Type of site
|Founded||June 5, 2007|
|Headquarters||Seattle, Washington, U.S.|
Avvo.com is an online legal services marketplace which provides lawyer referrals and access to a database of legal information consisting of previously answered questions, with information that includes client reviews, disciplinary actions, peer endorsements, and lawyer-submitted legal guides.
Avvo has developed a rating scale for lawyers based upon a proprietary algorithm, though it has been criticized. A lawsuit filed against the company alleged it was a "scam" and libelous, though this was later dismissed based on the First Amendment protection of free speech.
Avvo was founded in Seattle, Washington in 2006 by Mark Britton, a former legal counsel for Expedia, Inc. Britton said he developed the idea while vacationing in Italy and was still receiving inquires from friends and colleagues seeking legal advice. Rich Barton, the founder of the Expedia, Inc. and real-estate database Zillow.com, was a key advisor during the initial ideation stages and still serves on the board of directors. Avvo was derived from “avvocato”, the Italian word for lawyer.
The company was initially financed with $13 million in venture capital from Benchmark Capital and Ignition Partners. Subsequently, Avvo raised $71.5 million in financing in 2015, which brings the company's total financing to $132 million.
Avvo generates revenue by selling legal services, advertising, and other services primarily to lawyers. Avvo operates as a scraper site to generate its lawyer listing pages causing the District of Columbia Bar Association to specifically object to its business practices. An additional source of revenue for Avvo is through a $49.95/mo subscription service called "Avvo Pro" which allows lawyers to remove advertisements from their profile, including advertisements by competing lawyers which may appear on non-"Avvo Pro" lawyer profiles.
According to the website, the directory provides comprehensive profiles, client reviews, peer endorsements, and its own proprietary rating for more than 97% of all licensed attorneys in the United States. Avvo lawyer profiles are aggregated from public records provided by state bars and additional attorney licensing entities. Avvo will not delete any lawyer's profile, and has been criticized for including profiles on deceased lawyers.
As of 2010, Avvo's directory includes ratings of lawyers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Browne v. Avvo
A lawsuit was filed on June 14, 2007, nine days after Avvo's launch, by Seattle attorneys, John Henry Browne and Alan Wenokur. The suit alleged that Avvo's rating system made false claims of being factual and was therefore deceptive and libelous and violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act. United States District Court Judge Robert Lasnik ruled that the rating system was only an opinion thus protected by the First Amendment right of free speech. The judge wrote, "Neither the nature of the information provided nor the language used on the Web site would lead a reasonable person to believe that the ratings are a statement of actual fact."
The District of Columbia Bar Association released its position about Avvo:
The Bar has not entered into any agreement with Avvo; instead, Avvo has obtained Bar member information directly from the Bar’s Web site, in violation of our restrictions on use, and used that information for its own commercial purposes. The Bar has asked Avvo to remove all improperly acquired D.C. Bar member information from its Web site, cease all attempts to acquire such information from the Bar’s Web site, and cease using improperly acquired information for any commercial purpose.
- Cook, John (June 5, 2007). "Online rating system Avvo puts attorneys in the hot seat". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
- Cook, John (June 12, 2007). "Respected lawyer wants rating site Avvo closed". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
- Duryee, Tricia (5 June 2007). "Hiring a lawyer? Avvo can help you". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
- Soper, Spencer. "Legal Website Avvo Valued at $650 Million in Funding Round". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2015-10-28.
- "Important Notice to the Membership About Avvo". District of Columbia Bar Association. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
- Robben, Janine (August 2012). "Super Size Me: Lawyers in the Age of Acknowledgement". Oregon State Bar Bulletin.
We create a profile if the state bar contains information." ... "We’ll have profiles of dead lawyers, like Abraham Lincoln.
- Liptak, Adam (July 2, 2007). "On Second Thought, Let's Just Rate All the Laywyers". New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
- McCullagh, Declan (June 5, 2007). "Lawyer ratings site not without objections". CNET News. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
- Zahorsky, Rachel (April 14, 2010). "Avvo Grows, Ranks Lawyers From All 50 States". ABA Journal.
- Peter Geier (2007-06-18). "Avvo Sued Over Its Lawyer Rankings". The National Law Journal. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
- Mike Carter (December 19, 2007). "Lawyers' suit over site's legal ratings dismissed". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
- "Wall Street Journal endorses lawyers rating site". The Wall Street Journal. December 24, 2007.
- Dudley, Brier (November 1, 2010). "Avvo to expand to include ranking physicians". The Seattle Times.