As the son of a lawyer, I kind of knew about Martindale-Hubbell ratings. As a new lawyer, I knew that I wanted that Av Martindale-Hubbell rating. It meant that my peers thought highly of my work and ethics. When I first received the rating, I told my dad and I was quite proud. When I had a partner, the law firm had an Av rating. Then the internet came along.
The internet wants to democratize everything. Who cares what lawyers think about other lawyers? Let’s let everyone rank everyone else. Also, let’s let clients rate their lawyers the same way Yelpers rate a takeout Korean barbecue joint. I wasn’t a fan of this, but Avvo forced me to participate. Why? Because if I didn’t, my rating would languish somewhere around “meh”.
I soon figured out, though, that the Avvo numerical rating may use some of the consumer input, but without any input I could make my number rise. I put in my educational background, significant cases, CLE articles and lectures, which all increased my rating. My current Avvo rating is a 9.9 “superb”. My wife, by the way, still thinks I’m “meh” but I don’t think that has to do with my lawyering.
Back to Avvo. So I don’t put much stock in Avvo’s 9.9 assessment of me or walk around with a big LED sign over my head saying “superb” like the pig in Charlotte’s Web. Instead, I just let it sit there. But I have clients that found my Avvo page. This is what causes the ambivalence.
When I finish a case, the client usually says “thank you” and we move on. The closing papers are filed or signed. We send out any trust account funds and, unless the client has another problem, we don’t hear from the client again. Avvo has changed that. Three clients have said some of the nicest things anyone (who isn’t my mother) has said about a lawyer, let alone about me. The internet, unfiltered, facilitated compliments from clients that reminded me why I like being a lawyer. The most recent comment was written by a client whom I last represented in 2009. I haven’t heard from the client in years. But the things the client wrote meant a lot.
I’m used to reading all the vile and mean stuff that commenters have written in response to articles in the local or national papers. I’ve seen the stories about the online bullying done through Facebook and elsewhere. But to have three people take the time to tell the world (or at least the world that looks on my Avvo listing) about their experience with me, that’s what causes the ambivalence. Because I don’t think Avvo should call me “superb” just because I gave them lots of info for my listing. But those three clients, they all gave me five stars. If I was a barbecue joint, people would be lining up around the corner after seeing the ratings on Yelp.
My advice is don’t rely on numeric or star ratings. They aren’t the guarantee of success or failure. On the other hand, if you like the lawyer and he or she is competent and cares, that’s what should matter. Then tell the world on Avvo.
That’s the view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida. I’m Marc Dobin and I don’t feel “superb”.