Google Erroneously Labelling Lawyers with Professional Misconduct

Google’s Answer Box is a simple function that provides answers to basic questions directly in the search results. For example, “what time is it in London” or “how many square miles in an acre?”  The goal is to utilize content from extremely trusted websites to answer simple user questions without requiring a click through.

Answer Box results haven’t shown up heavily in legal.  Although that might have just changed – specifically for lawyer name searches.  Google is now pulling data directly from Avvo profiles for name search information – pulling Titles and work history directly into the search results on a simple name search.  This also includes a click through to the Avvo website – which could provide Avvo with a huge traffic jump.

Legal Answer Box

But note the horrible implementation – the title of the Answer Box is “Professional Misconduct” (not say…. the lawyer’s name).  At first blush (don’t make me think) it looks like poor Martha has been sanctioned in all of her jobs, going back to 1984.  (If you actually click through to the result, you’ll find that the Martha Patterson listed does NOT have any professional misconduct history.)  So – great idea, but horrendous implementation from Google.  This is a particularly tricky match – there are probably hundreds of Martha Pattersons in the US – and seven Martha Patterson profiles in the Avvo directory.

Now its highly possible that Google is just testing this among professional service providers (and the bad user experience above suggests that is the case) and is going to ratchet it back; although my instinct tells me your are going to get more and more information about individuals directly in the search box.


  1. Ian says

    I’m curious as to why this particular search returns an Answer Box result while others do not. It’s especially interesting to me because, like you said, there are presumably several Martha Pattersons in the legal field; how does Avvo select this particular Martha Patterson to feature her profile in the answer box (I just tested and I get the same result in an Incognito browser)? It’s not based on popularity as she only has one review on her Avvo page (the page included in the answer box). It’s definitely interesting and something to keep an eye on; the poor implementation and seemingly random way that Google is going about pulling results are the two red flags I noticed.