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Ed Poll
  Week of July 1, 2008

What's Your Rating?

The idea of special marketing designations for lawyers remains a popular but controversial idea. A number of organizations increasingly try to help lawyers differentiate themselves by means of various "peer rankings" that purport to evaluate a lawyer's skill and ethics. Martindale-Hubbell has long provided a two-letter code ranking of lawyers based on a peer review process, with the "AV" designation denoting a lawyer of superior skill and ethics. In recent years, however, Martindale has been joined in an increasingly crowded field by such peer rating publications as The Best Lawyers in America, Chambers USA (which came from the U.K. to this country) and the various Superlawyers publications (which now cover nearly all 50 states).
Some state bar associations, particularly in New Jersey and New York, have made efforts to restrict these peer review rankings. Their argument (to use the words of the New Jersey State Bar) is that they can "lead an unwary consumer to believe that the lawyers so described are, by virtue of this manufactured title, superior to their colleagues who practice in the same areas of law." In addition, the newest rating system,, has generated even more controversy. Avvo started by giving a numerical 1-10 rating of lawyers in each state based on their experience and industry recognition, supposedly by evaluating public records (including state bar disciplinary actions) and legal literature. Avvo (short for "avvocato," or lawyer, in Italian) uses a proprietary mathematical model to develop its rankings, but has drawn fire for such inconsistencies as giving lower rankings to Supreme Court Justices than to some disbarred attorneys.
In a recent podcast (which you can access at, I interviewed Mark Britton, the founder and CEO of Avvo. He explained that Avvo's objective is to help consumers enter the legal community with confidence, to help lawyers differentiate themselves and increase their revenues. Avvo now pursues three separate rating modalities: peer review, client review and Avvo review. Avvo has now posted ratings online for lawyers in more than a dozen states, and says it has secured lists of lawyers from 30 states for rating. However, the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission in Illinois (to use one recent prominent example) has refused to give Avvo a list of the lawyers licensed to practice law in that state.
I'm all for lawyers who seek to differentiate themselves, as long as their quality of legal service is equal to their promotional skills. However, when the issue becomes what other lawyers or rating services say about you, rather than what you say about yourself, it behooves every lawyer to at least be aware of what's out there. A precautionary Internet search of your name along with any ratings about you could alert you to an image problem you didn't know you had.

Ed Poll

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Ed Poll
Ed Poll

Personal Commentary
This last week, in a keynote presentation at Los Angeles' LegalTech Show, Charles James, General Counsel of Chevron, Inc. highlighted his complaints about the current landscape of technology and vendors who claim that new technology can be seamlessly integrated, among other claims. He also suggested that vendors (and lawyers who serve Chevron) must listen to the needs and wants of the clients. When this is done, the reviews that appear on the increasing number of sites such as Martindale and Avvo, mentioned above, will be high. See more at
Best wishes,
Ed Poll

Ed Poll
Ed Poll

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Ed Poll
Ed Poll

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