Last week, a tweet from Keith Lee confirmed that Avvo , the controversial lawyer review site planned to remove contact information from attorney profiles. Potential clients can still contact lawyers through a portal (no word about confidentiality precautions there) but lawyers must pay for a profile for contact information to appear directly. Avvo’s new policy came as no surprise to me. After all, with Avvo’s recent acquisition by digital marketing giant Internet Brands, changes to Avvo’s business model were inevitable to increase profits for the new owner. As a result of Avvo’s new policy, lawyers must now ask themselves whether it remains worthwhile to use Avvo to list their credentials or house client reviews unless they pay for a profile. Otherwise, they risk having their credentials bring potential clients to a results page, only to have the client go with the lawyer who is easier to contact.
Avvo’s new policy change offers a good reason for lawyers to re-evaluate Avvo’s usefulness ten years after the site launched. As my long-time readers may recall, I was an early Avvo supporter because back then, there were no real options for lawyers to both locate lawyers online and find feedback on their services. Most bar associations didn’t even list lawyers at their websites for the public to find or to retain an online database of disciplinary actions. And even if the bars had listed lawyers, many solos and smalls back then did not have their own website or a professional looking online presence. Thus, Avvo filled a void.
Now more than a decade later, the world is different. Websites that once cost $5000 to develop can be had for pennies. Google and Yelp are robust sources for lawyer reviews that rank higher in search engine rankings than Avvo. Many bar associations have finally made lawyers’ disciplinary records available online so the public disciplinary records attached to Avvo profiles are no longer as important to inform clients. In short, has Avvo outlived its usefulness?
I write this post not to criticize Avvo’s new policy or even Avvo itself, but rather as an example of the need for lawyers to constantly evaluate all of their marketing tools in a digital age. Sites that were once used for one purpose may change in focus. Take Facebook, for example. Though it’s still a top social media site, many teens no longer join the site – or even sign up to begin with because their parents are using it. Thus, lawyers who dismissed Facebook pages or ads for marketing, figuring they’d only attract high school and college kids may reconsider. Conversely, lawyers who relied on Facebook to target young entrepreneurs or new grads might do well to explore other sites more popular with the younger crowd.
For lawyers of my generation, advertising was never as much of a moving target. That ad on the back cover of the Yellow Pages, the radio sponsorship or local seminar on estate planning worked year after year and could go on autopilot. Not so any more. Social media sites are always evolving and changing and users can afford to be fickle because usage is free. Lawyers can no longer think of marketing as a “set it and forget it” activity. Instead, they must constantly re-evaluate the efficacy of digital marketing tools to avoid paying money for a service that no longer delivers – or like Avvo, may have become obsolete.