On-line lawyer rating service hits Michigan

Avvo.com, an on-line lawyer rating service that premiered to mixed reviews (here, here and here) last June, and weathered a class-action lawsuit filed by attorneys who took issue with their ratings, now includes ratings for Michigan (and Wisconsin) lawyers.

From Avvo’s press release last week:

“The new ratings and profiles are immediately available for consumers to view and for lawyers to claim and update for free. Avvo is now available in 15 states and the District of Columbia, and covers approximately 70 percent of licensed attorneys across the country.
“Avvo offers consumers more information and better guidance regarding lawyers and legal issues than has previously been available in one place. Avvo rates and profiles every lawyer, with Avvo Profiles including attorneys’ practice areas, work experience, industry recognition, and disciplinary sanctions. Avvo also aggregates and displays client reviews submitted by consumers and peer reviews submitted by attorneys.”

How does Avvo calculate its ratings for lawyers? From Avvo’s website:

“The Avvo Rating is our effort to evaluate a lawyer’s background, based on the information we know about the lawyer. The rating is calculated using a mathematical model that considers the information shown in a lawyer’s profile, including a lawyer’s years in practice, disciplinary history, professional achievements and industry recognition – all factors that, in our opinion, are relevant to assessing a lawyer’s qualifications.
“For some lawyers, the only information we have been able to collect is the publicly available information from state bar associations or other organizations that license lawyers. If that is all we have, then we display an Avvo Rating for the lawyer of either ‘Attention’ or ‘No Concern.’ We display the ‘Attention’ rating if there is information in the licensing records that, in our opinion, you should pay attention to, such as a disciplinary action against a lawyer without offsetting positive information. Otherwise, we display the ‘No Concern’ rating.”

So, how useful is Avvo? I tried popping in the names of a few Michigan attorneys, selected by the highly scientific method of flipping the pages of the Michigan Bar Directory with my eyes closed, stopping and pointing my finger.

I used the “Lawyer Name” search tab on Avvo’s home page. There are fields for first and last name, plus a city, state or zip code field. In each case, I used first name and middle initial, if any, last name and “Michigan.”

The results were erratic.

For instance, searching for Douglas J. Donaldson, of the Donaldson & Bieganowski firm, produced this from Avvo: “We did not find any lawyers named Douglas J. Donaldson. To help you, we have expanded your search to include lawyers with the last name Donaldson.” But, curiously, under this “no find” advisory, his profile was listed nonetheless, with a “No concern” rating. Clicking his profile revealed this information: “23 years since Douglas J. Donaldson was first licensed to practice law in MI,” no disciplinary actions, practice areas unknown.

Searching for Stacie R. Behler, listed in the bar directory as “Vice President Public Affairs Meijer Stores,” produced the same “no find” advisory. But, like Donaldson, Behler’s profile was listed below the advisory. Here’s her information: “13 years since Stacie R. Behler was first licensed to practice law in MI,” no disciplinary actions, practice areas unknown.

A search for Robert C. Ketola, Robert P. Ketola & Associates, did not produce a “no find” advisory (as should have Donaldson’s and Behler’s). Clicking Ketola’s profile lets you know: “11 years since Robert C. Ketola was first licensed to practice law in MI,” no disciplinary actions, practice areas unknown.


None of the lawyers I searched had a numeric Avvo rating. In fact, it was not that easy to find a lawyer that had a numeric Avvo rating. I searched for every lawyer with the last name “Smith” in Michigan. Avvo returned 276 listings, and by my count, roughly ten percent had a numeric rating.

Hmmm. Hmmm.

Then, just for grins, I tried each of the Michigan Supreme Court justices. A search for Chief Justice Clifford W. Taylor produced the now-familiar “We did not find any lawyers named …” But there was a profile listing for him. There were “no find” advisories but profile listings for Justices Elizabeth Weaver, Robert P. Young and Stephen J. Markman.
A listing appeared for Justice Michael F. Cavanagh. A search for Justice Marilyn Kelly took me straight to two lawyers named Mary Kelly but did not advise me there was no listing for Marilyn Kelly.

Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmm.

Justice Maura D. Corrigan’s search produced the most curious result. Avvo advised that “Hon. Maura D. Corrigan has not claimed this profile so information may not be current. Here are similar lawyers that may interest you. These lawyers have claimed profiles and provided up-to-date information.” The “similar lawyers” (only one was listed) was Shalini Nangia, a Livonia attorney with 7.4/10 rating. I searched both Corrigan’s and Nangia’s Avvo profiles in vain for something that would justify Avvo’s “similar lawyers” linkage.

Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmm.

Looks like the Avvo folks have a little work to do.

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