Mark Britton, the 51-year-old lawyer and entrepreneur who founded the often-controversial legal marketplace and lawyer-rating site Avvo in 2007 and served as its CEO ever since, is leaving the company.
In January, Avvo was acquired by Internet Brands, a web behemoth that already owned a portfolio of legal sites such as Nolo, Martindale-Hubbell, Ngage and Total Attorneys, as well as sites in several other verticals. When the acquisition was announced, Britton told me that he would remain with the company.
See also this update: Avvo Founder’s Email to Staff on His Leaving.
But in an email last week promoting Avvo’s upcoming Lawyernomics conference, Britton revealed he is leaving.
Lawyernomics is 53 days away, and I’m writing to encourage you to join me at my last Lawyernomics. Yes, you read that correctly: After twelve amazing years at Avvo (and one large acquisition by Internet Brands), I am turning the reins over to new leadership. …
This is my last Lawyernomics, but only the beginning of the next chapter for myself, and for Avvo. I look forward to staying closely involved in the legal industry for many years to come.
I reached out to Britton for comment over the weekend, but he asked to defer speaking until next week, because he is traveling.
Britton had been senior vice president and general counsel of travel site Expedia after it was spun off from Microsoft in 1999. In 2003, IAC Travel acquired Expedia and, nine months later, Britton left, having reportedly profited comfortably from the acquisition.
In 2005, he went to Italy to teach a semester of finance for Gonzaga University. While there, as he related during a 2007 interview on our Lawyer2Lawyer podcast, he began thinking about the difficulty consumers experienced in finding a lawyer. “When it comes to choosing a lawyer, your average consumer has no idea where to start,” he said in that interview. Those thoughts led him to found Avvo, named for the Italian word for lawyer, avvocato.
Avvo formally launched on June 5, 2007, with the then-audacious plan to rate every lawyer in the country on a scale of 1 to 10. As I reported at the time, the launch was controversial. Within days, two Seattle attorneys filed a class action lawsuit trying to shut it down. (We interviewed the attorney who filed that lawsuit in another Lawyer2Lawyer episode.)
When Britton appeared on our podcast just a month after Avvo’s launch, I asked him whether he had anticipated the backlash from the legal community. He did, he said, but his principle focus was on consumers and getting them the information and guidance they needed. “Even though we knew some lawyers would take issue with what we were doing, our focus in this product — was in serving the consumer and on getting them the help that they need.”
Needless to say, the class action failed and Avvo thrived, although not without continuing controversy and a few missteps — most notably its aborted 2010-2012 effort to expand into doctor ratings.
Will he, as he said in his email last week, stay involved in the legal industry? We’ll be watching for his next act.