After a 16 months in stealth mode, venture-backed (to the tune of $14 million!) Avvo pulls off the veil. For a long time the home page didn’t say much, beyond this teaser:
However, we can say that we are dedicated to helping consumers better navigate the highly confusing legal industry, and we are building something that no one else has built before.
It’s a lawyer ratings site. On steroids.
CNET has the details, with a lot of prominent lawyers given some not-so-great ratings. The local Seattle paper has more, including an explanation from CEO Mark Britton. He notes that Avvo goes beyond Martindale-Hubbell, FindLaw and AttorneyPages:
… Britton says there is “no established brand” that attacks the problem on behalf of the consumer. And the 40-year-old former attorney at Preston, Gates & Ellis notes that Avvo is different because it uses a mathematical model — pulling information from attorneys’ Web sites, state bar associations and other public databases — to determine which attorney is the best in his or her practice area.
I want to think about this, and noodle around the site a bit. It’s a beta (Whatever that means anymore).
There will certainly be additional content as Avvo builds out the site. Probably a link to local search, and allowing lawyers to add content. The Avvo blog hints at this. Part of the pitch to the VCs had to be “Zillow for lawyers.”
At first blush, you wonder if legal ratings might be better targeted at the corporate market rather than consumers. Some are working on this now. (And I’ll give a hint that it relies more on real people than math).
Joe Sixpack typically interacts with lawyers in divorce, personal injury, and the occasional will or trust. Do these areas need complex algorithms? Sometimes this works in my area.
People do need help navigating the maze that is the law and in finding lawyers when they need them. They also need help paying for them, which has led to the expansion of pre-paid legal plans.
We learned in the last few years to Google ourselves to see what’s out there on the Interweb. When I Avvo’d myself this morning I was told that it hasn’t yet crawled its way to the Midwest.
Good luck to Avvo. I’d like to see more VC money in the legal space.
Update: (Also good thoughts on Avvo from Kevin O’Keefe and Carolyn Elefant).