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.”

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.