Last week, Avvo, the fixed-fee, limited scope legal services provider announced that it will be closing its operation. The news comes after countless lawsuits filed against the company and eight different state bar associations issued ethics opinions in the last two years — New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, and Indiana.
In January, Avvo was acquired by Internet Brands, the parent company of WebMD and lawyers.com. Surprisingly, just a few months following the acquisition, news broke of the closure in a letter to the North Carolina State Bar’s Authorized Practice committee.
General Counsel of Internet Brands, B. Lynn Walsh, wrote that although they agreed with the position of Avvo’s previous general counsel that Avvo’s legal service offerings do not constitute the unauthorized practice of law, Internet Brands has ultimately decided to suspend the program.
Internet Brands will officially discontinue Avvo’s legal services at the end of the month.
Despite the prior law suits and ethics opinions, not all states are completely against fee-sharing with organizations like Avvo. So far, Florida, Oregon, and North Carolina have considered modifying their Rules of Professional Conduct to allow fee-sharing with for-profit organizations and matching services in special circumstances.
Additionally, Illinois may loosen its regulations to allow for-profit lawyer matching services.
Last month, the Illinois ARDC completed a comprehensive study and report on the possibility of for-profit lawyer matching services, like Avvo, in hopes of tackling the access to justice gap.
Attorneys living and practicing in Illinois take note. The Illinois ARDC currently seeks comments on the framework and the Rule amendments and additions. Those interested may email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. The comment period is open now up until August 31, 2018.