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June 5, 2007

Avvo launches with glitches

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:26 AM

In today's paper, I wrote about Avvo, a Seattle startup that aims to create profiles of every attorney in the country. The service would compete with the Yellow Pages or other ways consumers find divorce lawyers or bankruptcy attorneys today.

Avvo aims to be more than a list of lawyers by providing ratings for each lawyer on a scale of 1 to 10.

I took a quick peek at the site last week after the company allowed a preview before the site's launch. I found nothing unusual, except that it was really slow.

However, CNET reports today a number of odd glitches and information it found:

According to Avvo's profiles of "licensed attorneys," President Abraham Lincoln, once a lawyer who traveled on horseback between county courthouses, and Scopes defense attorney Clarence Darrow, who died in 1938, have no disciplinary sanctions pending and are encouraged to update their profiles by personalizing them with "professional experience" and achievements. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito each receive hardly flattering "experience" and "trustworthiness" ratings of three out of five stars.

Avvo does not disclose how it comes up with its ratings.

Board member Rich Barton, the CEO of Zillow.com who helped Avvo CEO Mark Britton start the company, readily acknowledged to me in reporting today's story that the company's techniques will cause some controversy.

"As long as we stay focused on the fact that we are empowering the consumer with information, in the court of public opinion you will win," he said.

UPDATE: See the comment down below for Mark Britton's response that he sent to the CNET reporter regarding what he found on the Avvo site.

He said, in part: "We're working hard to constantly add more information and, now that we're live, lawyers and consumers can help by adding their own content. In just the few hours since launch, hundreds of attorneys have claimed their profiles and provided consumers valuable information regarding their body of work."

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Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee
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