Archive for June, 2007

More on Avvo.com- a better way to verify identity

June 30th, 2007

The folks at Avvo apparently saw the post below, because they called me about it today. I didn’t talk to them, but their voicemail said they understand the concern and are working out a system to use email addresses registered with State Bar authorities (?) as a way of verifying identity instead of credit cards. Good for them for realizing the credit card system is a bad idea. I’ll look forward to checking the service out further once the new system is in place.

Update on Avvo.com – you need my credit card for what?

June 29th, 2007

I am listed on avvo.com and I just tried to claim my profile and update it. The site brings up an interesting issue- my information is listed, but how do they know that the person who tries to claim the profile is really me? Anyone could submit an email address claiming to be mine and take over my identity.

Avvo’s answer is to ask for my credit card information. That may well be the best and most foolproof way to verify that I am who I say I am. I’m not going to go for it though. Yes, my credit card number is on file in about half-a-zillion places, but I’m not going to start using it as proof of identity.

I really believe that avvo is a great idea. California is one of the few states to publicly list contact information on licensed attorneys and I use it regularly. I dearly wish I had the same resource for other states and I hope avvo is successful for that reason alone.

However, if the price of participation in the avvo community is offering up my credit card information then I’ll pass. Thanks anyway.

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Avvo.com and thefunded.org – but what about the doctors?

June 29th, 2007

Plenty has been written recently about newish sites avvo.com and thefunded.com. Each seeks to add a layer of transparency to the otherwise murky-seeming fields of law and venture capital by listing people and firms and providing a rating system.

I think the idea behind both sites is good, though I am sure that there will be inequities in rankings, re-working of the systems etc. What interests me more is why people have chosen those two fields to cover.

Someone once pointed out to me that picking a lawyer is like choosing a car mechanic. Unless you are one yourself you don’t really know what they are doing. Even if things work out well you don’t know if it’s because of something your lawyer/mechanic did or in spite of it. You really only know if they screwed up.

And in fact this applies to every service profession, from accounting to x-ray technician. So why did lawyers and venture capitalists get chosen to be ranked?

My guess is that they are seen as gateways to cash. VCs invest it, of course, and the stereotype is of an insular group that makes decisions based on criteria few really understand. Business lawyers can provide introductions that help companies get cash or otherwise move the business forward. Litigation often works around the idea that cash should be in one place and not another as well.

This probably isn’t a huge revelation to anyone. It’s interesting to me, though, that I haven’t seen any similar services for doctors. Health is important, right? Wouldn’t it be useful to know if a doctor you’d been referred to had a good reputation?

Maybe this service is out there and I just haven’t seen it. If anyone has seen a doctors’ ranking site, please let me know in the comments.

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Target.com ADA lawsuit – a leading indicator

June 21st, 2007

I went to a really useful lawyer’s education panel yesterday courtesy of the San Francisco Bar Association on “2006 Hot Topics in Business Law”. The panel was a Matrix-style download of a year’s worth of legal developments jammed into my brain in the course of an hour and had numerous great nuggets.

One of the biggest, I thought, was the status of a case called National Federation for the Blind v. Target. It is still at a preliminary stage, but the results could be game-changing and to my mind it is a harbinger of ideas to come regardless of how the case itself turns out.

The National Federation claims that the target.com website fails to adequately incorporate technology to help blind users shop on the site. Wikipedia does a good job describing the basic technical details.

Last fall the case survived a motion to dismiss by Target on the grounds that the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t apply because the site is a mere adjunct to Target’s physical stores and 800 number. The court found that the ADA can apply equally to web sites, regardless of the existence of physical stores. The case is now being certified as a class action and will wend its slow way through the courts.

If the court ultimately rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the outcome could be huge. The result could not only mean that potentially a huge number of web sites must accommodate blind users, but also every other condition covered by the ADA as well.

The chances of this happening are hard to gauge currently. However, my own view is that alternative-access concerns are going to become more prominent as the Internet gets more fundamentally integrated into daily life. Smart businesses will start thinking about these ideas early to avoid playing catchup later on.  I once worked on a technology platform that had to be abandoned after $100M+ had been poured into it just because the software couldn’t be made Y2K compliant, so I am sensitive to the importance of planning ahead.

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