If you are an attorney, you have probably heard of Avvo. If you have not, know that Avvo has probably heard of you. According to Wikipedia, the most omniscient and reliable of all sources, Avvo is an online legal services marketplace, which connects consumers and lawyers. Avvo also creates a profile for admitted lawyers and rates them on a 10.0 scale based on a computerized algorithm.
This rating system is sometimes a point of contention and it seems as if attorneys went through their own five stages of grief upon discovering the site. It starts with denial and simply ignoring the existence of the webpage that dares to make public records accessible to no other than the online snooping public. As a smart lawyer, you quickly realize that sticking your head in the sand does not make the world around you go away.
That realization leads to the next stage—anger. How dare someone list your name online in the 21st century, right? More so, how can a computer rate your qualities as an attorney without knowing you? Atrocious, you say! And so with a renewed hope that you can change the world you move on to bargaining. In the lawyer context it is more so the contemplation of pleading Avvo to take down your profile with an oh-so-subtle threat of redefining the First Amendment by filing a lawsuit.
If you lose your suit or never file one, it may leave you depressed. Maybe you consider throwing your $150,000 degree in the trash to become a barista. But ultimately, most people come to accept, and even embrace, Avvo and what it offers. And if you find yourself in the acceptance stage, here are a few tips for improving your rating and making your profile more useful to potential clients and fellow lawyers. Remember that you should try very hard to come up with something for each section of your profile. To ease the editing process for you, this post’s headings follow the order in which each piece of information appears on your Avvo profile.
Avvo permits clients to post reviews and star ratings of lawyers to their profile. It also allows lawyers to request client reviews by emailing a link to the lawyer’s profile directly from the Avvo site. This star rating is separate from the Avvo rating and good reviews will not improve your Avvo rating just as bad ones will not send your rating to the outer rings of hell. Here are a few tips on how to approach client reviews.
Gather positive reviews while you can. You never know when a disgruntled client will post a one star review about you. The best way to take a hit to your score is to have a lot of cushion to compensate for it.
Have faith. If a negative review is posted to your profile, know that Avvo does have a dispute procedure in place. Avvo will contact the reviewing client and request proof that they were in fact a client of yours. While your review is being disputed, it will be taken down. You can also post a reply to a negative review. Remember that a professional reply offering to resolve the matter may leave a better impression with the next reader than a snarky remark.
Be ethical. This should be obvious. It is not a good idea to tell your clients what to write about you. It is not a good idea to ask your friends and family to fabricate reviews for you or to do it yourself. And it is not a good idea to post confidential client information in a reply to a negative review.
This is an important section of your profile that you have full control over. People want to know who you are. They need to like you and they need to trust you. This is your chance to make a potential client like you without ever meeting in person.
Be personable. A reader does not care about your resume. Avvo has a separate section for that. Tell the readers who you are, why you care about their cause, and why they should trust you to fight for them.
Pictures and Videos
Readers want to connect a face to your bio. Not only can a nice headshot make you more personable and memorable, it has some additional benefits. Consider it from a potential client’s perspective. You are comfortably sitting in a law office lobby with three other clients. A woman walks toward you. You nervously begin to stand up to shake her hand only find out it was another lawyer meeting another client. From an awkward semi-squat you sit back down. As a lawyer, you can make a client’s first meeting a lot more enjoyable if he or she knows what you look like. After all, a client meeting should not have the feel of an uncomfortable blind date.
Look professional. In other words, do not use a photo of you in your home kitchen or one of you from a recent camping trip. Clients have an idea of what a lawyer should look like. In the end, they might be hiring you to represent them in court. Nobody wants a lawyer who will march into court in the latest trend running shorts.
Don't use an old photo. You hear it all the time—embrace who you are. So what if you have a few wrinkles and grey hair? Avvo is not a dating site. In fact, age screams experience and experience yells competence.
Include a video. Perhaps you have done a TV segment, recorded a video blog, or done a webinar. This is your chance to charm potential clients and impress them with your wit. It is especially important in litigation, where potential clients will want you to sweep the judge and jury off of their feet. With that in mind, try to impress the potential client first.
If you speak a foreign language, this is the place to list your skills. Foreign languages enlarge your potential client base to those who do not speak English. Even potential clients who do speak English may feel a special connection to an attorney who shares a similar background, knowledge, or interests.
Be honest. Irrespective of any ethical implication for lying about your skills, you do not want a client leaving a negative review somewhere simply because your high school Spanish class did not leave you with the proficiency you claim to have. Since Avvo does not allow you to list the level of proficiency you have achieved, it is always best to err on the side of caution.
This section lets potential clients know what types of law you practice. The days of general practitioners are over. Avvo will display this information on your profile in a colorful pie chart.
Focus! You have probably heard this before. A niche makes you rich. For one, clients do not want to pay for hours of research if they could simply hire someone who knows the basics by heart. Ultimately, being spread too thin may indicate that you are not excellent at anything. Think about it. You would not go to a dentist-optometrist either. If you must split your time, list maybe two or three areas that you know well and that go hand-in-hand together.
Under this section, Avvo lets you list the various types of fee agreements that you use in your office, such as contingency, hourly, or flat fee. It also allows you to list your hourly rates, contingency percentages, the frequency with which your practice utilizes each of the billing methods, and the types of payment that you accept.
Don’t peg yourself. For many people, the mention of hourly billing alone acts as repellent does on mosquitos. So, if you do not want to bother taking a call from an indigent person with a contingency case, don’t list contingency in your profile. However, who says that if the right contingency case lands on your desk, you won’t take it? Remember that potential clients love the no upfront legal fees aspect of contingency and the definiteness of flat fee billing.
Attorney endorsements play multiple roles in your profile. For one, your rating will actually improve with endorsements, although the number of endorsements that affect your rating is capped. Endorsements also tell potential clients more about you as a lawyer and the respect you command in the community.
Quality over quantity. Before you hurriedly ask your law school friends to endorse you to increase your rating, think about the value such endorsements provide. Avvo allows for nine different types of lawyer endorsements: (1) fellow lawyer in community, (2) worked for lawyer, (3) supervised lawyer, (4) worked together on a matter, (5) opposing counsel on a matter, (6) co-worker, (7) friend, (8) family member, and (9) other. Undoubtedly, unlike a review from your lawyer-mom, a glowing endorsement from opposing counsel speaks volumes about you as an attorney and your skills.
Remember the nature of your profession. Your endorsements should say something that speaks to your ability as a lawyer, such as you being “knowledgeable,” “experienced,” “dedicated,” passionate,” or “detail oriented.” Clients do not care that you are the life of the party at every event.
Avvo lets you list your office address, phone numbers, and email, as well as link to your website and social media. Here are a few tips on how to approach this section.
Fill in the blanks. There is a reason why Avvo provides space for all of the categories above as they can all be helpful to potential clients. Links to your website may also help web crawlers find your company domain address and ultimately compute the search results page on which your domain appears.
Consider providing a cell phone number. This one is by all means only for those willing to leave their private lives behind. However, there may be certain benefits from a client’s perspective in making you seem more approachable. This is especially so since lawyers have a reputation for being non-responsive.
Provide YOUR email address. As with a cell phone number, an email address that has your name in it will make you appear more approachable. Potential clients may be discouraged from sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Use links to professional pages. Just like your headshot, the links that you use should be professional. If your office has a Facebook page, link to that. Consider linking to your LinkedIn profile or blog. Remember that potential clients may not share your love for wedding decorations on Pinterest.
If you are licensed in multiple states, this is the place to let Avvo and any readers know. At this time, this section is designed for law licenses only. If you are a CPA looking to shout out to the world about your license, read on further.
Avvo lets you contribute to the marketplace in 2 ways: (1) answering questions from non-lawyer readers and (2) writing legal guides. With further contributions you climb on Avvo’s leaderboard and receive a contributor level rank of 1 to 20.
Do contribute. Even if you do not believe in Avvo and what it provides to the public, there are still reasons for why you should contribute. For one, your profile does show your contributor rank and potential clients may be impressed with higher numbers, regardless of how they are calculated. Thus, in making a decision to call a lawyer, a potential client may be more likely to chose a lawyer whose profile sports the number “20” over you. Moreover, the various contributor ranks also come with a colored icon. You guessed it. Level 20 is gold. Read “gold” equals “good.” Lastly, your profile will show the number of answers and guides you have written. Once again, based on psychology more than anything else, you do not want your page to show two fat ZEROS.
Pay attention to the points you score for your answers. To keep climbing in your contributor rank, Avvo awards points for certain answers. The best way to earn points is to pay attention to Avvo’s scoring. So, it happens that answering a days old question with 10 answers will not take you too far. Your best bet is to answer a question within the first hour and as one of the first three contributors. Many attorneys simply post “consult with a lawyer” or “I agree with my colleagues” to gain up points. Merely clicking a button to agree with a previous answer is also a quick way to score some points.
View it as a learning experience. Reading questions and other people’s answers has more benefits than increasing your rank. It gives you a chance to refresh your knowledge of the law and it may inspire you to learn by looking up the answer yourself.
Consider including a disclaimer. As always, sharing your legal know-how can lead to risks, especially so if you end up being wrong. For that reason many attorneys on Avvo include disclaimers together with their answers.
Recycle your old blogs and newsletters as guides. Blogging is a thing and many lawyers have embraced blogging as a way to improve their Google ranking. If you have old blogs, consider revising them to fit the Avvo guide format.
Nothing says success like a plethora of awards in your name. Avvo and its readers can use your awards to better judge your competency as a lawyer. This is your time to brag.
Think outside of the box. Not all lawyers sport a Superlawyer title. This is not to say that you have nothing to put in this section of your profile. Think back to school. Did you have a scholarship, received any type of honors, CALI awards for highest class grades, industry recognition awards, or law school awards? Maybe you have a pro bono award from your bar association and if not look up how to get your pro bono efforts recognized. Do not stop at law related stuff. Your awards from college and previous jobs are also awards. Perhaps you were the employee of the month? Such awards may have little relevance to your qualifications as an attorney but may nonetheless benefit you. Your clients may have gone to the same college, they may have worked retail just like you did. Overall, a non-legal award is still better than a blank space in your profile.
This section is where you show your age and maturity and gives Avvo and its readers a better picture about you as a lawyer.
Again, think outside of the box. You are a lawyer and you do legal stuff. Who cares that you used to be retail manager, right? Wrong. A client may be from the same industry you were in and wants your expertise. A potential client looking for a tax attorney may benefit from someone with accounting experience. A longer work history also shows that you have made the right steps and worked hard to get where you are now.
Include internships. It does not matter that you did not get paid when you interned at the courthouse while in law school. The experience was invaluable to you and it will be invaluable to your clients as well.
This section lets Avvo and its readers know how connected you are to the community and what network of resources you have available to you if a tough question comes up.
Are you a leader? When filling in this section, think first of any leadership positions you have held, whether or not related to law. After all, the title “president” must count for something. If you do not have any such positions to your name, consider running for a board position of one of your bar association’s sections. Oftentimes, bar association sections have a hard time filling open board positions.
Are you a member? Good news, even if you have never held any leadership positions you need not despair. You may only be a member, but that is enough. Include any bar association and section memberships. You member of the ABA, right? Include that.
Include non-law stuff and old stuff. Once again, memberships in organizations that are not law related may nonetheless be valuable to potential clients who have a similar background. You cannot wish for a better ice breaker during your first meeting than discovering that you and your client are or were members of the same charitable or sports organization.
Think outside of the box. Avvo’s profile categories do not fit everything. A CPA cannot generally list his or her qualifications under licenses because that section is designed for state bar admissions. You can use this category as a catchall and list your non-law licenses, court admissions, volunteering positions, as well as law review and journals positions.
This section lets you present some evidence of why you are amazing by listing the cases that you have handled and their outcomes.
Be ethical. This is an overarching theme. Do not disclose confidential information that you could not otherwise disclose under the ethics rules.
Put something. You may not have argued before the Supreme Court, but chances are you have handled a case. You are a lawyer after all. So, as long as you are disclosing information that can ethically be disclosed, list something.
Avvo lets you list any publications you have authored or co-authored. To a reader, this section speaks to your involvement in the community.
Publish! These days it is not hard to publish something. Perhaps you have not authored a law review article, but there are other types of publications you can list. Consider listing bar journals, send a blog post to reputable blogs such as Business Insider, Above the Law, Lawpreneur Radio, etc. (here is a list of the top 100 blawgs), list any newspaper articles you have written. If you cannot think of anything, list your own company blog.
Continue publishing. The relevance of your publications does not last forever. Consider reviewing this section once in a while and add new fresh material.
You have worked hard for your degrees so list them. It gives potential clients a better idea of who you are.
Think beyond law school. It is not only your law degree that is relevant to Avvo’s readers. Perhaps a potential client went to the same college or high school as you? School pride can sometimes do wonders.
Think beyond degrees. The letters behind your name are important but it is not only degrees that show your education. In this section you can consider listing your law school emphasis as well as any certificates you have received, such a mediation training or paralegal certificates.
Avvo lets you list any talks you have given. Prepare to list the name of the conference or meeting you spoke at, the title of your speech, and the dates. Once again, publications speak to your involvement in the community.
Put something. So what if you were not a keynote speaker at an annual conference. Did you make a presentation in college or law school? Did you speak at a networking event? Did you speak at a group meeting? Did you teach a class? These are all speaking engagements you should consider when filling out your profile.
Continue speaking. It is hard to get a speaking engagement by sitting around and waiting to be noticed. Consider taking proactive steps to get new speaking engagements by joining non-lawyer groups interested in learning something about the law. You may even get some clients from that.
So what is the key to improving your Avvo rating? Well, no one seems to know for sure, but your best bet is to fill in your profile as fully as you can. Let the ramblings above help you in improving your profile and good luck.
Disclaimer: Karel Raba or Holborn Law APC are not affiliated with or compensated by Avvo.com and do not expressly or impliedly endorse Avvo.com. This post is meant for general informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as legal advice. The post does not guarantee any results. As with anything, the information in this blog post may change at any time. The post may constitute Attorney Advertising as defined by the rules of professional responsibility of some jurisdictions. Holborn Law is based in Orange County and Riverside.The attorneys of Holborn Law APC are active members of the State Bar of California and licensed to practice law in California. All services relating to immigration and naturalization provided by Holborn Law APC are provided by active members of the State Bar of California or by a person under the supervision of an active member of the State Bar of California.