In today’s New York Times, Adam Liptak writes about a new website that’s a kind of Zagat-type guide to lawyers. (The full article is behind the TimesSelect barricade, but you can read it for free here.)
The site, avvo.com, allows people to look up lawyers by specialty and zip code and see ranked lists of possibilities — and it allows lawyers to add information to their own profiles that may raise their rankings. And some attorneys have figured out how to manipulate the system:
[T]he suit is full of examples of curiosities and anomalies in the ratings. The dean of the Stanford Law School had a lower rating than a lawyer convicted of helping terrorists. One lawyer, the suit said, raised his rating by listing a softball award.
Avvo conceded that lawyers could temporarily raise their ratings with silly prizes but said its staff manually checked awards not already in its database. Any bump for a spelling bee championship will be short-lived, Avvo said.
My rating rose from 6.4 to 7.4, or “very good,” after I punched in a couple of degrees and a law review article, lifting me past not only the dead lawyer but also the initial rankings of Supreme Court Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, before the site stopped ranking them by number. It did not look hard to game the rankings.
Sounds like firms can go ahead and chalk up hundreds of hours of lost billing to lawyers logging on to the site and trying to get their rating past Adam Liptak’s. (E-mail us if your rating is particularly outstanding — or awful.)