I guess it’s all in who you ask.
Within LexisNexis I get involved in this discussion a lot these days. For some time we have been working on enhancing our attorney ratings to make them more comprehensive and useful to the consumer of legal services – from corporate counsel to consumer. Over the past year we have spoken to many members corporate counsel and they have consistently said that they would like to have client reviews as another factor in determining an attorney selection. But, at the same time we have also heard from attorneys who are concerned about this potential addition to the ratings. The question that I am interested in solving is “why this concern”?
First, I should say that I am not a lawyer and instead have technology roots but I do appreciate that we are talking about professional reputations here – so this is not a subject to be treated in a cavalier manner. But, to me this kind of end-user evaluation seems inevitable. We have lived in a world of retail and product ratings for many years and increasingly we are seeing ratings of professional services from consumer services like Angie’s list of home services to doctor ratings through numerous sites such as Zagat’s partnership with Wellpoint to rate professionals within their HMO network . On the other hand, I am well aware of the heat that Avvo is taking on their lawyer ratings which seek to include many sources to come up with a “score” (which is being challenged by many) so it’s clear to me that the issue is a sensitive one in the legal community.: http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1181898353512.
There should be a ”middle-ground” which supports transparency into the professional area and still supports consumer opinions and commentary which is part of a comprehensive set of evaluation criteria for a lawyer or law firm. But this also has to be carefully managed. The danger, of course, would be if one particularly disgruntled individual decided to unreasonably or unfairly criticize an individual and that this rating was the cause of a skewed impression of the overall client opinions.
So, what if we required a minimum number of client reviews before any type of “scoring” or “rating” was presented to reduce sampling error, as a start? Would this help to balance the chance of a false client perspective? But, even this would not work if the majority of the clients would rate the lawyer poorly – so do we allow opt-out from lawyers? Do we show bad ratings at all or just show the “top ones”? Should lawyers control the display of their ratings or does that compromise the objectivity of the process?
So, here’s what I think…ratings are inevitable and unavoidable. The key is doing it credibly and transparently…but we should move forward with client reviews as soon as possible.
What do you think?