Nine Years Later, Avvo Is Pretty Much the Only Game In Town

Earlier this week,Avvo the first online lawyer rating site announced another round of funding – to the tune of $71.5 million – to expand product offerings and bring on new hires, reports the ABA Journal.  News of Avvo’s expansion brought the usual grumblings on some of the lawyer list-serves where I participate – ranging from valid criticisms of Avvo’s various services (such as whether Avvo’s for fee PRO listings yield a favorable return on investment)to rants about how Avvo serves no valid purpose but to take advantage of desperate lawyers and line its own corporate pockets.

No valid purpose? Really?  Take a look around.

In the nine years since Avvo was founded, sites like Amazon, Yelp and TripAdvisor have grown steadily, affording consumers access to a rich database of reviews on books, restaurants, hotels, and a vast array of technology and household products. Consumers crave this kind of feedback – the chart below from Google Trends shows the increase in searches for “lawyer reviews.”

And yet, Avvo – and perhaps a few other directories – remain the only game in town to obtain feedback on lawyers. Meanwhile, as best as I can discern, the bar associations — now teetering on the brink of extinction-by-irrelevance – do not even offer a searchable lawyer database that would allow consumers to search for attorneys based on their area of specialization.

Moreover, while in theory, a word of mouth referral is the best way to find a lawyer, consumers don’t always have access to referral sources. Moreover, as a lawyer, I’m not familiar with all of the possible lawyers who might do a good job for a client – and truth be told, unless there’s some benefit in it for me, I’m not really inclined to ask around to find a lawyer who might be right for the job. Alas, most bars still throw up barriers to payment of referral fees as well.

Given that bar regulators don’t publish a central source of information on lawyers for consumers, and that lawyers lack incentive to make referrals, is it any wonder that Avvo is thriving? If lawyers want to complain, it shouldn’t be about the rise of Avvo, but rather the short-sightedness and stupidity of bar regulators that made it so easy.