Avvo's goal is to provide consumers with more guidance in solving their legal problems than they've ever had before. With our focus on the consumer, we may appear a little different than the directories and static advertising you're used to seeing. As a result, misunderstandings sometimes arise about how Avvo works, particularly with respect to the Avvo Rating, and reviews by clients. Here are some of the most commonly heard "Avvo Myths":
Myth #1: Professionals must buy advertising to rank highly on Avvo.
Reality: Avvo's organic search results have absolutely nothing to do with who is paying us to advertise. Search results are sorted based on our algorithmic determination of the top professionals in that geography and practice area - a determination in which advertiser status plays no part.
Avvo search results pages often feature up to three "Sponsored Listings" and a single display ad. This common advertising approach was borrowed from Google and the other major search engines.
Myth #2: The Avvo Rating is "arbitrary."
Reality: Far from it. Unlike systems based entirely on the subjective input of peers, the Avvo Rating is based on an algorithm that is applied uniformly within each profession. This algorithm essentially performs a "résumé evaluation," taking into account numerous factors in a professional's background including years of experience, industry recognition, and absence of professional misconduct. The algorithm was created based on input from hundreds of professionals, thousands of consumers, and leaders in each professional field.
Myth #3: Professionals can "game" the Avvo Rating.
Reality: The sophisticated Avvo Rating algorithm takes into account dozens of elements in a professional's background. It is applied automatically and uniformly to every professional (read more about the Avvo Rating). While the Avvo Rating can be influenced by adding certain types of biographical information (positions held, publications, awards, etc.), the only way it can be "gamed" is through outright fraud. Avvo actively monitors profiles for fraudulent entries, and most professionals are subject to ethical rules that carry significant penalties for résumé fabrication.
Myth #4: Professionals can shoot up to a "10" rating just by getting their buddies to endorse them.
Reality: Uh, no. Unlike traditional ratings of professionals that rely entirely on peer endorsements, the Avvo Rating is a broader form of evaluation in which a professional's career accomplishments are weighted more heavily than what his or her peers have to say. For that reason, endorsements are only one small element of the equation, and there is a ceiling on how much peer endorsements can influence a professional's Avvo Rating.
Myth #5: Client reviews impact the Avvo Rating.
Reality: Nope. While endorsements from peers are a form of industry recognition - akin to being asked to speak at a professional seminar, or publishing an article - input from consumers is very different. It may reflect positively or negatively on a professional, and may include comments that are more reflective of approach than competence. As consumers often find other users' feedback very valuable, we have chosen to include such reviews in a stand-alone section in each professional's profile, but not have those reviews impact the Avvo Rating.
Myth #6: Maintaining a high Avvo Rating requires a professional to constantly participate in Avvo.
Reality: You do not even have to claim your Avvo profile--let alone maintain it - in order to receive a high Avvo Rating. There are literally thousands of professionals rated "Very Good" or higher without them having ever interacted with Avvo. Similarly, maintaining your Avvo Rating does not require constant participation. This is not to say, however, that your rating won't ever change. Adding new information may help increase your rating, and it is possible for it to decrease over time as certain types of recognition (e.g., publications, speeches and awards) become less relevant.
Myth #7: Professionals must give Avvo a credit card in order to claim their Avvo profile.
Reality: Avvo offers professionals who wish to claim their profile several different ways to verify their identity: by phone, e-mail, or by submitting a valid credit card. If a professional *chooses* to use a credit card, Avvo does NOT charge the card and does not store the card's information.
Myth #8: Most Avvo reviews are from people complaining about their attorneys.
Reality: On the contrary, over 85% of the reviews posted on Avvo to date are positive. Avvo is designed to help people find great lawyers, and judging from the reviews, it's doing just that. Even so, lawyers should not fear a negative review. As everyone knows, not every experience is going to be perfect, and clients will often say that a five-star review is too good to be true.
Myth #9: So many reviews are positive because reviewers are afraid they'll get sued if they leave negative ones.
Reality: Reviewers are well within their rights to express their opinions online, whether those opinions are positive or negative, and to relate their personal experiences (e.g., "She got the charges dismissed" or "He never returned my phone calls"). Avvo stands behind reviewers' exercise of these rights, including the right to comment anonymously, and will involve ourselves early on to preserve the rights of legitimate reviewers. To date, we are unaware of any successful lawsuit against an Avvo reviewer.
Myth #10: A lawyer posting a response to a negative review could violate the attorney-client privilege.
Reality: This could occur, but only if the attorney chooses to reveal confidential information, which isn't necessary (or ethical). Reviews aren't a forum to debate the accuracy of a reviewer's comments. Some of the most successful professionals on Avvo understand that even reviews they feel are unfair or incorrect offer an opportunity to display professionalism and responsiveness with a mature, well-balanced comment.