Mark Britton is staging a Parade of Injured and Damaged Lawyers.
Avvo is a Kaleidoscope of Some Good but Mostly Bad Evaluations!
Mark Britton's answer to my challenge is likely to be self-serving and superficial.
Mark Britton would answer that he is not responsible for the sins, errors and omissions of lawyers who suffer discipline.
But Mr. Britton misses the point. Mark Britton and the Avvo web site are staging a parade of damaged and disciplined lawyers without
which his web site would soon cease to exist. Without the lawyer bashing, without the parade of injured and
damaged lawyers with discipline, Avvo would offer nothing more than a ranking and rating of lawyers by a middle-aged man who
has never dedicated his career to bar leadership. Consumers of legal services who surf the web are likely
to ask, "Who is Mark Britton?" ... or ... for greater emphasis ... "Who in the hell is Mark Britton?"
Has Mark Britton ever tried a case in the courtroom; has he ever marshalled the evidence to persuade a twelve
person jury; has he ever stood in front of a jury and made an opening statement, scheduled and prepared witnesses
and elicited their testimony; has he ever cross examined an expert witness in a jury trial; has he ever made a closing argument; has he ever been responsible for
the post trial motions in a jury trial; has he ever entered and collected a judgment or explained to his client
why the judgment will not be paid; and has he ever continued to fight a case on appeal after his client's case
I am hard pressed to believe that any prospective consumer of legal services would visit Avvo's web site for
the sake of learning whether a lawyer is rated as "7" or "8" or "9" in Mark Britton's book. Nothing in Mark Britton's career
qualifies him to judge and rank and rate all of America's lawyers. To borrow a phrase from the legal profession, Mark Britton does not "have
the whiskers" to do the job. Mark Britton is a businessman ~ with an ego as big as a house ~ who has neither the
experience, nor the judgment nor the wisdom to rank and rate all of America's legal practitioners. Think about this
carefully, Mark Britton has appointed himself a one man super bar association who is going to rank and rate
every legal practitioner in the United States! Of course, Mark Britton's own Avvo page assigns himself an Avvo
score of 9.3 out of a possible 10 and includes extravagant praise and self-promotion. In my opinion, many lawyers will be
tempted to ask, "Is Mark Britton a greek god or just another narcissistic personality?"
Lawyers who play the Avvo game will admit that its criteria are
highly manipulatable. Lawyers can ask their lawyer friends (so-called peer reviews) and clients to write laudatory letters to Avvo to
increase their Avvo score. Lawyers can identify just about any outside or community activity (which are not
vetted by the so-called Team Avvo people since Avvo software ~ a black box sitting in a dark room ~ receives and evaluates the input about lawyers) to support and
increase their Avvo score. Industry recognition can be inflated by speaking at a seminar of lawyers ~ although
participating in seminars can be a contribution to the legal community. If you give a speech about tort liability,
for example, to the graduating class at New Mexico Body & Fender, your Avvo score is aroused!
Any lawyer who wants to increase his Avvo score can "game" the system and dramatically increase his rating.
Many of the finest and most noble lawyers in your community have no Avvo score or perhaps a modest Avvo score.
Avvo creates the false impression that its system is a litmus test for integrity and service when in fact
Avvo is a House of Desolation.
What attracts web surfers and consumers to Avvo is a sleazy parade of damaged and injured human beings.
If Avvo did not publish lawyers' discipline, Avvo would shrivel up and die on the vine. Avvo is propagandizing. Persecution relies heavily on propaganda as history teaches.
Can we compare Mr. Britton's treatment of lawyers who have been disciplined to the work of propaganda ministers?
I do not accuse Mark of genocide and I do not accuse Mark of killing human beings.
However, the Avvo web site is killing the emotions that make life productive for a damaged lawyer who is "starting over" and seeking redemption.
Mark Britton is getting rich trafficking in human pain. Mark Britton's website, Avvo, is a House of Desolation.
Mark Britton is a walking, talking cash register and is not in the business of granting forgiveness. But the disciplined
lawyer is not asking for Mark Britton's forgiveness. The disciplined lawyer will get all of the forgiveness he
wants from his friends and family and clients. What Avvo blocks is the opportunity for redemption. Avvo makes
redemption more difficult and less likely. Thanks to Mark Britton, the lawyer with a reprimand must now walk
through life with a red "R" tatooed on his forehead. Even if a reprimand is a quarter of a
century in the past, Mark Britton keeps the wound open and keeps the wound fresh.
One Seattle lawyer who is a quadraplegic and confined mostly
to a wheelchair has a large red box with the word "Attention" on his Avvo page, and he has never agreed
to claim his Avvo page or play the Avvo game. This lawyer received
a letter of admonition for which Avvo lights up his Avvo page like a neon sign. Avvo asserts that it does
not want lawyers to "repeat" their mistakes, so apparently Avvo is protecting your families from this
quadraplegic lawyer in case he leaps out of his wheel chair and reoffends. Avvo is a mockery of justice!
Redemption is a gift that we give ourselves by starting over. Redemption is the disciplined lawyer's committment
to rebuilding his practice and reforming his life. To say that disciplined lawyers have no one to blame but
themselves is rewarding cruelty and degrading nobility.
Are the Rules of Professional Conduct Waived for Avvo?
What Avvo needs and wants is becoming an ethical gold standard.
One of the most bizarre features of Avvo is the fact that Avvo offers free
legal advice on its web site. Anyone with a two candle power brain and a computer in front of him can now
email Avvo and ask for legal advice. Avvo has successfully recruited attorney contributors who write the
letters of legal advice. A two or three paragraph answer will follow. In a truly complex situation, a four or five or six paragraph answer may follow. We have the right to know what guidelines Avvo gives to the attorneys who write these letters of legal advice. What are the suggestions that Avvo gives to its attorney contributors? Does Avvo ask its attorney contributors to answer within space or time limits? Does Avvo
review and guarantee the answers prepared by its attorney contributors?
The "members of the public" who are
Avvo's law clients have a right to know. Why do the Avvo legal advice letters given to "members of the public" frequently conclude with the loophole (the proverbial loophole through which you could drive a Mac Truck) "You really should consult an attorney in your community!" Come again? Legal advice is a specific solution to a specific problem. Legal advice consists of a lawyer's judgment on the stated facts that his or her client could rely upon. Legal advice is a carefully crafted direction given by the attorney to his client who needs direction. If Avvo is only offering an exposition on the law ~ a black letter law
statement of what the law says in some situations ~ then why does Avvo claim to offer free legal advice? And
its head by stating that nothing set forth above the fold ~ in the main body of Avvo's web site ~ is legal advice.
What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away. Avvo Watch therefore condemns Mark Britton as a
two faced hypocrite. What audacity! Mark Britton installs a prominent bold caption "Free Legal Advice" above the fold and then uses his prestidigitation to snatch it back below the fold. The joke
is on the consuming public who accepts Avvo at face value and neglects to track down Avvo's punchline below the fold. How utterly crooked!
Lawyers and lawfirms have been creating and publishing web sites
since approximately 1996, but they have always included a "Disclaimer" page on their web site with the caveat
that nothing in the web site is intended to create an attorney-client relationship. In the pre-Avvo period,
lawyers and lawfirms were called upon to write opinion letters. A carefully crafted opinion letter is truly
a work of art with assumptions and qualifications thoughtfully articulated; a carefuly crafted opinion letter
is addressed to a specific client who has defined a specific problem and conveys to that specific client a
specific course of action. The client now has a tangible roadmap that he or she can rely upon.
Given an attorney-client
relationship ~ based on mutual trust and confidence between the attorney and client ~ some attorneys are occasionally willing to give short answers to concise
questions, but the attorney is likely to probe for a more complete description from the client. And even in these
cases, the attorney advises a specific client how to solve a specific legal problem with a specific course
of action. Today, we live in a digital age in which callow men, like
Mark Britton, are willing to offer instant gratification on the Avvo web site. I use the term "instant gratification"
because the emphasis for Avvo is marketing. A sound byte is the order of the day for the legal opinions
offered on Mark Britton's web site. An in-depth analysis or an offer from the attorney ~ "Let me look into it
and take a second look at the statute" ~ would not meet the Avvo marketing needs.
Lawyers spend three years in law school listening to law professors
asking again and again: "How do you distinguish Case A from Case B and from Case C?" It is the heart of legal
analysis and problem solving to "distinguish" cases. Black letter law ~ what the Avvo web site offers and calls
"free legal advice" is a general rule that applies to many cases but not necessarily to all situations.
Black letter law is not based on a dynamic relationship between a lawyer and a client. Black letter law
does not recommend a specific course of conduct to a client ~ black letter law is a shot in the dark.
When competent lawyers give legal advice to their clients, the advice is based on listening, questioning, listening, and
questioning ~ the lawyer is probing so that he can distinguish this client's case from general rules and move
beyond black letter law. Avvo's free legal advice is a fiction. Avvo merely offers black letter law solutions
and misrepresents its static recipe as "legal advice." The public is mislead. Mark Britton claims that his
Avvo web site enables him to shine his flashlight into dark places, however, Mark Britton needs to shine his
flashlight in his own face and stand in front of a mirror.
Did Mark Britton learn in his legal studies that attorneys owe a fiduciary
duty to their clients ~ the highest duty of fair dealing and full disclosure imposed by law ~ and attorneys
quite correctly think about the consequences of giving legal advice to their clients? Bar complaints and
malpractice suits are a good example of the consequences that may follow hastily given legal advice to clients.
Heretofore, I had always believed that giving legal advice to
members of the public and forming an attorney-client relationship is a dynamic process ~ however, Avvo has
successfully transformed it into a static recipe! Mark Britton would undoubtedly
claim that lawyers can give legal advice to "members of the public" without forming an attorney-client
relationship. If the bar association believes this, then they will believe that thunder curdles milk.
Avvo is doing what cautious and conservative lawyers have never been willing
to do, and apparently Avvo's overnight success and influence now trumps the Rules of Professional Conduct. The
applicability of the Rules of Professional Conduct have been transfomed in a few short months,
and the Rules now apparently track Avvo's needs and wants. Of course, we mortals must still worry about and
comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct, however, Avvo has carved out a special case for its own
purposes. Do Avvo and Mark Britton owe a fiduciary duty of full disclosure and fair dealing to these
"members of the public" who rely upon Avvo's web site for legal advice? Do Avvo and Mark Britton research
possible conflicts of interest before giving legal advice to these "members of the public"? Do Avvo and
Mark Britton thoroughly discuss the context of the legal problem before giving legal advice? If Avvo and
Mark Britton are not facing the same consequences that we mortals face when dealing with clients and
offering them guidance, then perhaps we should ask whether Avvo has transformed the Rules of
Professional Conduct so that the Rules now track Avvo's needs and wants. Mark Britton has successfully made himself a one man super bar association, and the ethical rules for lawyers apparently now track Mark Britton's every whim and caprice.
For Mark Britton and for his Team Avvo, the Truth is a set of movable blocks that Mark Britton can shift around ~ forwards, backwards, and sideways ~ to create whatever counterfeit reality pleases them on the Avvo web site. For Mark Britton and his Team Avvo, the Rules of Professional Conduct track their every whim and caprice.
The True Meaning of Redemption
Where Avvo Fears to Tread
When asked, I have always replied that I received a reprimand in 1987. I believe that my career is a testament to redemption. Since 1987 ~ in my post-reprimand
career ~ I have
enjoyed the greatest success and prosperity and litigated the most cases in my career. Since 1987 I have earned the respect of other lawyers who worked with me on a daily
basis for long years; since 1987 I built a firm varying in size between five and six employees which I gave up from 2009 to 2012 to
travel in Europe and get involved in humanitarian causes. I am proud that I have achieved my
redemption goals, but I seriously doubt whether my success would have been possible in the Avvo period.
The Avvo web site is nothing more than a huge computerized robot whose function is perpetual lawyer bashing.
Mark Britton's web site is a House of Desolation.