Avvo is a new Seattle start-up that wants to help people deal with legal issues. The company is still secretive, but the idea is to give anyone who needs a lawyer the tools and information to help them through the process. It can be “an incredibly scary and frightening situation,” says Mark Britton, chief executive of Avvo.

Silicon Valley venture capital firm Benchmark Capital has invested $3 million. It is the first investment by Rich Barton, who joined Benchmark as a venture partner last year to scout for deals in Seattle. (Yes, he’s the same guy who is chairman and chief executive of Zillow, the company that has shaken up the real estate market by providing home valuations online.)

Barton founded and served as chief executive officer at Expedia until 2003. That’s where he got to know CEO Britton. Britton was Expedia’s general counsel.

There are at least two other Web companies serving the legal space, Lawyers.com and FindLaw.

Barton said he is scratching his head about why this space hasn’t been gone after more aggressively.

Benchmark can probably identify with headaches caused by the legal process. The firm and its portfolio companies have had to deal with their fair share of lawsuits. And as an aside, we note that Benchmark partner Andy Rachleff donated money to a special fund to the Northern California Innocence Project, which works on behalf of people who are wrongly convicted. He did so to honor Frank Quattrone, the Silicon Valley banker who said he was unfairly convicted, and recommended the NCIP to his friends as a worthy project to fund.

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