Fair is Fair: Avvo Did Me Right (Update)

I’ve been tough on Avvo in the past, expressing my distaste for the vulgar Avvo Answers and bashing the time suck of callers and emails seeking free advice on a DUI in Phoenix.  Oh yes, I’ve been tough on Avvo, which is why my fingers are in pain as I hunt and peck my way through this post.

Lunch with Avvo CEO Mark Britton was scheduled for 12:30 pm.  At 12:14 pm, certified funds arrived at my office.  I was retained.  I was retained by a client who contacted me because he found me on Avvo.  Oh, the shame.  The humiliation.  After all the things I had written about Avvo, all the hours wasted telling callers that I couldn’t represent them for free no matter what Avvo promised, here I was, retained by an client via Avvo.  And lunch with Mark Britton mere minutes away.  The shame.

Thoughts raced through my head as a made my way through the midday throngs.  I could just keep my big mouth shut and say nothing.  I could pretend my mouth was full should Mark ask me the “question”, or politely excuse myself and head to the men’s room.  But no.  No, it was a matter of integrity.  If I am man enough to bash Avvo, I am man enough to own up to the truth.  I got a client through Avvo.

That didn’t mean, of course, that I couldn’t have a little fun with it.  So a plan developed, where I would whip out the check at the end of the meal as I adeptly grabbed the bill, and explain that lunch was on him.  Ha! Wouldn’t I be the card, the funny fellow?  I had visions of Oscar Wilde, wit running over. 

Lunch with Mark was quite an interesting time.  We talked frankly about the many of the Avvo issues that have been bandied back and forth.  We talked about how Mark ended up as Avvo CEO, and what he was trying to accomplish.  We talked about television interviews, and how the anchor asks a prolix 7 minutes question and gives 12 second for the brilliant answer.  He was a great guy, and I enjoyed talking to him very much.

And then, out of the blue, I said it.  I just came right out and told him.  My feet shifting nervously, my lip twitching, I told him.  I got a client from Avvo. 

Mark smiled triumphantly.  “Was it worth it?” he asked.  “Was what worth it?”  “The time you spend on the phone and answering emails.”  Mark told me that if I think I got calls and emails, I should see what he gets.  He suffers by a magnitude of ten, at least. 

“No”, I finally told him, “it wasn’t worth it.”  But it was just a fact of life.  It’s not like these problems didn’t exist before Avvo, or that I was satisfied trading off the one case I took with the 250 that held no interest for me whatsoever.  But it didn’t change anything.  I got a case through Avvo.  There’s no denying it.  For all my criticism, I actually got one.

Fair is fair.  I didn’t hesitate to write when I had something negative to say, and I won’t hesitate to admit that I gained from my relationship with Avvo.  Yes, I got a case from Avvo.  A good one, too.

Lunch was over too soon.  Mark grabbed the check when it arrived and said, “this is on me.”  Thanks for lunch, Mark.

Update:  Shortly after posting, the social media-crities and twitter-bells went nuts, with @adriandayton leading the way with this twit:

What? Social media works to find legal clients? @ScottGreenfield eats his words http://tinyurl.com/nqhmre

Now I have no doubt that Adrian was trying to have some fun messing with me, and I can’t blame him for that, given how little opportunity he has to crack a half-decent joke.  But for those who may think that he’s serious, let’s bear one thing in mind.  This is one client out of hundreds of telephone calls by people seeking free advice and free representation. 

One case does not a practice make.  One case is no big deal.  Hundreds of phone calls and hours of wasted time is a much bigger deal.  So if you’re keeping score, it’s Good Avvo 1, Bad Avvo 1000. 

I hope that puts things in perspective.  Now to all the social media acolytes, go find a real job and get to work.

22 thoughts on “Fair is Fair: Avvo Did Me Right (Update)

  1. Mark Britton

    Scott – Thanks for the post. I’m glad you got a case through Avvo. Not because I think you will be nicer to us (that’s cosmically impossible), but because it reinforces how unique Avvo is in the legal marketplace.

    Allow me to explain: Even though you do your best to avoid engaging Avvo.com, the site delivers to you hundreds of potential leads and today one very real (and large) case. Prior to Avvo, did any product – online or offline – escort so much potential business to your law practice doorstep? I am confident the answer is “no.” Now just imagine what it does for those lawyers who choose to truly engage the site.

    Yes, we’re different – we get that. But we are also a really powerful tool for lawyers to get more business, plain and simple.

    Thanks for your time and ideas today, Scott. Keep up the very honest blogging, even if Avvo must be in your cross-hairs from time to time. As long as your intentions are true (which they have always been to date), I am happy to consider every cranky suggestion you have. 🙂



    CEO, Avvo

  2. SHG

    Suggestions aren’t cranky.  People are cranky.  Now if we can just figure out a way to get rid of the hundreds of wasted calls and emails and limit it to the ones that aren’t looking for free legal advice, then we would really be talking business.

  3. Windypundit

    Maybe Avvo could sell pre-screening as a value-added service. It’s sort of like spammers selling you anti-spam software, but voluntary on your part.

  4. SHG

    Oddly, I just got another telephone call from the “fire hose” of Avvo, with the caller opening with the line, “are you a pro bono attorney?”
    “No, I’m not,” I responded.  “Oh”, she said, “I thought your name was in the pro bono attorneys section of Avvo.”

    I never even knew you had a pro bono section.  Good for you.  And them.  As long as I’m not in there.

  5. Rumpole

    SHG,have you ever searched the Avvo database for a criminal defense lawyer in New York. Its very interesting to see whose name pops up first.

  6. SHG

    Not until this moment.  That’s a surprise.  And Barry Scheck was sanctioned in California in ’97.  Didn’t know that either.  Wow, the stuff you learn.  No wonder I get all the crazy calls instead of Barry. 

  7. FG

    Here’s an idea — if an attorney requests additional screening, require a user to click an extra link to “contact this lawyer,” it might cut out some of the bogus calls and e-mails.

    Ideally, as an end user, I’d click on “contact this lawyer” and then get a very basic, easy to understand statement of what that lawyer does and does not do. At the bottom of that brief list of terms, I could click a link saying “I agree to these terms, I want to contact ___,” after which I would be provided with their contact information.

    The terms page could (and ideally would be) fairly simple, like:

    * I ONLY do X, Y, and Z cases. No A, B, or C cases.

    * I work only in X counties/courts.

    * I do not do pro-bono or free work, or give free advice.

    * I require payment in full, and in advance.

    If you’re still interested, click the link below for my contact information and I will be happy to review your case.”

    That probably wouldn’t filter out all of the bogus calls, but it couldn’t hurt.

  8. SHG

    Mark’s reaction to my issues was to suggest that I use the “about me” box that’s available to state the types of cases I do, fees, whatever I wanted to include to vet the potential contacts.  It sounded like a good idea, so I went there today to try.  Frankly, I tried to put some of my “requirements” in and I sounded, at least to myself, like I was being a pompous ass.  God knows I don’t need contribute to that.  It’s really quite difficult to express a general set of conditions that doesn’t make one sound like a real dick. 

  9. SHG

    The only thing worse than the price shopper is the “money is no object,” which means they have none, which puts them in the “do you do pro bono?” category, but without integrity.

  10. Windypundit

    Yeah, but if it makes the annoying people go “Whoa, I don’t want this pompous ass handling my case!” maybe that’s not a bad thing.

    Have you considered the Miss Manners approach? “I’m sorry, but accepting out of state or pro bono clients simply can’t be done.”

  11. SHG

    The problem with annoying people is that they don’t know they’re annoying.  It’s a truism, kinda like Dunning-Kruger.

  12. Blind Guy

    Scott–Even a blind squirrel will stumble over an occasional acorn . . . and I should know!

  13. jdog

    It’s part of the talking-about-oneself thing. You say — and I believe you — that you really hate the Here’s Why I’m Wonderful part of your website, but, honest, there’s nothing wrong with it — it’s just that when you talk about yourself in the third person (he said, talking in the second person) there’s an element of “Hey, if I said this about myself in the first person, it’d sound like braggadocio, and that’s what I’m really doing” and it’s intrinsically, well, yucky, no matter who’s doing it. (I’m not excluding me from the yuck; see my own link, for another yucky example in a different trade.)

    The best solution (by no means perfect) is I think, is a real third person description, in a consistent auctorial voice. It still would look yucky to you when it was on the front page of your website, but…

  14. SHG

    The Avvo profiles include a place for client reviews.  My clients prefer not to hold themselves out on the internet as requiring my services, and I would never suggest that they do so.  In fact, I’m disturbed by anyone in my line of law doing so for their own self-aggrandizement. 

    There’s is also a place for reviews by other attorneys, and I know that some lawyers solicit their friends to write nice things about them.  This too is unseemly, and I wouldn’t do it.

    You’re right.  I lack the bone in my head to self-promote.  Perhaps it’s a character flaw on my part, that certainly isn’t shared by many in the blawgosphere.  But I cannot brag, or ask others to say nice things about me, for the purpose of getting business. It just seems so “yucky”.

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