Avvo Advisor’s 15-Minute Consultations Might Actually Work

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The reaction to Avvo Advisor, the new 15-minute consultation service from Avvo, mostly focused on the feasibility of delivering competent legal advice in a 15-minute window. I was a bit dismissive of it for that reason, as well. I don’t think there are a lot of legal problems you can deal with in 15 minutes.

But now I realize that’s not really the point of Avvo Advisor. Although some clients will certainly get the advice they need, it’s really a lead-generation service for lawyers. Granted, lead generation services for lawyers are a dime a dozen. I get please-write-about-our-company requests from lead-generation companies almost daily. They mostly follow a similar model: the company finds the potential clients, you pay a fee for each “lead,” and you do the legal work. The problem is that a lot of the leads are tire-kickers looking for free advice or just dead-ends (wrong jurisdiction, wrong practice area, etc.).

Avvo Advisor is a little different because the potential client has to pay $39 to talk to a lawyer. That automatically excludes tire-kickers, who don’t pay for anything. And Avvo’s system seems like it will eliminate many wrong-jurisdiction and wrong-practice-area calls.

More importantly, it flips the traditional lead-generation model on its head. Instead of charging the lawyer for a lead, the potential client pays for the 15-minute call. Instead of offering a refund for bad leads, as Total Attorneys has done for years, Avvo is offering a refund to unsatisfied clients (who are probably less likely to ask for it).

Crucially, Avvo does not hang up the phone after 15 minutes. The 15 minutes is just the beginning of the phone call. You are free to continue the conversation or quote the client a fee for further representation.

Lawyers obviously have to be able to help people in 15 minutes at least some of the time, or people will stop using the service. But Avvo obviously doesn’t think every legal problem will be solved with a 15-minute phone call. The phone call is really just a paid consultation with a potential client who has already demonstrated a willingness to pay for legal advice.

In a sense, Avvo is taking sides in the debate lawyers have been having for years over whether or not to charge for consultations. With Avvo Advisor, the answer is yes.

Whether it will work or not is, in the end, entirely a function of Avvo’s ability to get potential clients to pay for a 15-minute phone call. With Avvo’s reportedly massive traffic, I think it is a safe bet that it will.

Have you tried giving legal advice with Avvo Advisor? Let us know about your experience in the comments.

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  • Paul Spitz

    I haven’t tried it, and I’m really not convinced that Avvo can deliver quality clients in my practice area (corporate and business law), based on what I’ve seen from the Answer Questions part of Avvo’s website. I think the attorneys are going to spend a lot of 15-minute calls dealing with clients that have:

    1) downloaded child porn
    2) uploaded child porn
    3) posted nude pictures of their ex-spouse on Facebook or instagram
    4) posted nude pictures of their ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend on Facebook or instagram
    5) had nude pictures of them posted by their ex on Facebook or instagram
    6) decided to open a business where they can post nude pictures of people on Facebook or instagram
    7) gotten shorted $0.73 at Starbucks and want to sue
    8) sold a car to someone who promised to pay them in a week, then drove off in the car and never showed up
    9) bought a car from someone for cash, without having a mechanic inspect it, only to find that the car has no engine

    etc.

    I mean, if you routinely handle criminal work or deal with people endangered by Darwinism, Avvo may be perfect for you.

    I also don’t have great confidence that Avvo will do any real screening, to ensure that the practice area is correct. Does Avvo distinguish between business transactional work (which I do), and business litigation (which I don’t)? Is there a method for masking our cellphone number, so that the client doesn’t see it? I don’t want one of these people to have my cell phone number, which is also my home number.

    • Paul Spitz, you win the Internet for the day!

      I am also interested in hearing reports from lawyers who try this out. As for me, I do not want to stare at my email waiting for leads to come in so I can pounce on them immediately to earn $39.

    • Sam Harden

      I think Paul may be on to something… (the pic is related).

    • Alex

      I dunno. I’d take $39 to tell someone not to post nudes of their ex to instagram. Do well by doing good. Win-win.

  • Paul Spitz

    New Internet Question on Avvo:

    “Is it Illegal to Repost Nudes? If there are pictures online is it illegal to save, repost them online if they have a real name attached?”

    Seriously.

  • Kay

    My firm once provided lawyer support for a DIY legals site. The idea was that people could DIY a simple legal document, then talk to a lawyer for up to 20 mins if they had questions.

    One guy did a trust deed. His 20 minute question was: If I put property into this trust, will it be protected? I am an undischarged bankrupt who was recently divorced, and have moved to a religious commune. I plan to appoint my father as trustee, put property into this trust, name my swami as beneficiary.Will the property be safe from my ex wife who is chasing me for child support, creditors who are chasing me for unpaid debts, and the tax office which is chasing me for past tax bills? Also will there be any adverse tax consequences for me or my dad or my swami?

    He rang the firm repeatedly, trying to get a different lawyer each time, revealing only a bit of the story, to ask a different facet of his question.

  • This is what Avvo tells consumers before buying the 15-minute phone call:

    Important information:

    – Until your advice session actually takes place, no attorney-client
    relationship exists between you and the attorney you have chosen.

    – An attorney-client relationship may never be formed if the attorney:
    determines there is a conflict of interest; is unable to provide the
    desired representation; or declines representation for some other
    reason.

    – The attorney may require that you complete a representation agreement in order to proceed.

    – If the attorney is unable to fulfill your advice session for any reason, you will receive a full refund.

    – Should you require additional legal services beyond the purchased advice
    session, you will need to make such arrangements directly with the
    attorney.

    My reading of this is that once the “advice session” takes place, there is an attorney-client relationship. But the attorney can create a representation agreement for the 15
    minute call? What does that say? All for 15 minutes? What happens when the caller inevitably misses a claim or misses a filing deadline, or something else goes wrong, and then they claim you didn’t tell them something or gave bad advice?

    A 15-minute attorney-client relationship? What could possibly go wrong. No, thanks.

    • Paul Spitz

      It is definitely a lot of exposure for $40 and a 15-minute phone call, during which the client is highly likely to omit key bits of information. As part of the ABA’s initiative to improve access to the law, will the ABA push through a law relieving attorneys from malpractice liability for these kinds of mini-engagements? Doubt it.

  • Cade Parian

    I signed up. Every text notification I have received thus far is answered almost immediately. I have “won” none of the calls. I am thinking there are techno-attorneys out there who have learned to automate the process.

    http://www.westgalawyer.com