More Info on Avvo’s On-Demand, Fixed Fee Legal Advice Service

In a post earlier this week, I wrote about the launch of Avvo Advisor, the new service from Avvo that provides on-demand legal advice by phone for a fixed fee of $39 for 15 minutes. Yesterday, I spoke with Avvo’s founder and CEO, Mark Britton, who provided additional details.

Cost of Service

Mark Britton

Mark Britton

One question I had for Britton was about the cost of the service. As I reported earlier, a participating attorney is notified via text when someone purchases a session in the attorney’s state and practice area. The attorney responds to the text to claim the session, then has 15 minutes to initiate the call.

Once the call is finished, the entire $39 fee is deposited to the attorney’s account, so that there are no ethical concerns about fee splitting. But I had also read that Avvo is charging lawyers a marketing fee from the $39.

According to Britton, Avvo is currently taking no fee out of this transaction from either party, the consumer or the lawyer. All of the money that the consumer pays goes to the lawyer.

At the same time, he made clear that Avvo plans at some point to monetize this. One option is to charge lawyers a marketing or subscription fee. Other options include charging the consumer some sort of direct  or subscription fee or through advertising.

Thus, there is currently no charge to lawyers to participate in this program. But Britton wants lawyers to be on notice that a charge could be implemented at some future point.

Qualifications of Lawyers

Another question I had was about the qualifications of the lawyers who participate. Avvo bills the service as providing “legal advice from a top-rated lawyer.” So how does it determine which lawyers are “top-rated”?

The cut off is based on Avvo’s lawyer ratings. In order to participate in the program, a lawyer must have an Avvo rating of 7.5 or higher and client ratings of four out of five stars. Lawyers must apply to participate in the program and are screened based on their ratings.

15-Minute Time Limit

Another question: What happens after 15 minutes? The answer: Nothing. The call does not automatically shut off. It is up to the lawyer to manage the call and the time.

“The smart lawyer will realize after 15 minutes whether they’ve helped the customer in that time and be able to assess if the customer needs your service,” Britton said. “If the customer needs your service, you’ll stay on the phone with them.”

Ethical Concerns

The ABA Journal picked up on my post and reporter Victor Li did a piece about the new service. The piece generated an interesting discussion thread that is worth reading through. Several comments raised questions about the ethical implications of the service.

Avvo has posted a document that addresses the various ethical questions that the service might raise, Avvo Advisor and The Rules of Professional Conduct.

Future Plans

Avvo’s plans for developing the service will focus on two components, Britton said. One is expanding the states in which it is available. As noted in my earlier post, it is so far available in 15 states.

“We want to build the largest real-time lawyer to client interaction service that we can build,” Britton said.

The other focus will be on expanding consumer awareness of the service. That will mean promoting the service throughout the Avvo site and integrating it more directly into the site’s Q&A forums.

“If we can build a true win for the consumer and on the other side build a win for the lawyer, then we’v built a marketplace and we’re going to succeed,” Britton said.

“We’re closing in on 8 million visits a month,” he continued. “If we can just help 1 percent of them get in front of a lawyer in real time, that is a huge amount of business for lawyers. And the customer actually gets to work with a lawyer rather than a paralegal in some far-flung place.”

Posted in:
Tagged:
Updated:
  • Stan Beck

    While Avvo’s cut off for attorney participation in their new on-demand service is based on an attorney’s Avvo rating, Google searches for attorneys produce results such as: Find the Best Immigration Lawyer Near You – Avvo.com Find the Best Personal Injury Lawyer Near You – Avvo.com and not results such as Find the Best Avvo Rated Attorney…

    Avvo states in part in it’s terms (http://www.avvo.com/support/terms)

    “AVVO SHALL HAVE NO RESPONSIBILITY OR LIABILITY OF ANY KIND FOR ANY PROFESSIONAL INFORMATION YOU ENCOUNTER ON OR THROUGH THE SITE, AND ANY USE OR RELIANCE ON PROFESSIONAL INFORMATION IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.”

    “Neither Avvo Ratings, Professional Information nor any of the other information contained on the Site or provided through the Services, are an endorsement of any particular professional or are a guarantee of a professional’s quality, competency, qualifications, experience, resources, character, honesty, integrity, responsiveness or other personal and professional characteristics”

    “The information provided on this Site is intended to be a starting point to gather information about professional who may be suitable for your legal needs, but you should not rely solely on such information in deciding whether to hire any given professional. Furthermore, you should independently verify the accuracy of any information you obtain on the Site before using it, and you should obtain independent references for any professionals you are considering hiring. You agree to be solely responsible for your use of the Site, the Site Materials and the Services and for determining the suitability of, and the results obtained from, any professional you hire.”

    I am confident that all who use the new on-demand service will, prior to making that call, do the due diligence recommended by Avvo …lol

  • Avon

    LOL indeed, Stan Beck!
    No way even Avvo (let alone a caller) can tell in advance which lawyer will get the call the client places. Totally impossible, as far as I can see, for a client to do any diligence at all regarding the lawyer before making the call.
    Avvo may be referring to hiring the lawyer directly after the 15 minute consultation. Even then, you’re right to LOL; after a 15-minute sales pitch that convinced the client to at least consider proceeding, who’s going to back up psychologically and start from scratch?
    The disclaimer is a complete disconnect from the real world.

  • Astraea

    Avvo’s ratings are… suspect to put it mildly. There are people with 5 years experience who get 5 stars for experience, while others at 15+ years are at 3 1/2 stars.

    I don’t think there is a fee splitting issue, if the consumers or lawyers pay to Avvo, for the privilege of using the service. But conflicts issues should be hilarious, since the only thing the attorney knows before picking up the call is that it’s $39, and a referral.

  • Pingback: Avvo Advisor: Can You Help a Client in 15 Minutes?()