I’ve received several calls from Avvo.com trying to get me to pay for advertising on their site. Well, they just shot themselves in the foot in that regard.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, defamation is not completely-protected speech, so the law should (and in several states, does) provide a means to expose people that criticize your business anonymously if they weren’t actually clients of yours. Recently, a lawyer was defamed by an anonymous poster to Avvo, which is essentially Yelp for lawyers. Like Yelp, Avvo allows its users to post anonymously. The lawyer asked the court to force Avvo to reveal the identity of the poster, but the court denied the request.
I’m not willing to criticize the court. I haven’t read the brief or the court’s order, so there may be a legitimate reason the request was denied. I also don’t know the Washington state law governing these cases, so it may be that the court had no choice in the matter (in which case Washington state needs to catch up with technology). I share this only to point out how self-destructive Avvo’s policy is. Avvo should have within its policy an agreement to disclose identities not only where a court orders them to do so (which is probably in there terms of service), but also where a lawyer jumps through certain procedural hurdles to identify a legitimate need to learn that identity (which clearly Avvo doesn’t currently do). If they don’t change their policy, they might lose a lot of business.
In the mean time, they certainly aren’t getting my business.
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Rob Bodine is a Virginia attorney focusing his practice on real estate and intellectual property law. He’s currently Virginia counsel with First Class Title, Inc., a Maryland title insurance and settlement company. Rob is also a licensed title insurance agent in Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.