Avvo Gets a Big B Round Pre-Launch

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Avvo is a consumer law destination that has yet to launch and yet has raised $13 million in VC funding. Here’s their press release. I spoke to CEO Mark Britton yesterday and the company is making some pretty strong claims about how it will affect/transform the consumer market for legal services.

Most of the existing consumer focused legal portals or search engines are pretty weak as user experiences and don’t offer that much in the way of helping people (or small businesses) find competent lawyers. Of course there’s Lawyers.com, Findlaw and LegalMatch among them.

In case you didn’t already know this, “Attorneys and Lawyers” is the single largest yellow pages revenue category at over $1 billion in spending annually in the U.S. And it’s ripe for — dare I say the word? — disruption (there I said it).

Britton specifically asked that I not do too much speculation about what the site and user experience will be. Okay, I won’t but there aren’t that many potential models out there and so I think I have a reasonably good guess about what they’re going to do. But we’ll see.

The challenge, as I told Britton yesterday, is that the consumer need for legal services is an infrequent event in most people’s lives (will, divorce, lawsuit, etc.) and thus poses a challenge in building a consumer brand. (Small businesses and entrepreneurs have more frequent and complex needs that the site could also serve.) However, in the aggregate, there is a great deal of potential consumer demand. The pushback or response to what I’m saying is embodied in Avvo’s sister company Zillow (Benchmark invested in both).

Zillow has managed to build a brand and capture the imagination of consumers with its data and services even though most middle-class people don’t sell or buy houses more than a couple of times in their lives. However Zillow’s central value proposition, “how much is your house worth?” is somewhat sexier than “who’s the best divorce lawyer in Seattle?”

Nonethless the need is real and there is an opportunity. Avvo’s mission to help consumers is a worthy one and they’re right that there isn’t a lot of good help around today.

As most of you know I’m a former lawyer and did litigation for about 8 1/2 years (much to my displeasure). So I’m especially eager to see what they come up with.


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