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Avvo lawyer-rating site slapped with class action

A lawyer-rating site that inexplicably gave convicted felons higher numeric scores than law school deans is, in a move that was probably entirely predictable, being sued.

A lawyer-rating site that inexplicably gave convicted felons higher numeric scores than law school deans is, in a move that was entirely predictable, being sued.

Abe Lincoln's profile, which launched on June 5, compiles data from state bar associations and tries to compute a numeric score between 1 and 10 for nearly every attorney in the country. It's received $14 million in funding from Benchmark Capital and Ignition Partners, co-founded by Microsoft alum and Avvo board member Brad Silverberg.

But the scores have proved to be somewhat arbitrary. Our review of the site noted that Avvo execs or board members received higher scores than Supreme Court justices. In addition, Avvo includes active profiles of attorneys who have been dead for more than a century, including Clarence Darrow and Abraham Lincoln.

Steve W. Berman, a managing partner at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro in Seattle, received a handsome 9.2 rating. But, sensing a promising financial opportunity, Berman decided to file a class-action lawsuit (on behalf of wrongly-scored attorneys) against Avvo anyway. Whether it actually becomes a class action is up to a federal judge.

Hagens Berman has a history of filing class action lawsuits against technology companies. It's gone after Apple for its iPod (allegedly too loud), eBay (allegedly a monopoly), Expedia (allegedly too expensive), and Apple, again, for the iPod Nano (allegedly too scratch-prone).

Berman sent out a press release saying: "When the site launched, they had a very slick media campaign that led consumers to believe the site would give them accurate and insightful information about attorneys. In reality, we believe the site's rating methodology is prone to error and wide open to manipulation."

For its part, Avvo CEO Mark Britton replied: "We are just serving the consumer here, and we are trying to get consumers more information than they ever had before. Before Avvo was launched, everybody was pretty much going to the yellow pages and search engines, which are not the most efficient places for people to find a lawyer. By providing that information and guidance, it just helps consumers get the legal help they need."

Avvo currently gives Berman a 5 of 5 stars in professional conduct. But it's worth noting his complaint against the company cited examples of odd Avvo scores that we published in our article -- and didn't cite us. Perhaps Avvo should include a new category of "adequate legal footnotes."