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On-Demand Legal Providers Look to the Future
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Summary: After facing resistance from state bar association, on-demand legal providers are not giving up and continuing to grow as they expand their capabilities.

On-demand legal providers are ready for the next step. The time spent battling numerous states has grown tiresome for companies like LegalZoom, Avvo, and Rocket Lawyer.

  
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On-demand legal service providers aim to offer legal products and advice for a fixed-fee. Not all state bar associations accept this method of legal service because they feel it borders on issues like ethics rules regarding referrals and fee-splitting. Despite this, on-demand providers are ploughing through and looking for more ways to expand their services. LegalZoom chief marketing officer Laura Goldberg said, “It is a battle that we feel, for LegalZoom, we have sort of moved past.”

The state bar associations that were especially upset with the competing legal providers were New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Three of New Jersey’s Supreme Court committees issued a joint opinion last June prohibiting local attorneys from participating in the services plans of the three companies. Specifically, they found since Avvo charged a marketing fee for participating lawyers, they were violating the state’s Rule of Professional Conduct 5.4(a), 7.2(c) and 7.3(d), according to Law.com.

LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer do not charge fees but the committees still found that their provider plans violated ethics rules because they were not registered with New Jersey’s Administrative Office of the Courts. Both companies have since registered with the state. Avvo is seeking to the opinion concerning them reviewed. Just this month, the New Jersey Supreme Court declined to offer an opinion.

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Avvo is not going to sit around. The company was acquired in January by Internet Brands, a media and software services organization. Avvo CEO Mark Britton hopes this will open up opportunities for their services. Britton said, “Nothing ever really swayed us from our standalone path until Internet Brands. They are different because they’ve got a real commitment to legal. They get legal. It’s hard to find people, investors, operating companies that get legal, that enjoy legal and are really focused on a mission of helping legal consumers and also helping lawyers.”

Rocket Lawyer is expanding their capabilities by moving outside the country. They have been working with European legal publishing company Editions Lefebvre Sarrut to launch the company in France, the Netherlands, and Spain. They plan to keep growing into even more European countries.



LegalZoom has worked to broaden the types of consumers that use their services. They launched Lifeplan in 2016, an employee benefit product to works with employers to connect people with legal, financial, tax and insurance advice. This month, they also partnered with Patients Rising, a patient advocacy organization, to offer their Lifespan services to Patients Rising members for free.

Of the resistance, Goldberg said, “We have spent a lot of time, and a lot of energy, and a lot of money educating and, when necessary, fighting the resistance but we have felt in the past two years that we’ve really won these fights and that there’s been maybe not an overt acknowledgement, but an acknowledgement that we are here to stay.”

Do you think on-demand legal providers are a big threat to the traditional legal model? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about the companies, read these articles:

Photo: theeap.com



 

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