Problems of Online Rating Sites

Michael Ehline Swears in To the Bar

Taking the oath!

 

The Rise in Legal Search on the Internet

Examples of attorney rating sites are Martindale, Lawyers.Com, Avvo, and Super lawyers. There are at least 78.1 people all throughout the United States that use the World Wide Web, according to the World Bank. So, it stands to reason that these people are likely to look to the Internet to locate a personal injury attorney.

Out of 228 million adult users of the Internet, 93% of them take advantage of the ability it provides to browse local businesses and other types of services, which includes law services. Such a large amount of traffic has caused an increase in questions regarding a small industry that has taken over legal marketing on the web through attorney ranking sites.

What are Attorney Rankings Sites?

The popularity of attorney ranking sites has continued to increase over the last several years. Their purpose is to provide people searching for legal surfaces and legal professionals alike with a resource they can trust. These sites generally list attorneys that have the highest qualifications in regards to:

  • Educational background
  • Win / loss record
  • Client satisfaction
  • Various other factors

What a majority of people are not aware of is attorney rankings sites they claim to be represented as a resource for educational purposes, when instead they are ultimately driven purely by profit. Some of them employ ghost writers to put up copy on other sites in their blog networks, to game the SERPS, for example.

Where the Problem Lies

An analysis was generated using three of the sites claimed to be attorney ranking sites that are the most prominent. It is very clear that they are crammed full of conflicts of interests and the approach used is very questionable. Furthermore, the ratings they locate for personal injury lawyers are basically unusable. Some sites allow you to ad bid on your competitors name! (So your picture and NAP Data shows up when someone searches for you.)

The rankings that were generated from criteria used on all three sites were debatable to say the least. The same is also true for their overall operation practices.

Results of the Investigation of These Sites

An investigation was decided in August 2011 by ABACE, which is the American Bar Association Commission on Ethics 20/20. In February of 2010, an investigation was encouraged by the House of Delegates into local, state, national, and territorial efforts of publishing rankings of law schools and law firms.

What was initially proposed to be investigations into the United States News & World Report’s yearly lists of rankings of the top law firms ultimately became known as “Resolution 10A”, which was sponsored by the New York State Bar Association.

Attorney ranking sites that were unspecified, were questioned in the investigation conducted by ABACE. During the investigation, disciplinary agencies, attorneys, consumer groups, bar associations, and the ranking sites were questioned.

It was determined by ABACE, from the findings of the investigation that no evidence existed that pointed to a widespread problem. This makes it seem to people following the investigation that attorney ranking sites are genuine. However, there is not nearly enough evidence for this to be definite. ABACE also stated that there is not currently a need for the ABA to support, undertake, or fund additional resources for the purpose of continuing further study. One reason for this decision was there simply was not an adequate amount of evidence that a pervasive issue exists that would merit the ABA to proceed further. It was concluded by ABACE that the fact that an adequate amount of evidence did not exist, the expense of employing experts would not be justified.

The Real Meaning of the Investigation

The bottom line is ABACE feels that since a problem cannot be proved with supporting evidence, then there must not be a problem. The fact of the matter is would be difficult to determine a problem simply because law firm and attorney ranking websites are fairly new. Due to this, the criteria that sites such as this use for ranking, and their overall practices for operation, have not yet been adequately researched. It will cost money to do this, and the ABA probably cannot be the one to do it.