Avvo Q&A: Why Did a Legal Directory Prioritize an API?

Romin Irani
Feb. 07 2011, 08:37AM EST

Avvo, the lawyer and doctor directory we profiled last week, has recently opened its Avvo API for wider use. To understand Avvo's plans for its API, we spoke with Joshua King, Vice President, Business Development & General Counsel at Avvo. It is interesting to note that Avvo prioritized the release of its API over other opportunities that it had. Read the full Q & A with King below:

1. Can you tell us more about Avvo? How does the API fit within the scheme of things?

Avvo’s goal is to make it easier for consumers to get information about their legal and healthcare needs.  As part of this, Avvo rates and profiles nearly every attorney and doctor in the US, complete with licensing and disciplinary information.  We make it really easy to find a doctor or lawyer – or to check the credentials of the professionals you already use.  Avvo also features a free Q&A forum where thousands of people get free answers from lawyers and doctors every week.  The API is the next step in the transparency Avvo stands for – by making much of the Avvo data available to developers and other site owners, more consumers can take advantage of the information Avvo provides.

2. What were some of the challenges during your API design and implementation phase? How did you address them?

As a rapidly growing company with a lot on our plate, it can be a challenge to set aside the time to plan and build an API.  There are lots of other opportunities; how do you prioritize a project with an uncertain payback?  Ultimately, we decided it was worth it to build the API and get it out there so people could start playing around with it.

3. Now that you have released the API, what do you expect from it?

We’d like to see useful and creative apps built.  We’d also love to get more feedback.  There are a lot of enhancements we could add to the app, but nobody is going to be able to give us better direction on that than independent developers using the API to power new services.

4. What kind of applications do you expect from developers? Any ideas for them?

Any applications that currently use your API? Of course, we’d like to see applications that expand the reach of Avvo and make the service more widely available.  That may mean apps that mashup Avvo’s professional directory with maps or other relevant information, mobile apps, etc.  Topix currently uses Avvo’s API to add legal Q&A to its local “Crime” pages, Whitepages uses it to supplement its business listings, and we use it internally to power our “Last Call” iPhone app.

5. Any other points you would like to share with readers?

We’re happy to talk with any developer who has questions or creative ideas/feedback when it comes to the API – and if you build something cool with it, we’ll promote it far and wide.

Romin Irani Google Developer Expert Cloud 2014. Romin loves learning about new technologies and teaching it to others. Follow me on Google+

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