Avvo.com is an online legal services marketplace. Avvo offers on-demand, affordable legal advice through Avvo Advisor, which delivers an Avvo-rated, experienced lawyer for 15 minutes over the phone, available online or via a free app for iOS devices. In the Avvo Q&A forum, consumers can get their legal questions answered for free by more than 250,000 participating lawyers or search more than 8 million previously asked questions and attorney-provided answers. The Avvo lawyer directory provides Avvo-rated profiles, client reviews, and peer endorsements for 97 percent of all lawyers in the United States. The Avvo attorney directory may also include client reviews, disciplinary actions, and peer endorsements. The website also includes lawyer-submitted legal guides.
Launched in 2007, Avvo has developed a rating scale for lawyers based upon a proprietary algorithm. The ratings system was widely criticized for inaccuracy and inconsistency. A lawsuit filed against the company alleged it was a "scam" and libelous. The suit was dismissed on the basis that the ratings were an opinion protected by the First Amendment right of free speech.
Avvo was founded in Seattle, Washington in 2006 by Mark Britton, a former legal counsel for Expedia, Inc. Britton said he developed the idea while vacationing in Italy and was still receiving inquires from friends and colleagues seeking legal advice. Rich Barton, the founder of the Expedia, Inc. and real-estate database Zillow.com, was a key advisor during the initial ideation stages and still serves on the board of directors. Avvo was derived from “avvocato”, the Italian word for lawyer.
The company was initially financed with $13 million in venture capital from Benchmark Capital and Ignition Partners. Subsequently, Avvo raised $71.5 million in financing in 2015, which brings the company's total financing to $132 million.
Avvo generates revenue by selling legal services, advertising, and other services primarily to lawyers. Avvo operates as a scraper site to generate its lawyer listing pages causing the District of Columbia Bar Association to specifically object to its business practices. An additional source of revenue for Avvo is through a $49.95/mo subscription service called "Avvo Pro" which allows lawyers to remove advertisements from their profile, including advertisements by competing lawyers which may appear on non-"Avvo Pro" lawyer profiles.
According to the website, the directory provides comprehensive profiles, client reviews, peer endorsements, and its own proprietary rating for more than 97% of all licensed attorneys in the United States. Avvo lawyer profiles are aggregated from public records provided by state bars and additional attorney licensing entities. Avvo will not delete any lawyer's profile, and has been criticized for including profiles on deceased lawyers.
As of 2010, Avvo's directory includes ratings of lawyers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Browne v. Avvo
A lawsuit was filed on June 14, 2007, nine days after Avvo's launch, by Seattle attorneys, John Henry Browne and Alan Wenokur. The suit alleged that Avvo's rating system made false claims of being factual and was therefore deceptive and libelous and violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act. United States District Court Judge Robert Lasnik ruled that the rating system was only an opinion thus protected by the First Amendment right of free speech. The judge wrote, "Neither the nature of the information provided nor the language used on the Web site would lead a reasonable person to believe that the ratings are a statement of actual fact."
The District of Columbia Bar Association released its position about Avvo:
The Bar has not entered into any agreement with Avvo; instead, Avvo has obtained Bar member information directly from the Bar’s Web site, in violation of our restrictions on use, and used that information for its own commercial purposes. The Bar has asked Avvo to remove all improperly acquired D.C. Bar member information from its Web site, cease all attempts to acquire such information from the Bar’s Web site, and cease using improperly acquired information for any commercial purpose.