Lawdingo Thins The Herd

When Tim Cushing twitted me a link to a post called Disrupting the Legal Industry, I shrugged. Another website dedicated to promoting the blind adoration of idiotic schemes to make money off lawyers. Nothing new there. But I was wrong.

Included within the post, among the flotsam and jetsam of drivel that has no chance of either making money or achieving anything worthwhile, was a gem. A diamond.  The name is at first disturbing. Lawdingo.

But I soon realized how perfectly the name suited the concept.

Founder and CEO Nikhil Nirmel said one of the more popular features…is the ability to “get a call now” — Lawdingo can instantly connect users with a relevant lawyer by phone.

Before heaping too much praise on Nirmel, it’s important that you appreciate what a funny guy he is.  This isn’t another little pompous jerk who spouts marketing nonsense in lieu of actual thought. Oh no. This is a very funny guy. Proof? Watch this:

See? Did I tell you this kid was funny or what?  And not just funny, but sma-aa-art.

Y Combinator-incubated legal startup Lawdingo is announcing that it has raised another $690,000 in funding.

That brings his total angel funding to $850,000. The plan is to charge each mark a monthly fee to be available at any moment for a telephone call for someone to ask a free question.  And if you think he’s only sucked in money from people who are clueless about the legal profession, you are so wrong:


Nikhil, Congratulations!  This is no small feat and you have the right attitude.  Looking forward to working with you soon to introduce our students to Lawdingo.


@SoloPracticU We are looking forward to working with SPU too!

Oh, you sly devil.  I see what you’re doing there, and I bow to your brilliance. This is the best scheme yet to cull the lawyers who are too stupid, too incompetent, utterly without business or the ability to get a paying client so that they would pay, yes pay!, for the privilege of sitting by the silent phone awaiting the opportunity to answer questions for free.

And you’ve not only come up with the perfect scheme to make lawyers slaves to free advice, while paying to do so, but you’ve managed to get the mother hen of self-promotion to beg the sly fox to come into the chicken coop.

Pure genius.




30 comments on “Lawdingo Thins The Herd

  1. AP

    This may be one of those unanswerable questions but here goes: Is it more embarrassing to tell your cell mate that you found your lawyer on Lawdingo or to appear in court and announce that you are John Smith from Lawdingo?

    1. SHG Post author

      The only reason “John Smith from Lawdingo” would ever be in court is to ask to be relieved because Mr. Green hasn’t shown up yet.

  2. Steven M. Warshawsky

    I feel the pain of lawyers (myself included) trying to obtain clients through various legal directory/referral services, but your penetrating examination of the self-defeating nature of these programs is compelling and sobering.

    1. SHG Post author

      Some people think I do this to ridicule lawyers whose practice isn’t going well. Their perspective is that they want to believe there is some magic bullet solution to their woes, and are willing to shut their eyes tight and leap into any new technological scheme that promises success. The businesses are busy puffing their wonders unmercifully, and there is nothing wrong with that as they are in the business to make money off lawyer’s misery. But at the other end is a lawyer who has pissed away money he can’t afford to waste, given up time for nothing, bet his hopes on a misbegotten scheme and demeaned himself in the process.

      There aren’t many voices scrutinizing these schemes and calling an ugly baby ugly, so they only hear the applause. After they’ve been sucked dry, left to dangle in the wind, still without a viable practice but now also without any self-respect, it’s too late to warn them.

  3. Matt James

    As an practicing attorney who has just hung out his own shingle, I’ll be the first to admit that the dazzling array of the internet is both vast and confusing. I’ll admit, I’ve experimented with free legal advice. What I’ve noticed is that giving free legal advice attracts people looking for free lawyers. Despite my many well-reasoned answers on Avvo, the only contacts I got were not contacts I wanted (i.e. potential clients who value legal services). They were mainly dabblers and folks who thought lawyers should give it away for free. I think you’re overall criticism is right: what are we doing to ourselves as a profession? Is legal advice worth less than a cup of coffee? And why are we catering to these people who think it is?

    I can see the allure to the new attorney, tech savvy and facing chronic unemployment. Instead of getting out and meeting people, the internet (vast and wondrous mother of all things) will bring it to YOU. And as soon as people see how great you are, they’ll gladly pay.

    But do they? I have run across many criticisms, but few success stories. And what I have seen on my own is that they won’t pay, but they will gladly soak up a lot of time. They won’t pay because they don’t value the service. If they were willing to pay, they wouldn’t google “free legal advice” to begin with.

    1. Andrew

      As someone about to graduate, reading stuff like this just makes me feel well and truly fucked. If I didn’t know any better (i.e. read blawgs of those in the trenches) this would seem like a good idea to me, almost put me at ease.

      To say nothing of my competence. I feel mildly competent with the steady hand of my clinic professor, but then I think of the little mistakes he’s caught in written pleadings.

      1. SHG Post author

        First, no, this doesn’t mean you’re well and truly fucked. Did you really think there was some magic bullet techno-gimmick that would make you an overnight success? You are no more, nor less, positioned for success without it. You are less well positioned with it, as you would be pumping money in and getting crap out. If you buy into the adage that a penny saved is a penny earned, you just earned your first $96 a month.

      2. Dan

        You’re definitely not fucked. Why, just the other day I found out that my sister-in-law makes $2381 a week working from home.

    2. Tom M

      I’m not a lawyer, I work in the tech field, and I completely agree. If you give it away for free, you end up with customers who expect it to always be free. Being unprofessional, debasing yourself will only get you customer who want it for nothing, or will try to nickel and dime you to bankruptcy.

      And honestly, the guy makes an ok commercial, but I would never go to him for legal advice. I want a professional, not a goof.

    3. JimBill

      A friend of mine runs a lawnmower/small engine repair shop. I’ve heard him complain repeatedly about potential customers coming in expecting a free “how to” guide without his business providing any physical services. The idea of asking a mechanic I didn’t know to teach me anything for free seemed a bit strange to me. My guess is that it’s due to the fact people have access to free advice from a lot of mechanics online (some large lawnmower/chainsaw/trimmer companies provide online tech advise) making it seem reasonable to have the same free access offline. I don’t know, IANAL, it just reminded me of your story.

  4. Wade

    Matt made me think of another interesting point. Lawdingo and the other referral scams are the lawyers’ equivalent of the “work from home” schemes that advertise on telephone poles and in classified sections. Why go to the courthouse and make real connections with other lawyers (and maybe learn something by watching experienced lawyers), when you can sit in your mom’s basement and take calls from Lawdingo?

    1. SHG Post author

      I think you raise two separate point. I would think (or at least like to think) that most lawyers are trying to be real lawyers and using these schemes with the best of intentions. If they had a reason to be in the courthouse, they would be, but they feel foolish walking around aimlessly. There are those who want a get-rich-quick-scheme of sitting in the basement and million dollar cases coming in from Lawdingo. Neither is going to get what he wants, but at least the former is trying.

  5. Desperate Lawyer With No Business

    Haha! This takes me back to the first few months of my practice where I was racking my brain about how to pull in a DUI client or two. At a certain point, (most) solo practitioners will learn that they’ve got to be patient and build business organically, otherwise you get sucked into schemes like this.

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s particularly ironic given this post that you use to market yourself with the commenter name “Bumfuck” DUI Lawyer. It’s not appreciated around here, and the next time you try it, I’m going to out you for doing so.

  6. Marc R

    Sometimes these “lawdingo” lawyers actually find a case. It’s similar to advocating against a pro se party without the judge giving the latter leniency on pleadings and discovery. It usually ends with summary judgment and/or their motion to withdraw from their client for elusive (lol no money) irreconcilable differences. Usually when I call (why do so many lawyers send emails or snail-mail to ask for extensions when they’ve never heard my voice…pick up the phone, introduce yourself and ask me what you want…they used to call it meet n confer) their story is something like “I got a $700 retainer with a guarantee of another $500/mo and they never paid me after initial retainer.”

    Personally, I’d rather buy some cheetos and watch tv at mom and dad’s than take a case for free (excluding the legit pro bono everyone should do from local Legal Aid assignments to the rare client who actually has a compelling case AND no source of funds). I never understood how “networking” somehow became “taking cases for free.” These lawdingos can do what they want but there’s a lot of them apparently from the vitriol directed at my secretary when random callers are informed there is no free consult (yes of course i’ll deduct your initial consult upon paying my retainer). Either you can practice law for your paying clients or you can give free legal advice all day. Only one pays rent and lexis and bar dues.

    1. SHG Post author

      I tend to get a lot of calls via Avvo (which, no doubt, will warm the cockles of Mark Bitton’s cold, hard heart), which begin, “I just want to ask a question…”

      Like you, I do not do free consultations. If I have the time and am in the mood, I may answer the question just to be a nice guy. Most of the time, the answer isn’t what the caller wants to hear, and most of the time, it’s because the caller wants to “sell” me on his position so that I give him the answer he wants to hear. I don’t care for that game, so I refuse to play it.

      But when I tell the caller I can’t answer his question, or won’t give him a free consultation, they tend to get angry with me. I am greedy. I am mean. I have violated my oath as an officer of the court to be there at the caller’s beck and call. Most importantly, Avvo says I have to answer his question, and so I must of I am a [insert expletive]. You can’t blame the caller for thinking this. They are bombarded with the idea that lawyers are there to answer free questions, give free consultations, serve their needs for free. Come to think of it, callers are a lot like commenters.

      1. Nikhil Nirmel

        You make a good point. It makes me think that for us at Lawdingo, we do both parties a disservice by being so non-specific of what the nature of the initial call should be. I think it could make sense to set expectations with callers that the lawyer is not on call to give free advice, but only to consider taking on the legal need the client has. And for lawyers, we might also need to be more clear on what they are and are not expected to do for callers. I’d appreciate others’ thoughts on how we should approach expectation-setting on the side of both callers and of lawyers.

        1. SHG Post author

          To the extent you think you can micromanage calls, good luck. Nobody (including you) can dictate expectations and demands. They will be what they will be.

          But if you want a thought about other things to do, try including this for the callers:

          When you reach a lawyer available to take your immediate telephone call, remember that he can because he isn’t doing something more important, like making money or representing clients. That means he’s hungry and desperate. When he quotes you a fee, just laugh out loud. He will feel puny and butthurt. Then tell him you feel badly about his misfortune and want to try to help. Offer to pay him $10 an hour. He will feign outrage, but he will ultimately take it. It’s better to get $10 an hour than to sit by the phone awaiting your call.

          Callers will love it.

  7. C Miller

    Mr. Nirmel IS a genius. He has managed to raise nearly a million dollars in venture capital for just about the most non-revolutionary uninspiring idea I could have imagined. Search for a lawyer by practice area and then we will put you in touch by telephone? Really? That’s it? It was pathetic when for giggles I searched for an estate lawyer in New York City and saw young attorneys advertising that they were available all the live long day to take your calls.

    I have great respect for what Y Combinator does and have followed them for a while now. I love their Hacker News website. But when I saw this Lawdingo in Y Combinator’s 2013 class, I could only shake my head and say WTF. How can a start up incubator that has Dropbox and airbnb on its résumé also let in lawdingo?

    I do not understand how somebody who doesn’t know jack shiat about what it means to be in the legal market thinks they are going to do something to revolutionize the legal industry. But hey, I’m not the genius because I have not raised a million dollars with a terribly bad idea.

    1. SHG Post author

      I agree completely. If I was half as smart as Nirmel, I would raise half a mil. I could come up with some lame, worthless idea, but I couldn’t get people to give me a million dollars to fund it. As I said, he’s my hero.

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