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.