing ratings and removes positive ratings where a lawyer has a negative disciplinary record. A ratings system that even generates enough profit to fund a fellowship. And a ratings system that includes some errors and omissions.

If you thought that the lawyer rating system that I just described would be the subject of class action lawsuits, you’d be wrong. But that rating system sure sounds like this one, which is the subject of a class action lawsuits. And indeed, many of the claims alleged in the class suit (which you can access here) would seem to apply to both ratings systems: such as complaints of arbitrariness of ratings or that the rating service makes deceptive and false representations that clients can rely on the ratings in choosing a lawyer.

So, one of these ratings systems is sued, while the other is not. And if you’re wondering about the reasons for the differential treatment, I can think of at least one: consider the ratings of the class action’s lead plaintiff by this ratings service and this one.

Note: for the record, I have criticized both ratings services for various reasons here and here and here. In my view, ratings systems aren’t worth much because choosing a lawyer isn’t like picking a restaurant or buying a house. So if we lawyers allow ratings system, we should explain that they’re one of many, many factors in picking a lawyer. But more importantly, if we allow ratings systems, we must tolerate all systems; we shouldn’t be able to pick and choose by filing class actions between those ratings systems that we want (because they grade us better) and those we don’t.

  • http://www.susancartierliebel.typepad.com Susan Cartier Liebel

    Carolyn,
    I see one huge difference. Martindale Hubbell puts in all lawyers. However, if you don’t participate, they don’t rank you. You are just listed. They contact you to participate, upgrade your information, etc. But if you don’t want to you are not harmed. With AVVO, no choices and you are subjected to damaging calculations that are fatally flawed and will impact your business. If you don’t believe it, how would you like to be listed as suspended…or non-existent then be compelled to update your information and charged when you don’t choose to participate in the system yet you are not ranked or worse ranked to use with ‘extreme caution.’ Yes, one is being sued, hopefully into oblivion. Not every void has to be filled. You can look for meaninful disciplinary actions with any statewide grievance committe…they claim to want to shine a flashlight into those dark corners. Well the flashlight has been turned right back at them and it’s not pretty.

  • http://www.susancartierliebel.typepad.com Susan Cartier Liebel

    Carolyn,
    I see one huge difference. Martindale Hubbell puts in all lawyers. However, if you don’t participate, they don’t rank you. You are just listed. They contact you to participate, upgrade your information, etc. But if you don’t want to you are not harmed. With AVVO, no choices and you are subjected to damaging calculations that are fatally flawed and will impact your business. If you don’t believe it, how would you like to be listed as suspended…or non-existent then be compelled to update your information and charged when you don’t choose to participate in the system yet you are not ranked or worse ranked to use with ‘extreme caution.’ Yes, one is being sued, hopefully into oblivion. Not every void has to be filled. You can look for meaninful disciplinary actions with any statewide grievance committe…they claim to want to shine a flashlight into those dark corners. Well the flashlight has been turned right back at them and it’s not pretty.

  • http://soloinchicago.blogspot.com Peter Olson

    Good point Susan. However, I agree with a lot of your analysis though Carolyn…I don’t see great differences between AVVO, Martindale-Hubble, Super Lawyers, Leading Lawyers, ect. I think they are all quite flawed and misleading.

  • http://soloinchicago.blogspot.com Peter Olson

    Good point Susan. However, I agree with a lot of your analysis though Carolyn…I don’t see great differences between AVVO, Martindale-Hubble, Super Lawyers, Leading Lawyers, ect. I think they are all quite flawed and misleading.

  • Ugh..more lawyers

    Why do all lawyers think they are so great? All lawyers do is manipulate words to their advantage. A good example, an intential deception via ommission is not a lie to a lawyer. Sure whatever you say. Here is another good reason why lawyer has become a 4-letter work, just look at the last sentence, “…if we *allow* rating systems….” Please, some lawyers plain stink and thanks for *allowing* us to exercise our right to say it.

  • Ugh..more lawyers

    Why do all lawyers think they are so great? All lawyers do is manipulate words to their advantage. A good example, an intential deception via ommission is not a lie to a lawyer. Sure whatever you say. Here is another good reason why lawyer has become a 4-letter work, just look at the last sentence, “…if we *allow* rating systems….” Please, some lawyers plain stink and thanks for *allowing* us to exercise our right to say it.

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