When I started practicing law twenty-one years ago, lawyers knew that Martindale-Hubbell was the big thing. Martindale-Hubbell was made up of two big parts. First was a directory containing firm and attorney information. This was something you could pay into (and you really paid), but for many lawyers the thought of not appearing in the preeminent legal directory was blasphemy.
The second part of MH was its attorney ratings. Lawyers were rated from CV to AV. A lawyer who received a CV rating knew that his or her peers believed him to be a good, competent lawyer with very high ethical standards. A BV rating meant that other lawyers felt the attorney was very skilled and had high ethical standards. An AV rating meant the lawyer’s abilities were top-notch (and ethical standards were high).
With the Internet came a competitor to MH: Avvo. Avvo claims to use a mathematical formula to rate attorneys on a 1 to 10 scale. The formula takes peer reviews into consideration, but Avvo claims to base its ratings on more than that.
For a while now, I’ve had a rating above 9.0, which Avvo labels as “superb.” While it’s always nice to be described with superlatives, I can’t help but wonder how much of the rating comes from “fluff” like my own bio sketch. I’ve spent some time on Avvo building my profile and increasing my presence there (through answering general questions), but has that affected my score?
Part of the reason for my doubt is that Avvo contracts with a company to sell you a nice looking plaque for your office or ego wall if you have a high ranking. The company even lets you preview what yours will look like.
While I know Martindale-Hubbell makes it possible to acquire similar plaques, the whole thing still makes me just a little uncomfortable, and I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m thinking about it too hard and should simply be grateful that I have a nice rating. On the other hand, the idea that a resource that might be used by potential clients is based on less than reputable ratings methods bugs me.