Avvo intros flat-fee on-demand legal services

Avvo Legal Services Homepage

The lawyer store is open. Avvo, the Seattle-based legal directory, education and referral network, today introduced Avvo Legal Services, a flat-fee lawyer-on-demand service for prices ranging from $35 for 15 minutes of consultation to $149 for legal document reviews. More complex services, such end-to-end support of a a U.S. citizenship application are also available for higher fixed fees.

The new service provides a live connection with a lawyer specializing in the client’s problem in the client’s jurisdiction within 15 minutes, similar to the basic referral service it has offered since late 2014. Avvo Legal Services is intended to be a first-stop for potential clients seeking advice on legal questions, such as launching a business or ending a marriage.

“Avvo reduces risks by helping consumers connect with an attorney for basic advice” Sachin Bhatia, Chief Product Officer at Avvo, said. “We’re bringing transparency to selecting lawyers.” He compared the new service to a lawyer store website “with filters that help the consumer choose the right [flat-fee] option” in summing up the fundamental change from the company’s previous directory model. Avvo has featured call-backs from the first available attorney in the consumer’s region since late 2014.

Educating consumers to help them select the right type of lawyer is often the greatest challenge, Bhatia said. Attorneys are using the service to build clientele, forgoing high fees for the chance to make a personal connection with potential customers. After the initial engagement, Avvo users are free to call the attorney and retain them for other work.

Avvo Legal Services flat-fee offers

Avvo Legal Services flat-fee offers

Unlike Avvo Advisor, the existing service that provides access to the first attorney willing to take a call (see our previous coverage), consumers using Avvo Legal Services can select a specific lawyer based on their Avvo rating and receive a call from that lawyer within one business day for the same $39 price. While that call may lead to a client relationship, Avvo emphasized that sometimes a call is all a person needs to get sufficient advice for basic issues.

Learning which form to use for incorporation, for example, may be sufficient for many callers.

“We found consumers would take an ‘I’ll risk it’ approach to deciding not to consult an attorney,” Bhatia explained. “Avvo Legal Services helps people reduce the number of errors they might make when deciding about a contract, will or immigration application by making the price transparent.” Avvo offers complete services, such as a family Green Card application, for $2,995.

Avvo launched on a directory model eight years ago and has built its coverage, which the described as curated legal advice that combines educational articles and a proprietary lawyer rating systems. The company’s directory now covers 18 states and 70 percent of the U.S. population.

Bhatia said Avvo will continue to expand from the directory model that drives advertising to focus on collecting a share of revenue generated from attorneys using its fixed-price services. New features in lawyer listings, additional tools and information decision-making, and ongoing vetting of lawyers will support more traffic and make the site a primary destination for consumers establishing a relationship with an attorney for the first time.

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Avvo CMO Leigh McMillan will be participating in a one-on-one interview with LexBlog CEO Kevin O’Keefe at BIA/Kelsey NOW | Seattle next week. Save on tickets by registering with the discount code “NOW199″ to attend for only $199 through Feb. 10th.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. C Laumann

    Thanks for the post. I’m all for making lawyer fees transparent and making quality, affordable representation easily accessible to members of the public.

    However, Avvo’s structure seems to run afoul of the rules of professional responsibility in my state for at least 2 and possibly 3 reasons:

    1) My state strictly forbids fee splitting between lawyers and non-lawyers. It also forbids fee-splitting between lawyers and lawyers UNLESS THE SPLIT FAIRLY REPRESENTS THE ACTUAL WORK DONE BY EACH LAWYER. Here, Avvo seems to charge lawyers not a flat per-client “marketing fee” but instead a % cut of the total legal services. That seems to violate the rules of professional conduct.

    2) They ask for access to the lawyer’s bank account to both make deposits and withdrawals. I’ve never seen an advertiser (newspaper, etc.) ask for bank account info – Instead they typically bill the attorney. Why would a lawyer give a third party control over their bank account when the ethics rules require the attorney to retain sole control over their escrow accounts?

    3) Avvo seems to control the initial analysis of the matter and the fixing of the attorney’s fee for their services and other things that a non-lawyer is not generally allowed to do under the professional rules of my state. In their words “you shouldn’t turn down services too often, and if you do, we may remove you from the program.” This basically sets a presumption that the non-lawyer “marketer” has determined the suitability of the client’s need for the requested legal services. But what if a client thinks they need a power of attorney when really they need a guardianship? Or if they feel they need a trust when really a simple will would suit them better? Professional judgment in my jurisdiction usually requires the lawyer (and the lawyer alone) to guide the client on determining what legal solutions fit their needs.

    Now if , instead of this “we bring the client, set the fee & take some of the legal fees” Avvo charged a set marketing fee for sending flat-fee clients to an attorney (assuming the attorney agreed to do flat-fee billing but still set their own fees) I’d be happy to sign up. Again, innovation is great. But attorneys must adhere to the rules and while Avvo seems to try hard to say their structure is ok, I’m not at all sure that the bar counsel of my state would agree.

    – One attorney’s thoughts, anyway.

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