Avvo has created a platform that connects lawyers who need paying clients with clients who need straightforward, unbundled legal services at a clearly-defined price. And there are a lot of lawyers out there who need paying clients. Today’s new generation of lawyers are burdened with six-figure student loan debt and record numbers of unemployment after law school graduation. Avvo, and other platform-based legal services providers, provide one way to generate revenue to pay the bills, while potentially generating larger matters, and building a practice.
Avvo Legal Services charges the attorney a “marketing fee” for each service the attorney provides to a paying client. Participating attorneys know exactly how much it will cost to acquire a client for a specific service. Too many lawyers pay outrageous prices for advertising and marketing expenses with no way of tracking their return on investment. The certainty is appealing.
So how easy is it to sign up with Avvo? I decided to try it out myself.
Registering with Avvo Legal Services
After signing into my Avvo attorney account, I clicked on the Dashboard option in the top navigation. If you have not claimed your Avvo profile, you need to do that first. (If you are still on the fence about claiming your profile, you can read my post on the subject here.)
From my dashboard, I clicked on a link to learn more about offering fixed fee legal services through Avvo Legal Services.
That took me to a page which provided me with 1) information about the benefits of Avvo Legal Services (including “never chase a bill),” 2) the opportunity to chat with someone from Avvo as I scrolled down the page, and 3) a call-to-action to “Join Today.”
The next page offered a welcome message and outlined the first four of five steps involved in getting set up on Avvo Legal Services. The last step requires selecting the legal services I want to offer, which I will also discuss below.
Step 1: Contact Information
Avvo asked for my mobile number so that they can text me when they have a new client for me. They also confirm the email address I have included on my Avvo profile, and ask me to confirm that I have read the Avvo Legal Services Terms.
Step 2: Bank Information
Next, I am asked to link my bank account information. First, they ask to link the account I would like to use for deposits – “Deposits: Client payments account.” You can also see at the bottom of the screenshot below, they ask for the account I would like to use for “Withdrawals: Marketing fees account.”
The instructions for the Deposits account suggests that attorneys should use their client trust account or IOLTA account. This is one of the issues for state bars reviewing Avvo Legal Services. Under ABA Model Rule 1.15(a), attorneys have the duty to keep unearned client funds in their trust accounts.
Additionally, under ABA Model Rule 5.4, attorneys “shall not share legal fees with with a non-lawyer” except under a few enumerated circumstances. The ethics of Avvo Legal Services is outside the scope of this article, though I did want to point out these two items as they are major points of contention for the state bars who have issued opinions.
Avvo deposits all fees earned by an attorney into his or her Deposit account once a month and withdraws the associated marketing fees for each service from the attorney’s designated withdrawals account in a separate transaction. See example from “Attorney FAQ for Legal Services” page on Avvo’s website.
Once I selected my bank, I entered my username and password. This is the username and password I use for my online banking via PNC.
Plaid verified my bank information by asking my three security questions I had on file with my bank before connecting my accounts with Avvo.
One my bank information was connected, I selected which of my accounts to connect as my Deposits account.
Once I select the account I want to use, Avvo asks for bank information so they can “verify that [they’re] sending money to the right person.” I am asked to enter:
- Bank account type,
- First name,
- Last name,
- Date of birth,
- Last 4 digits of my social security number,
- Account holder address, and
- Verify that I have read the payment processor’s terms of service. (See below.)
The same process is required for setting up my marketing fees account. Since I selected the same bank, I did not have to answer security questions again, nor did I have to input account holder information.
Step 3: Tax Information
The third item on the checklist of information is tax information. I am asked to enter:
- Name on my tax return,
- Federal tax classification,
- Business name (if different from name on tax return),
- Social Security Number or Employer Identification Number, and
- Address (so they know where to send the 1099).
I am also asked to verify the following before continuing to the final page.
Step 4: Confirm Information
The fourth step is to confirm my mobile number and bank account(s) are linked. Earlier in the process, Avvo sent me a text message to confirm my mobile number.
Once I replied “CONFIRM” to the text message (as shown above), I received notice of confirmation.
Step 5: Select Services
The final step is to select the services I want to offer through Avvo Legal Services. As shown in the screenshot below, Avvo allows you to register for services based on the practice areas listed in your Avvo profile that make up at least 10% of your practice. They make it easy to update your practice areas directly from this screen.
So I kept scrolling and was able to see all the services available for me to offer. (I am licensed in New York as well as North Carolina, so both options were available.) Each service has a check box for you to select if you would like to offer that service. You can also see how much the client is charged, and the marketing fee that Avvo will take if you have a client who uses you for that service.
So for “North Carolina – Document Review: Consulting agreement” the client pays $149, and the marketing fee is $40 which leaves a net of $109 for me, the attorney. Avvo asks the client to upload their document ahead of time, and the attorney must review the document prior to the call with the client.
If, while signing up for services I want to offer, I have any questions about the scope of what is included, I can click on the “Details” link beside each service to learn more.
Clicking on the details link takes me to the summary page for that service. This is the same summary page that a potential client would see if they had questions about the service. It offers a description, what’s included, what’s not, and how the process works. Here is the link for a description of the legal service “Document Review: Consulting Agreement.”
After I select the services I want to offer, I again confirm that I agree to Avvo Legal Services terms, and “Apply Updates” to start being listed as an attorney who can offer these services. There is also information on how to decline a service, and how payments will work.
The confirmation screen shows my availability is “ON” for my selected services. I also received another text message from Avvo to confirm I was ready to accept Avvo Legal Services clients. (As well as another text message when I promptly turned off my availability.)
The text message shows that I can easily change my availability by texting STOP to the number Avvo is using to text me. You can also update directly from your desktop with the click of a button.
What Has Been Your Experience?
My goal with this post is to provide curious attorneys with a look at what it takes to sign up with Avvo Legal Services. There is much more that goes into winning new business via Avvo’s platform, some of which is within your control and some that isn’t, which I plan to discuss in a later post.
For attorneys who have signed up with Avvo Legal Services, what has been your experience? If you have not signed up, but are considering doing so, what questions do you have?
I look forward to your comments below.