Q. Did the Bar decide that the Avvo Advisor online program is a lawyer referral service?
A. Florida Bar Rule 4-7.22(c) states that “any person, group of persons, association, organization, or entity that receives a fee or charge for referring or causing the direct or indirect referral of a potential client to a lawyer drawn from a specific group or panel of lawyers” is a lawyer referral service, and the Board of Governors agreed that the program did fall under this definition. Bar opinions are advisory.
Q. What prompted the Bar to make this determination?
A. A Florida Bar member asked the Bar Ethics Department whether the Avvo Advisor program qualified as a lawyer referral service.
Q. Can I participate in the Avvo Advisor online program?
A. Bar members may participate in a lawyer referral service as long as it complies with the rules. These services have certain requirements imposed by Rule 4-7.22, including no fee-splitting, liability insurance for participants, stating that they are lawyer referral services and are paid-for referrals in all communications with the public, and submission of the names of the participants to The Florida Bar. As of this News issue, the Avvo Advisor program has not yet complied. The Florida Bar will provide a 90-day grace period on discipline under Rule 4-7.22 for lawyers who may be currently associated with Avvo Advisor.
Q. What about the Avvo flat-fee service — is it a lawyer referral service, and can I participate?
A. The board has not looked at this service.
Q. What about my Avvo profile or rating — can I participate?
A. Yes. Those are separate services from the Advisor program. Merely “claiming” your profile and posting information in it on the Avvo site or being rated by Avvo does not constitute participation in the Avvo Advisor program. Lawyers who claim their profiles are required to make sure any information posted complies with Florida Bar Rules.