As I blogged a little while ago, legal directory site Avvo has been acquired by Internet Brands, a company that is one of the world’s largest operators of websites that serve targeted vertical markets and that already owns a variety of legal websites, including Nolo, Lawyers.com, Martindale-Hubbell, Total Attorneys, and others.
I just got off the phone with Avvo founder and CEO Mark Britton, who provided further details of the acquisition.
He declined to disclose financial terms, but said that the deal is financially positive for everyone involved — particularly Avvo’s investors and employees. Britton will continue to run Avvo and all of Avvo’s roughly 350 employees will remain with the company.
It was Internet Brands’ portfolio of legal sites that made it the perfect company to acquire Avvo, Britton said. “When you look at Internet Brands and their collection of assets, they really get legal.”
He believes the different companies in the portfolio will be able to learn from and complement each other in ways that will allow all of them to better serve consumers and lawyers.
“You have companies like Nolo that do a great job in the do-it-yourself end of the spectrum,” Britton said. “We can learn from them and they can learn from us.”
“On the consumer side, we can serve more consumers across the spectrum and help more lawyers market their practices.”
As for his own continued involvement in Avvo, Britton said it will be substantial. “My principal focus is on running Avvo. We have a lot that we hope to get accomplished going forward.”
“The one thing that I’m really excited about, I’m chomping at the bit to spend time getting to know the Internet Brands company as a whole and seeing what opportunities are there.”
I asked Britton about whether Avvo had considered going public instead of a private sale. He said the company considered that for a long time.
“There’s an important element here and that is, if you look at Avvo’s mission, this deal expands the scale and scope of our offering. It allows us to help more legal consumers more quickly.”
He said that Avvo talked to a number of potential purchasers over the years, but that none of them could take Avvo away from its standalone approach.
“With Internet Brand’s collection of assets and fluency in helping the legal consumer and helping lawyers build their businesses, they had us at ‘hello,'” Britton said. “This is good for the company, good for consumers and good for lawyers.”
I asked Britton whether a handful of recent ethics opinions ruling against Avvo’s fixed-fee legal services product accelerated the decision to sell. He said no, and that, if anything, the opinions have brought about further progress, in that they have been a catalyst for constructive conversations between Avvo and state ethics bodies.
As for next steps — apart from waiting for the deal to become final — Britton said his first priority is to better understand all the Internet Brands products and how they can best work together.
“First we need to get this deal closed,” Britton said. “As soon as it does, we need to scramble to see how we can get these other brands incorporated.”