Lawyers Sue Lawyer Ratings Site

avvo.pngLawyer ratings site Avvo is being sued by lawyers unhappy with negative ratings.

The complaint on behalf of Seattle lawyers John Henry Browne and Alan Wenokur says Avvo is deceptive, unfair and violates state consumer protection laws.

It would be easy to call irony on this one, but in reality it sits far better with clichés including when you dance with the devil and when you play with fire.

From a strict consumer viewpoint it’s easy to side with Avvo, and as CEO Mark Britton writes on the Avvo blog, the service helps consumers by providing them with information that empowers their ability to make an informed choice. Yet you just know this was going to happen. Red rag to a bull perhaps?

The suit itself claims that Avvo’s rating system is flawed. Browne and Wenokur allege that the Avvo system can be gamed, citing an example of a lawyer improving Avvo ratings by including sports awards with their profile. Whilst the suit skirts the question of free speech in terms of Avvo not confirming the veracity of supplied information, it does not seem to have the potential of becoming a legal battle focused on free speech. The crux of the suit is about calculations and ratings; the only people who would be deeply concerned with the suit are Web 2.0 startups that use proprietary ratings system. The thin end of the wedge could be a precedent where service providers with negative ratings on review sites could sue those sites on the basis that the rating system itself was deceptive or unfair, and that could mean just about all of them.