Everybody's buzzing about Avvo, the bold (and apparently risk-ignorant) Web site that rates lawyers based on a mathematical model. As reported earlier this week by our sister publication National Law Journal, the Seattle-based startup is already facing a class action by angry (and presumably poorly rated) lawyers.
Just to be clear (and hopefully fend off any litigation ourselves), we think the ratings are a crock. According to Avvo, though, the ratings are reliable because they're unbiased, unaffected by favoritism and based on a model "developed with input from hundreds of attorneys, thousands of consumers, and legal experts."
So we were wondering: How did Avvo's computers rate California's most prestigious attorneys? We picked some of the top names from Chambers USA's guide to California attorneys, and here's what we found:
L.A. bankruptcy lawyer Kenneth Klee was one of the select few to score a perfect 10. Heller Ehrman bankruptcy partner Peter Benvenutti notched a nice 8.9. But Winston & Strawn bankruptcy sage Patrick Murphy â identified by Chambers as a "senior statesman" â scored only 7.3. And Howard Rice's James Lopes was rated 6.5. What was PG&E thinking putting him in charge of its $12 billion bankruptcy?
In construction law, Thelen Reid honcho David Buoncristiani scored 8.0. But his boss, Thelen Chairman Stephen O'Neal, rated only a 7.1, no doubt making for awkward moments at the management committee meetings.
In the corporate arena, Larry Sonsini remains a power player with a 9.0 rating. His son Matthew drew a nifty 8.2. Other Silicon Valley honchos didn't fare as well: Fenwick & West leader Gordy Davidson was rated 7.8. Latham & Watkins' Alan Mendelson managed a 7.4. Gunderson Dettmer's Bob Gunderson received a 7.3 (apparently the mathematical model takes into account reckless salary increases). Cooley Godward M&A whiz Keith Flaum was rated 6.5, and O'Melveny heavyweight Warren Lazarow got two ratings, 6.7 and 6.4. Flaum and Lazarow were thus rated lower than ex-Hewlett Packard GC Ann Baskins (6.9), who resigned from the company last year after pleading the Fifth Amendment in regard to the pretexting scandal, and former Mercury Interactive Corp. GC Susan Skaer (6.9), sued last month by the SEC for improper backdating of millions of dollars of stock options and falsifying documents. (Skaer also received 5 stars â Avvo's highest rating â for professional conduct.)
Among employment lawyers, Wilson Sonsini's Fred Alvarez was another one of the perfect 10s. But Orrick's Lynne Hermle â identified by The Recorder a couple years ago as one of the top employment lawyers in the Bay Area â got a lousy 6.5, as did L.A. heavyweight Nancy Abell. Do we detect some computer-generated sexism? Plaintiff-side star Cliff Palefsky didn't do any better â 6.5.
In the IP area, Irell's Morgan Chu drew a 9.5 rating â does this guy ever get any bad press? Powerful Bay Area IP litigators didn't do nearly as well: Weil, Gotshal's Matthew Powers and Day Casebeer's Rusty Day were rated 7.3, MoFo's Harold McElhinny 6.9 and McDermott's Terrence McMahon 6.5.
Among litigators, S.F. eminence grise Jim Brosnahan merited a tepid 7.1. Cooley Chairman Steve Neal got two ratings, 7.3 and 6.5. Quinn Emanuel leader John Quinn also received two, 7.1 and 6.5. Besting all of them was Lerach Coughlin's William Lerach (5 stars for professional conduct), at 7.8. We're sure Brosnahan, Neal and Quinn will cheerfully congratulate him next time they square off in court. Also outscoring Quinn and Neal was Albany solo Donald Driscoll â 7.1 â who gained fame in the 1990s for a string of questionable 17200 actions, including one against the makers of the Easy-Bake Oven.
There will be no bragging rights for L.A. entertainment litigators Marshall Grossman and Larry Stein, whose firm split apart last year. They both scored 6.8. Bert Fields was rated 6.5, and Terry Christensen 7.2 (5 stars for professional conduct, notwithstanding the federal wiretapping indictment).
Finally, it pains us to note that our own attorney, Levy, Ram & Olson's Karl Olson, who has rendered incomparable service to us for more than a decade, received a paltry 6.5 rating.
Trust us, the ratings are a crock.
â Scott Graham