My So-and-So websites has put numerous professionals under scrutiny. Teachers, professors and doctors have all felt the sting of anonymous reviews. But if lawyers thought they might have the means to avoid a similar fate, a U.S. judge has put them in their place.
One such site, Seattle-basedAwo.com, rates lawyers based on their credentials, conduct, endorsements from other lawyers and reviews from clients. Awo then assigns lawyers a score of between one and 10. (So far, Awo only rates lawyers in nine states, among them Washington and New York, and a spokeswoman says at this time there are no plans to expand into Canada.) The site was the brainchild of Mark Britton, a lawyer and former in-house corporate counsel who teamed up with Toronto-born entrepreneur Paul Bloom to launch it last June.
Within just nine days, lawyers in Seattle sued to have the site shut down. They argued Awo was a “flat-out scam” that could harm consumers. In their suit, the lawyers said the ratings were worthless because some attorneys were changing their online profiles to juice their scores. Worse still, the plaintiffs said, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito scored lower on Awo than an attorney currently serving a sentence for conspiracy and other charges.
But in late December, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik rated the lawsuit a flop. “To the extent that their lawsuit has focused a spotlight on how ludicrous the rating of attorneys (and judges) has become, more power to them,” he said. “To the extent that they seek to prevent the dissemination of opinions regarding attorneys and judges, however, the First Amendment precludes their cause of action.” An Awo spokesperson says if lawyers do have a problem with their rating, they can contact the company to address their concerns. For his part, Awo’s CEO Britton can’t complain. As a lawyer, he scores an impressive 8.5 out of 10—it would be higher, except one reviewer warns that Britton “cannot be regarded as a trustworthy attorney.” M
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