There are several websites and services that offer lawyer ratings. One of the oldest of these is the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. This service compiles and rates lawyers based on peer review.
The rise of the Internet has led to many websites which purport to provide ratings for all sorts of professionals, including lawyers. One of the newest is Awo.
The website provides lawyer ratings on a simple 1-10 scale, based on a complicated algorithm that takes peer reviews, disciplinary sanctions, professional awards, and client reviews into account.
Avvo, however, has not been without its critics. It is facing a lawsuit in Washington by lawyers who claim that the ratings are unreliable and arbitrary, and that their low ratings damaged their reputations. Whatever the merits of this case, there are some curious oddities on the site. For example, some lawyers who have been disbarred, or even convicted of felonies, rank higher than some Supreme Court justices. The site’s page for Abraham Lincoln (who was indeed a lawyer before he was President) urges him to update his profile.
While numerical rankings can be useful in many contexts, including, arguably, the legal field, this demonstrates some of the problems that come up when trying to create a shorthand rating system in an area as complicated as the law.
Furthermore, the anonymity that the internet provides can turn any rating website into a forum for disgruntled clients to vent their frustrations, creating a ranking that does not accurately reflect a lawyer’s true competence, or standing in the legal field.
While rating websites may be useful as a starting point, they should not be the only source of information that a client relies on. Before deciding to hire a lawyer, it is always a good idea to have a face-to-face conversation with him or her, and ask former clients about their experience with a given lawyer.