The New York State Bar Association has issued an opinion against the popular lawyer rating services Avvo. The association claims Avvo’s 'marketing fee' - which is taken from fees paid to lawyers using its client-linking services - violate ethics rules against impermissible referral fees. According to a report in the American Bar Association journal, the ruling found that the method of rating which Avvo Legal Services uses violates the rules. Avvo's criteria is based on information from the firms such as number of years in practice, volunteer bar work and other publicly available information. It then offers to select the appropriate lawyer for the client with a money-back guarantee.
The NYSBA opinion, which is not binding, claims there is an implied recommendation as to the lawyer’s 'credentials, abilities, competence, character, or other professional qualities.' It goes on to say that by paying a marketing fee, the lawyer is 'making an improper payment for a recommendation in violation of Rule 7.2(a)' of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct. Avvo has disputed this and pointed to other more favourable interpretations by other bar associations. Source: ABA Journal