Avvo’s fixed-cost service to be discontinued by Internet Brands

Legal Technology

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Avvo Legal Services will be discontinued by the end of the month. In a letter to the North Carolina State Bar, B. Lynn Walsh, general counsel of Internet Brands, stated: “As a part of our acquisition of Avvo, we have evaluated the Avvo product offerings, and adjusted the Avvo product roadmap to align more comprehensively with our business and focus. Accordingly, we have decided to discontinue Avvo Legal Services.”

Avvo, as a company, will continue to operate. It is unclear if changes will be made to their other offerings.

The letter, dated June 6, was posted at the Responsive Law blog. Internet Brands bought Avvo earlier this year.

The letter was in response to the North Carolina State Bar Authorized Practice Committee, which had asked Avvo to explain how their legal services offering, which allows consumers to buy specific legal services for a flat fee, “relates to the unauthorized practice of law.”

The letter is a part of an ongoing effort by the bar to understand the ethics of fixed-fee legal services. The Ethics Committee released Proposed 2017 Formal Ethics Opinion 6, which said under certain conditions lawyers may participate in Avvo Legal Services and that the offering did not infringe on rules against fee-sharing. After a public comment period characterized by opposition to the proposed opinion, the opinion was sent back to the subcommittee for further study.

In recent years, Avvo Legal Services has come under pressure from various state bars and ethics boards. Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Utah have all ruled that lawyers participating in for-profit referral services, like Avvo Legal Services, violate state professional rules.

See also: Is Avvo’s fixed-cost service a fee-sharing violation?

In the letter, Walsh was clear to point out that the discontinuation of Legal Services “does not implicate rules regarding the unauthorized practice of law.” Adding, the “services Avvo has offered are nonlegal services”.

The letter is a part of an ongoing effort by the Bar to understand the ethics of fixed-fee legal services. The Ethics Committee released Proposed 2017 Formal Ethics Opinion 6, which said under certain conditions lawyers may participate in Avvo Legal Services and the offering did not infringe on rules against fee-sharing. After a public comment period characterized by opposition to the proposed opinion, the opinion was sent back to the subcommittee for further study.

A recent report from the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission noted that only California, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee “seem to permit” for-profit referral services.

The Oregon State Bar and Chicago Bar Foundation have independently recommended that ABA Model Rule 5.4, Professional Independence of a Lawyer, be amended to provide a “safe harbor” for attorneys using for-profit referrals.

Representatives from Avvo and the North Carolina State Bar did not respond to requests for comment.


https://www.forlawfirmsonly.com/avvos-fixed-cost-service-to-be-discontinued-by-internet-brands/

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