In the past when I have received requests from Martindale Hubble for peer review of lawyers, the rating criteria has simply been "Ethical" or "Not Ethical" (that's the "V" part of their rating), and "A", "B", or "C". Now MH apparently asks for ratings by practice area (there seem to be hundreds from which to choose) and a rating of 1-5 in 5 different categories. At the end of the day, MH will still apparently average the ratings and then assign an A,B, or C to the lawyer, although I am not sure how meaningful it will be unless they also disclose the practice area in which each rating was given. A lawyer may get a CV rating overall, but an AV rating in family law. If I am hiring a family law lawyer, the family law rating is of much greater significance to me than the overall rating.
The change in ratings seems to be in response to the client review rating system that Avvo offers, where clients rate their lawyers under a number of criteria, rather than just good, better, best. MH has also started charging lawyers to post their rating, or at least that is what their email campaign to me has stated. In order for the public to be able to view a rating, I have to pay them $59.00. No thanks MH. I have always considered their rating system to be arbitrary and stacked in favor of larger firms, and largely meaningless to consumers in any event. Now they have made it even more meaningless by charging for the rating. If someone has an AV rating, they paid to have it posted. If someone has no rating, I don't know whether they are just cheap like me, or have a low rating that they do not want to pay for the privilege of advertising. If they post the low ratings for free, but not the high ratings, then consumers can assume unrated lawyers rank higher than average. On top of that, the ratings will become even more meaningless, or at least confusing, as they are divided into the hundreds of practice areas. It is no surprise that MH has tried to monetize its ratings system, because its primary business model, that of a really expensive directory for lawyers, is outdated and had been rendered irrelevant by the internet.