ABA TECHSHOW 2017 Has Come and Gone!

So, we realize you haven’t heard from us in a while.  If we are ever quiet for long periods of time, it’s always likely for good reason.  This time is no exception.  Beyond our daily grind, ABA TECHSHOW was happening in Chicago from March 15th through the 17th, and as in years past, it was an awe-inspiring and time-consuming venture for those of us interested in law and technology.

The conference this year featured much more diversity in the plenary and educational track sessions.  What a great thing!  It was especially endearing to see our very own General Counsel, Paula Frederick, and Judy Perry Martinez, co-moderating the Keynote Panel discussion with the CEOs of LegalZoom, John Suh; RocketLawyer, Charley Moore;  and AVVO, Mark Britton.  Interesting thoughts were exchanged between the panelists as they navigated questions about the future of legal services given consumers’ changing needs and desires surrounding finding lawyers and legal assistance.  Spoiler Alert: There was no clear winner in this one!

TECHSHOW is always busy with attendees trying to get to know each other and learn and experience so much from educational track sessions and hundreds of vendors in a few short days.  There is just so much!  Yours truly, (me – Natalie), was interviewed alongside a few colleagues at the start of the show on the Legal Talk Network.  This session was well-received and hopefully allowed some new attendees to get ahead in navigating the conference!

ABA TECHSHOW 2017
TECHSHOW 2017 Legal Talk Network Interview with Dennis Kennedy, Natalie Kelly, Jim Calloway and Laurence Colletti

Well, TECHSHOW is known as the best conference for bringing lawyers and technology together, and this year’s event did just that.  If you missed it, as in years past, you can get all caught up via the ABA’s full coverage.  And, don’t forget to keep an eye out for ABA TECHSHOW 2018, which is already being planned!

-Natalie

AVVO-type Services and the Georgia Lawyer

Have you claimed your profile? Was it correctly displayed in AVVO? Did you get the rating you think you deserved? What can you really do about that nasty review? We will attempt to work through this quandary for Georgia lawyers. As other jurisdictions have opined in various ways about the proper use and peril of services like AVVO, we felt the need to address it head on. So here goes.

Can a Georgia lawyer sign on and accept their rating? Well, of course, and many have done just that and leveraged higher ratings to boot. There are rumors that higher ratings are attained when lawyers accept and fill in their profiles, and not doing so may be at the heart of some of the concerns we hear about AVVO. Where did they get my information, and what if it’s totally wrong? We’ve heard more than once that a lawyer has never worked in a practice area their AVVO listing proclaims. Likewise, claiming to specialize in certain practice areas is not something to be taken lightly, but again there are some profiles that make these claims without the lawyer even knowing about it in some cases. So, does this now mean the lawyer can be in trouble with the State Bar?

We will talk more about “false and misleading” information later, but for starters, let’s address the use of online directory services like AVVO. As already mentioned, lawyers can use the service, and in most cases, claiming the profile may well be the way to go. Not doing so could indicate the lawyer is not in step with the times. Everyone’s online and most folks check out lawyers they’ve heard about online. Why not make sure your online presence is at its very best by making sure any information out there is correct? Once a profile has been accepted, then the lawyer must decide whether to enhance the profile through add-on services or by linking in additional content. Both tend to increase the ranking of the lawyer’s profile in searches performed using the directory. Again, there are no guarantees, but generally speaking the proactive approach to the profile listing seems to get noticed in the search algorithms used by the online services. So our advice to most lawyers is to get online and check your profile and claim it and add additional content if you are inclined to use the directory as a part of your online marketing campaign. You will just want to be sure you keep up with any content provided by the listing.

Lawyers who for whatever reason do not want to claim their profiles are likely to not be entirely pleased with their options. AVVO will not take down your listing, and we have mixed reports about being able to correct your practice areas without claiming your profile. However, if you have not been disciplined by a licensing bar, AVVO will accept a request that your “ratings not be displayed.” That strips down the profile, but practice areas, years of licensure, and evidently the ability of others to post reviews of you, remain displayed.

But what about unfavorable and inaccurate information? How’s that to be dealt with without skirting or crossing any ethical lines? There are no Georgia Supreme Court decisions or Formal Advisory Opinions addressing inaccurate information on websites like AVVO, but like a lawyer’s own website, you should consider it to be advertising and therefore subject to Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct (GRPC) Rules 7.1 (Communications concerning a Lawyer’s Services), 7.2 (Advertising) and 7.4 (Communication of Fields of Practice). There are a number of specific obligations and prohibitions in those rules, but the overarching requirement is that your communications not be false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading. It seems unlikely that inaccurate information in an unclaimed AVVO profile would be prosecuted as an ethics violation, since the lawyer played no role in creating or publicizing it. Once you claim a profile, however, it seems obvious that you will be responsible for assuring that its content complies with the above GRPC rules. What to do about unfavorable reviews is a topic unto itself, which we will address next time.

Disclaimer:  Interpretations of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct (ethics rules) and their applicability in this blog post are informal opinions issued pursuant to Bar Rule 4-401.  They are the personal opinions of the Assistant General Counsel co-author, and are neither a defense to any complaint nor binding on the State Disciplinary Board, the Supreme Court of Georgia or the State Bar of Georgia.

-Natalie & Bill