Fellow entrepreneur Mark Britton at Avvo scored double victories the week before Christmas, and if you weren't watching, then you should have been, especially if you're a lawyer or you're trying to find one. Avvo launched two new features and a federal judge outrightly dismissed a nuisance case against the company in the early pleading stages. Let's look at the product news first.
Avvo introduced two new services on its website, Avvo.com, which is designed to help consumers find lawyers. The first service, Avvo track record, allows attorneys to list their victories (you don't expect us to list our losses, do you?). It has the danger of appearing a bit one-sided, but Avvo track record provides an opportunity to identify opposing counsel and allowing both sides to give their version. That ought to make for some interesting, unedited reading.
The second service, Avvo Answers, allows consumers to post "open letter" questions and then lawyers to respond to those questions. It's a great idea, but in need of some fine tuning. I spoke with Avvo President Mark Britton and identified this Q&A from a Texas consumer with a Washington attorney's response. The attorney, as far as I can tell, isn't admitted in Texas. The disclaimers at the end of the Washington lawyer's Answers may be enough, but that's a question for the Texas Bar admissions committee, not this lawyer (who's also not licensed in Texas, but is licensed in Washington, which gives me some qualification to comment here).
While the cross-jurisdictional practice is not Avvo's problem, the lawyer should know better than trying to practice in a state where he's not licensed. Given's Avvo's intent to help the consumer, Mark is considering my suggestion to police or prevent cross-jurisdictional practice on Avvo's website. As with all new things, everything takes time and Avvo has been spectacular about listening to suggestions, so be on the lookout for changes.
Last and certainly not least, Avvo succeeded in convincing a Washington federal judge to dismiss with prejudice John Henry Browne's lawsuit against Avvo claiming it violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act. Avvo countered with the defenses of the First Amendment, the Communications Decency Act and argued that the WCPA claim lacked merit. The judge agreed with Avvo on all counts.
My fellow Lawyer 2 Lawyer co-host Bob Ambrogi and I separately hosted both the Plaintiff John Henry Browne and the executives of Defendant Avvo earlier on two of our podcasts, so you can give the two shows a listen by clicking on the links immediately above, and see how the arguments fared compared to the ultimate ruling.