I’ve written far too much about Avvo already, but they went and did it again. After claiming my profile to “earn” a super awesome perfect 10 (Look at me! I’m special!), the emails started pouring in. I immediately became desensitized to the spam about webinars and musings from all kinds of brilliant “lawyers” who are far too smart to do dirty work like practicing law, but something else finally caught my attention.
A recent email had the grabbing subject line of “New Case Notification: A traffic ticket case has just been posted.” I hadn’t asked to receive anything of the sort, and as I read the email, I wished I hadn’t. It wasn’t really a traffic ticket at all, but someone charged with a criminal offense. It gave the full name of an individual I can only assume they thought I’d consider a “lead” or a “PNC” or whatever kids are calling human beings in need these days. On top of that, it explained he was a student hoping to be a lawyer. Making it all worse, the email told me where the case was, and it included the kid’s narrative about his case, including incriminating statements with details about the offense, harsh words about a specific judge, and questions no self-respecting lawyer could ever answer without intimate knowledge of the client and the case, the kind of thing that only comes from formal representation. What the hell is wrong with Avvo?
I have friends who are on Avvo and are justices of the peace and pro tem judges all over the valley. They probably got the email too. I have friends who very recently left private practice criminal defense for the steady pay of a prosecutor, and they probably got the email. They might be the judge hearing the case, the one he says “is not very intelligent.” They might be the prosecutor he’s going to face. For all that poor kid knows, I might be one of them.
Does Avvo care about that? If they’re sending this crap to me, a guy who actively criticizes them every opportunity I get and publicly expresses my disapproval of what they’re doing in general, what kind of steps do you think they’re taking to make sure this kid isn’t making his bad situation worse by trusting them? What if this kid applies to my firm for a job? I’m not that guy who forgets names and lovably bumbles about when encountering people for whom I’ve heard the back story. I’m going to remember and bring it up. I owe it to them.
It’s becoming apparent to me that Avvo isn’t just some harmless, meaningless lawyer ranking system that people who don’t know any better stumble across surfing the web. They’re legal rebels in the worst sense, not merely commodotizing something extraordinarily important and personal, but also taking arms against the very ideas some of its often-unwilling participants have devoted their lives to protecting, things like client confidences and the honor of the profession itself. On top of that, Avvo thinks I’m willing to quote a flat fee to this kid through an online form, describe my approach to his case and address what matters most, and pay $10.00 if he contacts me by phone or email? Seriously?
This may seem grandiose, but you aren’t that kid, the judge he thinks is an idiot, or the prosecutor who just got a defendant’s confession emailed to you.