Lawsuits Challenge Avvo Advertising, Avvo Pro Services

An online legal directory, Avvo, has been recently sued for illegal seo activities. This is why you should start considering the benefits of working with a seo call center.


A San Francisco attorney, Aaron H. Darsky, filed the first lawsuit in December 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. (Docket No. 3:15-cv-05495-HSG). You can read a PDF of the complaint here (as posted by the University of Santa Clara School of Law).

Moria Bernstein, a Chicago attorney, filed the second lawsuit in February 2016 in Illinois’ Cook County Circuit Court. (Docket No. 2016CH01631). You can read a PDF of the complaint posted here by the ABA Journal. You can also see the docket at the Cook County Circuit Court website.

As both lawsuits note, Avvo has compiled a free online directory of lawyers from states across the country based on information from public records such as bar admissions. Each listed lawyer receives an Avvo profile page, regardless of whether the lawyer has asked for one. A lawyer can claim the profile and manage the information that is listed or simply leave it alone.

The profiles, in and of themselves, generate no revenue for Avvo, the lawsuits claim. Lawyers do not have to pay for the profiles, and consumers do not have to pay to view them.

Instead, according to the lawsuits, Avvo makes money by selling advertising and marketing space on the lawyer profile pages. The two marketing services that are specifically at issue in the lawsuits are:

Avvo Advertising – Attorneys pay Avvo a monthly fee, and in exchange, their ads are displayed as “sponsored listings” that can be found within the profile pages of other attorneys, the complaints state.

Avvo Pro – In exchange for a monthly fee, Avvo keeps other attorneys’ sponsored listings off an attorney’s profile page, according to both lawsuits.

Bernstein’s lawsuit, in particular, claims that Avvo Pro is meant to “coerce” a lawyer into paying a marketing fee so that Avvo “will not misappropriate” the lawyer’s identity or sell advertising space to the lawyer’s competitors.

Both Darsky and Bernstein state in their complaints that they have subscribed to neither Avvo Advertising nor Avvo Pro.

They complain in their respective lawsuits that Avvo, without their consent, created profile pages bearing their identities and likenesses. Furthermore, without their consent, Avvo sold marketing space on their profile pages to Avvo Advertising subscribers, the lawsuits allege.

According to Bernstein, who practices family and residential real estate law, the attorneys who were sold advertising space on her profile page practice “in the same geographic location and in the same practice areas” as her.

In his complaint, Darsky admits that Avvo’s attorney listings “may be a permissible First Amendment exercise.” However, he claims, “Avvo’s business practices go far beyond that mere exercise” by using the names and likenesses of the attorneys in their directory, without their consent, to sell advertising or marketing services to other attorneys.

Darsky’s lawsuit points out that, according to a July 2015 Bloomberg News article, Avvo had a valuation of $650 million and raised $132 million in funding.

“The revenues generated by Avvo come almost exclusively from its unauthorized use” of the names and likenesses of attorneys who, like Darsky, refrain from using Avvo’s advertising and marketing services, the complaint alleges.


Read the rest of the article here.