Avvo, an online directory where consumers can search for attorneys by name, area of practice, or city, has found itself in a class-action lawsuit claiming that the website earns money by publishing the information of lawyers without their permission.
Chicago attorney, Maria Bernstein, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of herself and all other attorneys in Illinois who did not pay for any marketing services from Avvo. Thomas A. Zimmerman and others with Zimmerman Law Offices in Chicago are handling Bernstein’s suit.
Bernstein is seeking a court order barring the unauthorized use of her own and other lawyers’ information, as well as statutory and punitive damages, and attorney fees.
Zimmerman believes that Avvo is profiting by using attorneys’ information without their permission, then allowing competitors to pay and put their own ads on the attorney’s Avvo page. The only way to stop that from happening is to pay Avvo a fee. The Illinois right of publicity statute may prohibit the manner in which Avvo is profiting.
A similar lawsuit was filed against Avvo last year in federal court in San Francisco. The company responded to the suit with a motion to strike under California’s strategic lawsuit against public participation law (SLAPP), which is still pending. Avvo will consider filing a similar motion in Illinois.
Avvo spokeswoman Laura Morarity has stated the suit will not impact the rollout of Avvo’s flat-fee legal services program, which was announced Tuesday.
Bernstein has requested a jury trial.