As a Baltimore Criminal Attorney with 20 years of experience I have represented thousands of people charged in criminal cases in District and Circuit Courts throughout the State. As a result of my experience, reviews of my clients and industry recognition – that is, recognition from other experienced criminal attorneys, I have earned very high ratings from attorney rating services such as Avvo and Superlawyers.
Unfortunately, I was shocked to recently learn that some inexperienced lawyers, have managed to game the system to get ratings similar to those given to highly experienced attorneys. I will discuss how specifically how I found this out below but, anyone who searches for an attorney using a rating service should carefully scrutinize the attorney qualifications of the attorney starting with how long the attorney has been practicing. This information should also be cross checked by searching the attorney on Maryland Judiciary Case Search. This website is maintained by the State and contains accurate information concerning an attorneys appearances in court. In other words, this is the court record and it doesn’t lie. Here is how I found out about this situation:
About a month ago I was checking my profile on one of the rating services. I decided to browse through the competition and as expected, found many highly experience criminal attorneys that I knew listed along with me at the top with the highest ratings. But I also saw a few names and faces that I had never seen before. This made me curious so I looked a little more carefully at a few of their profiles and was shocked to see that several of them had been practicing for less than two years but had still received ratings of “Superb” with a 9.9 on a 10 point scale! ( I have a perfect10.0 Superb rating from Avvo and am ranked as one of the Top 100 lawyers in the State by Superlawyers – only one other criminal attorney in the entire state was named among the Top 100).
I then cross-checked the attorneys and found that in one case the attorney had fewer than 10 appearances in court. In another case the attorney had a few dozen but was listed as co-counsel with a more experienced lawyer in all but a few minor cases which means he was mostly just along for the ride. In a third case the attorney had about 50 appearances but none in Baltimore courts and this rating purported to rank the best criminal attorneys IN BALTIMORE.
To put these numbers in context, I personally handle between 200 and 300 criminal or serious traffic case each year. Most attorneys who practice predominantly criminal law handle at least 100 per year. 10 appearances in court is not even a busy week and certainly doesn’t qualify an attorney to be rated as one of the top lawyers in his field.
I then contacted the rating service and found out that if an attorney has a very large number of endorsements and reviews, this can push their rating to an artificially high level. Sure enough, I went back and looked again at the profiles and sure enough they both had dozens of endorsements and reviews. Not surprisingly, the reviews and endorsements appeared to be mostly from friends and family members, not from legitimate clients or professional colleagues.
The bottom line here is that these rating services are useful tools but only if due diligence is exercised by the prospective client. A person looking for an attorney can not simply rely upon the high rating given by the service but must look at how the attorney achieved that rating. Otherwise, I will refer you to some of my previous blogs dealing with what can happen when a client finds out too late that the lawyer they hired did not know what he or she was doing.