I have heard from a few people that they want an Angie’s List for Lawyers — a service they are willing to pay for, to get quality, real, vetted reviews of lawyers in the area. I decided to seek out some user research, from blog posts and other Internet discussions, to see what this ‘Angie’s List for Lawyers’ discourse is all about.
Here are some queries on Angie’s List itself.
Speaking as someone who logged in today to try to find an attorney, I see this category as one that’s exactly what I have my Angie’s List membership for:
1. It’s important that I find a good one
2. I’m not an expert enough to know myself who is a good one
3. The industry is full of advertisements and misinformation
4. I wish I knew what experiences other people have had
This points out the scope of the need. Some users find it very hard to navigate the (limited) information available about attorneys online and in other communications. They want to hear recommendations of others. They want to make a good investment — and feel that the choice is a very important one — but fear going down a wrong path. Importantly, they (or at least this user) is aware of the limits of their knowledge about law, and want to defer to those who have more expertise.
Some more discussion from another user on the site:
I was truly confused as to why Angies List does not provide a category for legal professionals. I was thinking of signing up because I needed a good lawyer and when I noticed that they dont provide such a category, I called them. They claim that they do not want to list attorneys because the services provided by attorneys cannot be effectively rated. I highly disagreed. People go to attorneys for specific help (i.e. file for bankruptcy, real estate closings, divorces, etc.) and the services that the attorney provides to the person (i.e. timeliness, cost, professionalism, promises, knowledge, etc.) can easily be rated. I am not going to pay a monthly fee for this service if it doesnt include all areas that someone needs help with. What I mean is, whats the point for paying a monthly fee for this site if I could find a plumber but need to pay another site to find an attorney. It should be all in one site. Really, there reasons for not having attorneys make no sense, and they should be added.
This shows the resistance of Angie’s List to jump into legal service ratings. Obviously there are some legal and quality dynamics behind the scenes, and Angie’s List feels it’s better not to take on the risks and difficulties of rating lawyers. But the user need is still there…
Another quote from the same site.
I think rating attorneys would be a very valuable service. I’m a middle aged woman that has many young adults come to me for advice. When I’m asked how they can find a good attorney I just hang my head and sadly tell them that they have to talk around. Hopefully they can get a free interview. This has not always been good advice and is not always possible depending upon their situation. If there was a resource to go to where an individual could read about previous experiences of the services provided by an attorney, it would be a great asset. In my mind, Angie’s List is a prime place for this kind of referral
And another, scouting out what a legal problem situation looks like…
Legal services are one of those things:
(1) that you use only occasionally,
(2) that you’ve GOT to get good consumer information about beforehand to avoid disaster, and
(3) that it’s almost impossible to research effectively without a big network of family, friends, and colleagues.
In other words, it’s perfect for Angie’s List!
I got lucky a few weeks ago, finding an attorney to help an elderly friend with a housing problem, but I’ll be needing a completely different kind of lawyer in a few months for a house sale – so here’s hoping Angie’s List gets this category up and running FAST.
Here is some pushback from another poster on the same site — that makes some points on why reviews are hard and may be misleading — and so there should not be an Angie’s List style of referral.
It is difficult to rate attorneys because not only are there a lot of them, but there are as many specialties as there in the medical field. That said, it’s not that it can’t be done or that reviews don’t exist. Most County Bar Associations, such as Dallas County Bar Association, will have an Attorney Referral Program. The good part about it is that they will set you up with an attorney, and for $20 (unless it’s changed), you get 30 minutes of an attorney’s time. Sometimes that is all you need, sometimes you will decide to work with that attorney, sometimes that attorney will know a colleague who will be a better fit, or you can go back to the Bar Association and ask for another referral. This is a low risk way to get started.
Another difficulty with rating attorneys is that they can be rated on several aspects including legal expertise, absence of Bar complaints, bedside manner, how their practice is set up, how many “wins”, etc. Sometimes a non-lawyer isn’t even sure what kind of lawyer they need and may be barking up the wrong attorney tree, so to speak. (Another good reason to contact the county’s Bar Association where you live or where the disputed transaction/conduct took place. Anyone rating a lawyer, like other ratings here, will be doing so as much on subjective expections and win/loss rather than the true compentency and professionalism of the attorney. If I need a trial lawyer to take my case to trial, I’d be less concerned about his bedside manner and more with how he/she does in the court room. (A bit like how I don’t care how nice my surgeon is as long as he/she is the best cutter in the field.) However, if I need a tax lawyer, family lawyer, or estate lawyer, for example, my relationship with the lawyer may require more contact, and I would want to know not only about competency, reputation, ethics, costs, but also whether there is a fit, I feel comfortable, I trust I will be dealt with in a manner to which clients are entitled, among other things. These factors can all vary depending on whether the firm is small, medium or large.
It is best, if possible, to meet with several attorneys. There are a number of ratings sites on the web, but there is not one single site of which I’m aware that can truly encompass all aspects of whether an attorney is right for you. However, looking at these various sites can be a good start of what to look for and where to go. For any name you find or get, you will want to go to the website of State Bar of Texas (or whatever state is involved) and check to see that the lawyer and/or the law firm is in good standing. There’s more, but that’s a quick overview.
Interesting about this last quote: though the user is writing saying that there should NOT be a review site for lawyers, in the 2nd to last paragraph, s/he seems to lay out a set of factors that a Lawyer Rating site could be compiling and creating a wonderful, accurate, reliable rating score for a lawyer. It could be an adjustable rating, based on the size of the practice, the type of practice, and the type of case.
Out of these user needs, an outline of a product may be coming together — not exactly like Angie’s List — but accomplishing ‘the trusted reviews of expert professional’ that are so in demand…
Useful thoughts! Fits well into the Project of Worth being looked at by my LWOW team this year. Thanks!
This is an interesting topic and one that our Chief General Counsel is very interested in learning whether or not something like an Angie’s list for lawyers exists. Has there been any further discussion or movement forward in this area that anyone is aware of ?
I’ve had further discussions on the topic.
Here is what I’ve heard while speaking with some legal academics who specialize in professional responsibility — as well as some legal technologists.
Impediment #1: Difficulty of getting quality information about lawyers
– Information about bad lawyers is available in spades from state bar disciplinary records, but it is difficult to find it
-court briefs are available, but the summaries that are published are typically behind paywalls and are copyrighted (See: http://www.ladb.org/new/DR/?DocID=7833&Title=Guste,%20Katherine%20M )
Impediment #2: Fear of Libel
This seems to dissuade many existing legal startups from treading into the territory of user-reviews of lawyers.
If you listen to mailing list commentary by lawyers (see Solosez, http://mail.americanbar.org/scripts/wa.exe?A0=SOLOSEZ) then you will witness attorneys’ extreme reactions to online coverage of lawyers. They are ready to sue based on any bad review about lawyers that is posted online.
It seems no startup wants to assume the huge liability of publishing user reviews that will incite lawyers and provoke lawsuits (however meritorious they might be…)
But that doesn’t mean that one venture might not start down this road soon….
“Me thinks they protest too much”