Two major changes have taken place at U.S-based legal directory, Avvo.
Most recently, the business re-branded around “questions and answers” – moving quite sharply away from its former focus on lawyer ratings.
Although the legal directory component of Avvo is still there, the emphasis is now on its Q&A forum – where potential law firm clients leave questions for attorneys, who then respond online.
It moves Avvo into the “hot” Q&A space, which also includes the well-known Quora.
The other big change that took place earlier in the year: Avvo now includes doctors as well as lawyers. So, doctors are rated in the same way, and can answer questions from consumers about medical problems.
(although, interestingly, the name Avvo derives from the Italian word for lawyer “Avvocato”, so maybe the doctors were not part of the plan when the company launched?)
According to Avvo:
“Professionals that answer questions on Avvo receive seven times the number of contacts from prospective patients or clients than those that do not participate in Q&A.”
I was quite surprised by how quickly and how radically Avvo has re-focused. The Q+A dimension has always been a part of Avvo, but the home page has been completely re-designed and the directory search box moved to a far less prominent position.
By way of background, Avvo was launched in June 2007 by Mark Britton, formerly the general counsel at online travel company, expedia.com.
A classic West Coast tech venture, the company has raised about $23 million to date in a number of financing rounds from the likes of DAG Ventures, Benchmark Capital and Ignition Partners.
The Seattle-based company has grown considerably since 2007 and is now one of the most heavily trafficked legal websites in the market.
Borrowing many of the features of consumer industry sites, Avvo includes ratings and profiles for around 90% of U.S. lawyers.
It rates each lawyer from 1 to 10 using a mathematical model that considers a lawyer’s years in practice, disciplinary history, professional achievement, and industry recognition.
Former and current clients and peer lawyers can post their opinions in client reviews.
I’ve admired the way in which the company has breathed life and imagination into the somewhat tired legal directory industry.
But Avvo’s rise has not been without controversy.
As the product is designed around buyers of legal services, some lawyers are uncomfortable with the fact that they cannot control their individual score.
I’ve always found the crude 1 to 10 scoring system a bit mean. How can reduce every human lawyer, including every nuance of their practice, to a mere number?
However, there is no doubt that Avvo’s pioneering approach has increased transparency in the legal market and empowered potential buyers of legal services.
Click here to read the full Avvo announcement, which has some interesting statistics around the convergence of Q+A, search and directory listings.