In a Shocking Development, Avvo Gets Sued

15 Jun ’07

What a shame that only a few days after launch lawyers have filed a class action suit (on behalf of lawyers, natch) against Avvo, the lawyer rating site (founded by my mesh partner Stuart’s former Expedia colleague, Mark Britton). The story is proceeding (predictably, alas) almost as a parody for now, with a defensive industry investing in protecting itself against criticism by attacking the critics rather than improving service or engaging in a dialogue with stakeholders about becoming more transparent. On the bright side, getting sued by lawyers is the single best way to get everyone other than lawyers on your side, and to generate a lot of attention. Best PR money can buy.

Prediction: we will see the legal industry spin out a lot of defensive, self-indulgent malarkey about Avvo in the weeks and months to come.

For my part I think Avvo is a sensational idea (so far) flawlessly executed, and I hope the team is up to the trench warfare that lies ahead. Lawyers need to be dragged kicking and screaming out in the sunlight and consumers need to be given a fair opportunity to inform themselves about their service providers. For every 1 story I hear from a client about a great lawyer, I hear 5 about the very-much-less-than-even-passable. Consumers must be given the means to make an informed choice, and the Internet is just the tool for the job.

Avvo’s response to the suit is here. Note the comments, especially the comment that begins “Speaking as a client of legal services, I find the attitude of the lawyers who have responded to this post (I know they are lawyers by the language they are using) simply shocking and somewhat offensive.” Kevin weighs in here. And for a smell of the profession’s fear, follow the comments in the WSJ’s Law Blog post.

Update: If you read Alarm: Clock’s post and were wondering whether you ought, as they were, to be “amazed” that the plantiffs filed suit in 10 days, I suppose the answer is only if you assume that plaintiff’s lawyer didn’t prepare it before the launch and have it on the shelf, waiting for D-Day (note the elaborate tale being told about how plaintiff’s counsel instead came to the rescue to right a terrible wrong). All that would have been needed after launch was a representative plaintiff to pretend injury and few more anecdotes to support that pretense. Oh, and yes, you’d be right to wonder whether plaintiff’s counsel told SeattlePI that “he does not plan to name the venture capital backers as co-defendants in the case” precisely because his goal is to create the fear that he might, and thus starve Avvo of access to further VC funding as it burns through its cash defending the case. See, eg, Napster, and this (as usual) prescient observation from Mike Masnick back in March about investor liability.

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