​Controversial lawyer ratings to hit Australia

Peter Godfrey
by |
The world’s largest lawyer ratings website could be coming to Australia, bringing its controversial scoring system in tow. 

The US company Avvo, which gives lawyers a score out of ten, has raised $US37.5 million which the company will use to fund its international expansion plans.

The company’s founder, Mark Britton has said that countries with an English-style legal system such as Australia’s would be obvious expansion targets.

Avvo’s scoring system is controversial as the company does not disclose precisely how it operates and critics allege the system is open to manipulation and that its scores can be inconsistent or inaccurate.

After it launched the company faced legal action from lawyers who were unhappy with their ratings, however approximately 160,000 lawyers – or 20% of lawyers in the U.S now use Avvo.

Comparison user based reviewing sites are already firmly rooted in other consumer areas such as restaurant and hotel reviews, and now the legal industry is catching up with models similar to Avvo being launched in Australia.

Lawyer Kim McFayden, who is preparing to launch a website with a similar consumer review model in three weeks time, says that it is difficult to fairly assess the abilities and reputations of lawyers.

“I’d prefer a more transparent model because I don’t see the need for secrecy,” McFayden told Australasian Lawyer.   
McFayden’s website, LawCorner, will allow consumers to view and select lawyers based upon individual reviews.
“It will be like LinkedIn with individual photos of lawyers and individual reviews,” McFayden said.

The website will also allow consumers to 'test drive' lawyers by engaging them through a Q&A section that then becomes visible to other users. 

However, Malcolm Charlton of Charlton Lawyers in Sydney believes that allowing clients to post their evaluations to such websites could potentially create inflammatory and even defamatory situations.

“In the case of litigious matters, such a system would overall be bad for lawyers,” Charlton said.

Charlton explained that since lawyers are often exposed to people who may be unstable or overly-emotive, they placed themselves at risk by engaging with consumer review websites. 

“If litigants have complaints, let them take them to the Law Society or the Legal Services Commission instead.  The Legal Services Commission findings could act as a clear and authoritative statement in the case of a lawyer having done something wrong,” Charlton said.

“Negative comments could be very unfair because of the nature of the law.  A lawyer could act very confidently in court and work very hard but then a litigant could come out and slam them.”

According to Thomson Reuters data the internet is now the most popular way to find and research a lawyer, with 38% of consumers saying they would use the internet to help them find a lawyer.

Do you think an online scoring system would help or harm lawyers?  Share your thoughts below.
  • anonymous on 8/06/2017 11:22:55 PM

    Yes there are some very good lawyers - BUT there are some very underhanded shifty crooks of lawyers too. The public have no protection at all. The Legal Services Commissioners office are smoke and mirrors. I welcome any company who can bring transparency to solicitors. HURRY UP AND GET OVER HERE

  • Matrie on 3/05/2016 6:41:18 PM

    I welcome any forum which provides information and transparency to the consumer. Where both good ethical behavior and poor unethical behavior can be observed and assist those who need legal intervention. Like all professions, there are many great lawyers however there as many very questionable lawyers. Welcome this site. When will it be here in Australia?

  • Simon Munslow on 14/12/2015 9:36:16 AM

    What a daft idea.

    People have a right to know who the bad operators are in any occupation, and in some states and territories, professional bodies that retain the ability to police themselves, do not do an adequate job of policing their own, or do so in a selective, partisan way.

    However this is the wrong way to go about resolving that problem.

    If it were to advance, any client making a post should have to properly identify themselves, and they should have to waive confidentiality to enable a right of reply.

    Needless to say however, Defamation lawyers would be the only winners from this.

  • Suzana Adad on 10/12/2015 10:48:23 AM

    Beware the Law Society of NSW and the Legal Services Commission! They are not what they seem. In recent times I have observed that the LSC puts what "is in the best interest of the public" first, and the LS is not giving it's members the protection they are paying for but it continues to enthusiastically take membership money. I have not been in trouble myself but I am following something that I saw in Court some months ago, and it is getting worse by the minute from what I can see. Please be accurate about any decisions you make about this topic in so far as it might relate to the roles of the LSC and the LS, and read the judgements, they make ME sick.

  • anonymous on 8/12/2015 9:31:25 PM

    In my experience the Legal Services Commission exists to protect the legal profession.
    It isabout time the legal profession was held to the same standards to which it holds other professions. Where is the duty of care in the legal profession? Non existent, especially so in family law where it seems diminishing ones clients of their assets is the primary goal.
    Lawyers are human beings like the rest of us, they are no better because they have studied law. Not enough people complain about the apalling lack of service and lack of concern for the clients interests.

  • Kim McFayden on 27/08/2014 1:42:59 PM

    I agree Dan that reviews alone are nothing new, however set in a context of legal Q & A across the main business and consumer law topics, we have a whole different ball game.

    Obviously there will be resistance from some quarters but I don't agree that only negative reviews will ensue. LinkedIn and the US site Avvo are reference points.

    The advantage of lawyer reviews to consumers is obvious but the potential advantage to lawyers should not be underestimated. If a consumer has no personal recommendation to go on, then reviews by others is the obvious next step. Clearly there are the unrealistic and disgruntled to contend with, which is why we will be individually moderating each review to ensure it is genuine and appropriate.

    We hope to see our member lawyers regularly asking their clients for a great review on LawCorner and attracting more clients and referrals in the process.

  • John Sheridan on 5/05/2014 7:50:19 PM

    As a litigation lawyer that has heard from colleagues in the USA about Avvo, I think Avvo coming to Australia is overdue. Apart from state-based speciality accreditations and the infamous Legal 500 type ladders, there is no way for the public to know the quality of potential lawyer and their strengths. The Avvo team helped start Expedia and this revolutionised the travel industry. Hopefully Avvo does the same for the legal industry in Australia.

  • Dan Toombs on 1/05/2014 6:58:23 AM

    I think platforms such as this in Australia will struggle for a few reasons. Most notably because I think that there is no real motivation for a past client to ventilate their experiences, unless of course they weren't happy with their lawyer and want others to know about it. In many respect, comparison sites are just reincarnations of platforms that already facilitate reviews like Yelp and Google Place pages, the latter are generally vacant lots in this respect despite having great search rankings. Where they become interesting is when reviews become a part of a much broader objective, like services offering free initial advice like LawPath and fixed legal fees like LawBuddy and Legal Vision. Avvo of course is similar. It's a bolt-on, rather than reviews as being the predominant focus! Notwithstanding this, it is such a competitive online environment, that comparative sites will need a sizeable marketing budget to garner the oxygen they'll require to get it to a scale where there is a return. Referral fees, which is how most platforms such as these derive their income can also be problematic, as LawPath found when they launched with this model, but changed it soon after.

  • George Brzostowski SC on 30/04/2014 11:07:01 AM

    It will tend to attract vilifying, negative and defamatory blasts against lawyers by disgruntled litigants. Some people cannot be pleased no matter what result you get for them. Some cannot understand that lawyers have a first duty to the Court. There will be no fair means of reply, and any attempts to reply may risk breaches of confidentiality. Unlike hotels and restaurants, Lawyers will be pilloried, and then have to stand with both hands tied behind their backs. Treat with caution.

  • anonymous on 30/04/2014 2:02:51 PM

    In all litigation there is a winner and a loser.Even in non litigious matters there is often a winner and a loser.
    Losers lose for many reasons, more often than not, nothing to do with the lawyer they retained and more to do with how they or other witnesses were viewed by the court as the tribunal of fact. When a case is lost, many people cannot accept that and cannot attribute blame to themselves for what they said in court under cross examination or confront the reasons why they were so determined to bring their action in the first place.Losers more often than not attribute either all or some of the blame for their loss upon their lawyers. that is a normal highly biased, human reaction.....but it is by no means informed comment about the skill of their lawyers.

    Any lawyer who professes that such a website is a welcome addition for either lawyers or consumers hasn't engaged in litigious legal work, or if they have, their experience in litigation and indeed human behaviour will without doubt be slight indeed.
    This free for all idea simply stirs up a lot of emotive and uninformed comment for financial gain by those who run the website. No one else will benefit. The Legal Services Commission exists for a reason. To protect both clients and lawyers.

Australasian Lawyer forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

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