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Wednesday, June 27, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Avvo tweaks method for ranking lawyers

Seattle Times business reporter

Less than two weeks after being served with its first lawsuit, budding lawyer-rating Web site Avvo.com is taking a more cautious approach to how it judges attorneys.

As of late Tuesday, the site, which rates lawyers on a scale of one to 10 based on attorney records, will post a numerical score only after a review of the attorney's Web site or if the lawyer has updated his or her information with Avvo.

The rating system, aimed at helping consumers select legal help, takes into account experience, professional achievements and disciplinary sanctions.

Instead of a number, Seattle-based Avvo will post an "Attention" rating if it detects any disciplinary action against a lawyer that is not counterbalanced by positive information.

If there are no red flags, Avvo will post a "No Concern" rating.

The changes are unlikely to derail a lawsuit by two lawyers unhappy with their grades, said Avvo Chief Executive Mark Britton, former general counsel at Expedia. The lawsuit seeks class-action status.

"We do not expect these modifications to eliminate the proposed class-action lawsuit that is attempting to bomb us back to the Stone Age," Britton said in a news release. "We still display, and take seriously, disciplinary sanctions."

Britton said he expects the suit, which alleges Avvo's ratings are deceptive and violate consumer-protection laws, to eventually fizzle out.

"This lawsuit is without merit," he said.

The complaint, which seeks to shut down the site or have it modified, was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle on June 14 by Steve Berman, a partner at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro with experience in high-profile class-action cases.

Berman couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

Ángel González: 206-515-5644 or agonzalez@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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