Avvo – the world’s largest online legal directory – now enables lawyers to offer legal services directly to consumers through their platform. Beginning last year, Avvo offered the opportunity to consumers to get legal advice by telephone for a flat fee of $39.00 per telephone call.
Now Avvo has launched a “law store” that offers many fixed fee legal services from legal document review to no-fault divorce that ranges in price from $149.00 to $995.00. The legal fee is passed to the lawyer through the Avvo platform and Avvo charges the law firm a marketing fee for connecting the firm with a client. [For a detailed discussion of how this service works see Robert Ambrogi’s blog post on this subject at LawSites].
Today’s legal consumer’s want legal services from their lawyers on demand. In a previous post I discussed the coming Uberization of Legal Services a trend that now seems to accelerate with the launch of this service.
Consumers want from their lawyers:
- fixed and affordable fees;
- the opportunity to have more control over the relationship between lawyer and client;
- purchasing just the legal services they want and no more- often called the “unbundling of legal services”;
- speed and convenience;
Solos and small law firms need help in identifying prospects and converting them to clients without spending a fortune on client acquisition.
The new Avvo Legal Service offers these benefits to both the consumer on the demand side, and the law firm on the supply side.
The Avvo Business Model
A platform is a plug-and-play business model that allows multiple participants (producers and consumers) to connect to it, interact with each other, and create and exchange value.” –Platform Thinking.
It’s important to note that the single most important attribute of a platform business: a platform does not partake in any transactions or interactions with its customers. This differs greatly from the traditional “pipe” model, where businesses ( e.g., the law firm) transact directly with customers, and and services flow from law firm to client. In the Avvo model lawyers still deal directly with their clients, but the entire relationship, including the payment of legal fees, is facilitated by the platform technology.
The platform business model can help with two major problems facing solos and small law firms: (1) liquidity; and (2) efficiency. By providing a large source of potential clients with legal issues that must be solved quickly, solos and small law firms can convert dead time into revenue. The platform can also provide on-line tools to law firms that enable them to provide legal services efficiently and still maintain reasonable profit margins. Solos and small law firms are challenged to develop these on-line tools and applications on their own. The platform provider can provide these tools at a cost which is much less than the firm can develop on their own.
We know from our experience in working with solos and small law firm’s through our own DirectLaw Virtual Law Firm Service that the pain point for many law firms is client acquisition. Most law firms don’t have enough clients. Marketing directly to clients online —the pipe business model — has proved to be a challenge. Now comes AVVO with its huge base of consumer traffic. Avvo claims that over 8 million visitors to its web site a month with 50% having an urgent legal problem. Solos and small law firm can tap into this huge potential market with no up-front cost. Prospects and clients acquired through the Avvo platform through the consumption of fixed price legal services can result in building trusted relationships with clients that lead to the purchase of additional legal services outside of the Avvo platform. Law firms should think of the Avvo on-line fixed fee legal service as a way to market their full-service practice.
Solos and small should explore testing out the new Avvo Service as another low cost route to market. Lawyers typically wait until early adopters in the legal profession try out a new service or technology first before leaping in with both feet. Here is a good example where being early, getting good reviews, and becoming experienced with providing services over the Avvo platform can cause higher platform visibility resulting in more powerful market positioning.