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I wrote here earlier this month about the Irish site, RateYourSolicitor.com, that encourages consumers to rate members of the legal profession. There, it was alleged that disgruntled lawyers may be among the site's anonymous posters. Since then, because of pending legal action, the RateYourSolicitor domain name has been suspended, although the site can still be reached at http://207.210.96.145.

Today, reporter Sacha Pfeiffer has an article in The Boston Globe about professional-rating sites on this side of the pond, including one for lawyers, LawyerRatingz.com, where the front page features a screen-filling photo of three particularly smug and smarmy specimens. Pfeiffer writes that one Massachusetts lawyer was unaware of this comment about him on the site: "I would recommend a cadaver over this guy!!!" The top rating given another Bay State lawyer appeared to have come from his daughter, who remarked on the site, "He's a cool dad too!"

As the allegations in Ireland illustrated, anonymity is fuel behind these sites and also the source of the furor. Pfeiffer's piece quotes Suffok University Law professor Michael Rustad, who says:

"Too many of these ratings sites are basically forums for blowing off steam, and they're not random samples of how this professor or lawyer or doctor is really doing. And because they're anonymous there's no way to ensure that a professor or lawyer or doctor or one of his minions aren't doing the postings themselves."

In July, legal blogger Diane Levin borrowed from Othello to emphasize the danger to a lawyer's "good name."

Since the raters do not identify themselves, attorneys have no way to shield themselves from or refute false accusations of unethical or illegal conduct. The ratings are there for all the world to see (and search engines to find). ...

What is unfortunate, too, is that while a forum like this may have limited usefulness for allowing dissatisfied clients to let off some steam, it does nothing constructive to address genuine issues that can and do arise between attorneys and their clients.

How, if at all, should a lawyer respond to a comment on such a site? How, if at all, should the profession respond to this phenomenon?

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 20, 2006 at 03:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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