AVVO Rating of Attorneys

As a member of a national website on criminal law and particularly DUI cases, I have read with some interest the varying opinions as to the validity of AVVO as a referral service to potential clients seeking legal representation. Some attorneys laud it highly while others claim it is deceptive and misleading with emphasis on getting people signed up for their company with possible deception and misleading practices. In talking to several lawyers in Chattanooga and the southeast Tennessee area who have purchased listing(s) in AVVO, they were surprised to learn that other lawyers were being solicited with the promise that they could be listed as the top attorney in a particular category already filled by other counsel.

On a whim, I typed in my name under the AVVO list of attorneys for Chattanooga, Tennessee and discovered that I only had a rating of 7.5 out of a possible 10 score.

Having been invited by my peers (friends and foes) over the years to become a member of the most reliable honoraries in the country, including the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, American College of Trial Lawyers, International Society of Barristers, American Board of Trial Advocates, and the American Board of Criminal Defense Lawyers, I found this interesting to say the least. Unlike AVVO, who wants you to pay a substantial monthly fee in order to get to the "top of the list", you don't have to buy your way into those prestigious organizations. So, I decided to check on the two anonymous dissatisfied clients on AVVO who had written negative reviews.

As to the January 19, 2014 complaint, it is true that I met three (3) clients on Saturday at 9:00, 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. to discuss their cases. I have been doing this for over forty (40) years to accommodate clients who have to work during the week. The clients were scheduled to arrive at the designated times in order that each would have an hour to discuss their case which would be more than adequate.

It is a rule of this firm that we be paid in full by new criminal defense clients before we appear in court for obvious reasons. When I checked the file, my bookkeeper had erroneously not entered the final payment. I did confront him with the alleged deficit and he produced a receipt showing he had paid the balance. I immediately apologized and resolved his case as stated by having the defendants do forty-eight (48) hours in jail as a first offender under Tennessee law rather than forty-five (45) days in jail as a second offense violator.

I had advised him earlier what the total fee would be if I got the charges reduced or dismissed. Since I got the case resolved as a first offense, the firm billed him the full amount for the fee that was originally quoted.

As to the April 13, 2013 complaint, I strongly disagree with this anonymous reviewer's contention that he was not advised of the changing court dates as we have procedures in place at this firm that automatically mail a letter to the defendant's address each time a case is passed.

The allegation that the case was dismissed because the officer failed to appear in court is true, up to a point. The officer did leave town but he was called back to testify in several cases in criminal court against other defendants. Fortunately, I was able to convince the prosecution not to pursue the case further and it stayed dismissed.

After forty-six (46) years as a prosecutor, judge and defense attorney, I spend the amount of time on a case necessary to get a good result. It was admitted that getting the case dismissed was a good result but perhaps the anonymous person wanted more attention than was necessary.

With a case being passed for almost two years in a packed courtroom, it may be true that I did not readily recognize the accused, but I did achieve a good result the person.

Since 1969 when I left the District Attorney's Office, Summers, Rufolo & Rodgers (including its predecessors) has represented many thousands of clients in both civil and criminal matters. I believe that this firm and I have earned a superior reputation in representing our clients. Personally, I have been selected as a "Best Lawyer in America" for thirty-two (32) consecutive years and have been selected a "Mid-South Best Lawyer" for all ten (10) years of its existence. The pro-business, Nashville Business newspaper picked me as one of Tennessee's Top 10 Attorneys. All of these ratings were unsolicited and were not brought about by "buying a listing in any of the groups".

Shortly after I first became informed of my 7.5 rating by AVVO, I received a call from one of their sales representatives soliciting me to upgrade my rating by purchasing their services which "guarantee" that I would go to the top of the listing in one or several categories. In not very kind terms, I let this young lady know how I felt about AVVO's rating system.

Since that time, I have had repeated telephone calls and emails soliciting my business which I have declined to accept.

As recently as June 16, 2015, my office received another solicitation call from another AVVO marketing salesman. My secretary was advised to inform the individual that I was not enamored of AVVO's tactics and method of taking anonymous complaints without individual notifications of their existence. On the same date, I received another solicitation from an AVVO agent suggesting that I contact customercare@avvo.com about the reviews and they would investigate the charges further and eliminate them by profile if "they were false or libelous".

I have chosen to address these matters on this firm's website in order that the public will be aware that any anonymous person can make a positive or negative statement concerning an attorney's quality of legal service without said attorney being aware of its existence.

I also suggest that any attorneys considering the employment of AVVO, be very careful about the representations made to them promising that they will be given preferential treatment over other attorneys if they purchase AVVO's services.

Since 1978 when the United States Supreme Court made the fatal mistake of allowing "lawyer advertising" under the guise of the public's "right to know" a proliferation of social media groups have developed a billion dollar year industry that is subject to misrepresentation of an attorney's legal ability that inures to the detriment of the public and to the profit motive of organizations such as AVVO.

Over 1200 "best" lawyers groups now exist in the legal profession in many categories. By buying a plaque, directory listing, or other costly items in an organization or publication, a lawyer can purchase a preferred rating irrespective of their legal ability or courtroom experience.

I remain committed to the proposition that the reputation of any individual or of that of Summers, Rufolo and Rodgers is not for sale or at the whim of a couple of disgruntled individuals that can anonymously take pot shots at a reputation that this firm and I have acquired by hard work and the vote of our fellow attorneys and opponents through the years.

AVVO, don't call us anymore!

--Jerry H. Summers

Summers, Rufolo & Rodgers, P.C.