A few days ago I reported that the company that recently bought Avvo has decided to discontinue Avvo Legal Services ("ALS").
There have been a couple of comments, but I am a little surprised I have not seem much reaction to the news. Law Sites has a report with some links, but no opinion one way or another.
The only opinion statement I have seen so far is by Professor Milan Markovic, over at the Legal Profession blog, in which he laments ALS's demise, stating that "My personal view is that the ethical concerns regarding Avvo Legal were overblown because Avvo Legal neither recommended one attorney over another nor interfered with attorneys' professional independence of judgment. ...[T]o address lack of access to justice, the organized bar should embrace Avvo Legal and other companies that promote awareness of the law and the availability of lawyer assistance. Instead we continue to ignore the demand side of lack of access to justice while regulators experiment with supply-side solutions such as "navigators", "LLLTs," and alike that I fear will prove ineffectual."
UPDATE 7-26-18: Faughnan on Ethics has published a comment on Avvo's demise here.
My understanding of the problem with AVVO (at least from Ohio's ethical standpoint) is that this type of packaging of legal services, which determined the scope of work, cuts into a function which needs to be performed by the attorney on a case by case basis for litigants. I agree with that viewpoint. The answer to the lack of access to justice is not sharing fees with a vendor who packages and markets cookie cutter legal services that are not designed to resolve the client's problem, but are instead designed to bring in more volume (revenue). Any fixed price agreement for legal services needs to, in an attorney's considered professional judgment, account for both the interests of the client as well as the lawyer. We can provide fairer access to our court system for more than just the wealthy by (1) cutting our prices, which have been structurally too high far for a long time; a reality we all have to live with in these leaner times; (2) Creating a well thought out, limited scope of work that allows for the client's goals to be obtained without pricing them out of the process. This involves a collaboration between lawyer and client that provides the client enough information to make a voluntary decision about limiting the work in light of the relative chances of success. In practical terms, this will mean cutting most of the discovery out of civil cases, as most discovery ends up being completely worthless and has very little impact on the end result. Lawyers will howl about not being able to conduct discovery, but my experience is that it is what increases the costs of a case to make it out of reach for most clients, it is used as a weapon in exactly that way, and the same result would have been obtained had the parties tried the case with limited or no discovery on an expedited basis. (3) Educating our judges on how to control their dockets to make litigation economically feasible under a limited scope agreement. I can't try a case within a fixed price that I estimate and the client budgets for if I there is absolutely no certainty as to when it will ever go to trial or if have a judge who refuses to enforce the civil rules governing discovery and motion practice. Decisions have to be made in a timely way; pull the trigger when its needed and get the case tried. Deadlines and time limits should be made statutory and removed from the discretion of trial judges. Our courts have become black holes that consume civil cases in an endless purgatory where the litigants who can't afford to continue the waiting game inevitably must lose.ReplyDelete