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Yes, Online Profiles Matter for Lawyers: Nine Simple Tips for Maximizing Avvo

By now, every lawyer in America has heard of Avvo. Some of us love it; some hate it. Either way, it’s not going away. It has been online for over a decade and has millions of users. It also ranks very high in Google searches. So, what should lawyers do about and with Avvo? First, some basics:

Avvo creates a placeholder profile for every lawyer it can identify. You can “claim” your profile or let it sit out there. If it just sits out there, unclaimed, you are missing out on potential free exposure to your target audience. I would even argue that it can undermine whatever brand you are attempting to create. I have known well-established lawyers who don’t claim their profile. Or, they claim it, but let it sit there with a low rating. Why do that? It is easy and FREE to build out your profile and maintain it. Not to worry, you need not be a tech expert to do this, I promise.

Here are 9 simple tips for maximizing the impact of your FREE (did I mention this?) Avvo profile:

1. Claim it! Easy peasy. Just do it. Or, better yet, delegate it to someone below your pay grade. Anyone younger than about 30 can do this for you in less time than it will take to read this article.

2. Add a NICE, CURRENT headshot. Every lawyer needs a professional headshot. If you are even just 3 months into practice, you should have this done. If you work for a firm, they should pay. If you work for yourself, find someone good and “just do it!” I recommend having your hair and makeup professionally done as well. Gentlemen, this includes you. Get a fresh haircut, beard trim, and let the makeup artist apply a little powder. No one wants to look “shiny” in a headshot. You will want to use these for at least 3-5 years. Do NOT post a “selfie” from your phone to Avvo. Your profile will not look professional or serious. It is better to leave the photo spot empty than post something unprofessional.

3. Input the data you are prompted to add, i.e., education, experience, etc. If you write it directly into the Avvo software, it will not check for spelling and grammatical errors. Any amount of narrative copy should be cut and pasted into Word to check for these types of errors. You are a lawyer. Potential clients expect you to be able to WRITE, people. If you are not a strong writer, delegate it. But make sure you proof it for accuracy and tone. You will need to provide a current resume or all information required in another form to your copywriter.

4. Dig deep for both “publications” and “speaking engagements.” The Avvo algorithm cannot judge the QUALITY of your published works or talks. This means that, for new attorneys, for example, a piece of writing could be something you published in law school. For established attorneys, you could write a basic article for your local bar association’s newsletter. Easy peasy, right? As for speaking engagements, it could be talking to lawyers or non-lawyers. On profiles I have built, we have included time my client spent speaking to residents of a homeless shelter through a legal aid project, as well as talks she gave to law students and practicing paralegals. These two fields are easy to complete and will boost your rating.

5. Honors/Awards: This has been the only category I have seen, over the years, that not everyone can fulfill. Obviously, you cannot “control” whether you receive an honor or award. However, you can influence the process. For example, if you are in a solo practice or small firm, you can reach out to other solo/small firmers with requests to vote for each other in “Super Lawyer” evaluation processes. (The big firms do this!) Legal aid and local and state bars also tend to give awards for completing pro bono hours or charity/fundraising efforts.

6. Peer Endorsements: These can be from any attorney you know, including opposing counsel, co-counsel, or simply a colleague who can honestly comment on your wonderful attributes. I HIGHLY recommend spacing out requests to colleagues so it does not appear you lined them all up on the same day. This looks disingenuous. Also, you may not want to request an endorsement from someone you are not likewise comfortable endorsing, because he/she is bound to ask that you return the favor.

7. Client Reviews: You should be asking every single satisfied client to give you a positive review. If you are not 100% sure it will be positive, don’t ask. In many states, it is unethical to give the client anything of value for a review, so definitely check your own bar rules on this. You can send the client the request from inside Avvo. Or, copy and paste the link to an email. Either way, definitely make it EASY for the client to do this for you. Some firms now have iPads available in the waiting area and ask clients to do the review during their last visit to the office. You could even carry the firm iPad to court and ask the client to do it there, if that will be your last in-person contact with the client.

8. Avvo Rating Badge: This is another easy, FREE way to increase your rating. Copy and paste the badge code to your website. It then shows your Avvo rating on your website. Obviously, the higher your rating, the better. I would not place the badge on a website unless it is at least an 8. As you continue to flesh out your Avvo profile, the rating automatically improves on both Avvo and what is visible on your website.

9. One last point: There is no need to pay for advertising or to answer questions to improve your rating. Many attorneys think these two things are necessary. In my experience of building and maintaining profiles, they are not. I have clients with “10” ratings who have done neither. Personally, when I was practicing law, I never answered questions because there is no way to do a conflict check with a random stranger on the Internet and I hesitate to give ANY sort of legal advice based on a mere snippet of facts. But, you do you. If you decide to give answers, make sure you are complying with all applicable bar rules…. Which brings me to another crucial point: Make sure you know how your state bar feels about Avvo. Many state bars have had to issue ethics opinions on different aspects of this site. If you wonder about your bar, start with a search on “advertising” since most states consider a site like this to be “attorney advertising.”

I hope the above tips and information have been helpful to you. As promised, they are all very basic. There are many more aspects of Avvo I would love to explain to you. I am happy to advise you/your copywriter on how to maximize Avvo or to do it for you. Just text or call me at 904-994-2481 or email me at CarpeArgentumCoaching@gmail.com.

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