In recent years, legal clients have been gravitating more and more toward fixed fee services, flat fee services, and limited scope representation. Unlike traditional client-attorney relationships, these new a la carte options connect an attorney with a client only for a short time and in exchange for a single, clear-cut deliverable – such as helping with the completion or review of a difficult legal document.
Why are fixed-fee legal services becoming so popular?
With the advent of the Internet and its vast amounts of online knowledge, more and more people feel comfortable taking on a larger scope of personal legal tasks, especially when it comes to common issues like divorce, small business creation, and immigration. Many don’t need an attorney to hold their hand through an extended period of time, they simply need help with specific legal questions or more technical matters, such as legal documents.
In January, the extent of this trend was furthered when legal services and lawyer directory website AVVO entered the fixed-fee legal service fray. The website announced that it would be offering a limited number of flat fee legal services through its website in five test cities before expanding services.
With the announcement, attorneys and law offices have a lot of questions, including:
- How will AVVO Legal services work?
- How will AVVO Legal services affect attorney marketing?
- Is AVVO Legal services legal and ethical?
While we don’t know all of the answers to these questions yet, we can share what we do know. Let’s take a closer look.
How AVVO Legal Services Works
According to their website, AVVO Legal Services simply connects clients with attorneys in their area. Here’s how it works:
- The client chooses a legal service they would like.
- The client chooses an attorney from a list of available lawyers who have signed up to participate in the service.
- The client pays AVVO a flat fee.
- The chosen attorney is notified that they have a new client and must contact the client within one business day.
- The attorney and client arrange to complete the legal service.
- Once a month, AVVO sends a check to the lawyer, with a marketing fee subtracted from the amount the client paid.
Currently, the legal services are limited to a few dozen options in the practice areas of Family Law, Business Law, and Immigration Law, including:
- 15-minute legal advice session – $39
- Document review – $199 ($50 marketing fee)
- Single-member LLC formation – $595 ($125 marketing fee)
- Uncontested divorce – $995 ($200 marketing fee)
- Family green card application – $2,995 ($400 marketing fee)
Possible Ethical Issues & Considerations
As AVVO begins to recruit attorneys and law firms to sign up to participate in their new service, many lawyers are questioning the ethical implications of offering legal services through the web at a fixed fee and through a third party.
AVVO has answered a number of ethics-related questions on its website. The website argues that there should be no concerns about fee-splitting because the attorney receives payment in full and then pays AVVO a marketing fee in a completely separate transaction. In addition, AVVO is not referring lawyers to clients because the clients themselves are choosing the person they work with.
Finally, AVVO recommends speaking with your state bar association about participating if you have any questions or concerns.
What AVVO Legal Services Means For Attorney Marketing
AVVO legal services may be a new way to market yourself or your law office online – and it may represent a new era in legal marketing in which fixed-fee services are ordered online without first contacting the attorney or engaging in a consultation. An increasing number of law offices are offering limited scope representation, both as a way to pursue a niche market and as a way to connect with clients who may need other services in the future.
Before entering into the limited scope representation market, through AVVO or otherwise, it is imperative to do your research and understand:
- How you will market your services.
- How you will implement the services in your office.
- Whether the services will improve your business.
- Whether the services will help you move toward your career goals.
Black Fin Attorney Marketing Services
We help attorneys with much more than their website. We offer comprehensive attorney marketing plans that take everything into account, from your social media profiles and legal directory listings to your PPC ads and offline marketing. Talk to our team today to find out how we can help you organize your marketing plan and improve your business.