Business of Law

Avvo will improve lawyer-rating transparency, pay $50K fine in agreement with New York AG

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Avvo has reached an agreement with the New York Attorney General’s Office to increase the transparency of the online legal directory’s lawyer-rating system.

The changes include consumer disclosures about how lawyers are rated and how legal forms are posted to the website. The company will also pay a $50,000 fine, covering the cost of the attorney general’s investigation.

“When seeking legal advice, consumers most often turn to the internet–and directories like this have an obligation to ensure consumers know what they’re getting,” said Attorney General Barbara Underwood in a press release. “My office will continue to protect New York consumers and ensure they get the transparency and accurate information they deserve.”

The company’s one-to-10 rating scale of attorneys had been criticized for being opaque, and accused of favoring attorneys that update and build their Avvo profile.

Avvo has agreed to state on their site that attorneys who engage with their profile, like by uploading a resume, receive higher rankings. As well, the company now conspicuously has on its site that it does not collect all relevant data that could affect an attorney’s rating, and that consumers should independently verify the discipline record of an attorney. Per the agreement, the company will no longer be able to claim that its ratings are “unbiased.”

Previously, if an attorney wanted to correct their Avvo profile, she would have to create a profile and agree to the company’s terms of service. In New York, that is no longer the case. Avvo agreed to help correct profiles without first requiring the attorney create a profile.

Beyond attorney ratings, the agreement also requires that a lawyer barred in New York with relevant experience look over every legal form uploaded to the website.

“Avvo is happy to cooperate with the New York State Attorney General on this agreement,” Avvo wrote in an email in response to the ABA Journal’s request for comment. “At Avvo, we are focused on our users, which consist of both consumers and attorneys. We are committed to providing consumers with timely, accurate information to help them navigate the tasks of identifying and hiring lawyers, while also providing lawyers with opportunities to differentiate themselves to potential clients.

“We believe the changes agreed upon with the New York State Attorney General reaffirm Avvo’s commitment to pro-consumer practices and improving the accessibility of the legal community.”

Avvo was acquired by Internet Brands in January of this year for an undisclosed amount.

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