Avvo, the leading online legal marketplace, today announced the launch of Avvo Advisor®, available online or via a free app for iOS® devices. Avvo Advisor offers consumers on-demand legal advice from an experienced, top-rated lawyer anytime, anywhere, for a fixed-fee of just $39 for 15 minutes over the phone – a savings of up to 71% over the average hourly fee for a lawyer.
Certainly a step up from the leading legal Q&A website, with its awful Avvo Answers, which have proven a substantive disaster and ethical gutter, as lawyers paraded across jurisdictions and practice areas to log as many “calls to action” as possible. But this could be different.
Putting aside the hyperbole of “an experienced, top-rated lawyer,” which begs the question of Avvo’s ratings trustworthiness and acquiescence in scoundrel lawyers abusing Avvo for their financial gain, the idea of biting off smallish chunks of time for a quarter of a $156 per hour fee, prepaid, changes the equation. After all, if a lawyer has an open chunk of time, he can fill it with a phone call. It’s not a bad deal for the lawyer, as he’s not forced to take the call or under an obligation to make himself available at midnight.
But does it serve clients well?
Avvo Advisor is the solution for legal issues that should be simple and affordable to solve, but are overcomplicated by today’s one-size-fits-all method of getting legal help. With Avvo Advisor, consumers no longer have to spend days and dollars finding an experienced lawyer to help with everyday legal situations.
Huh? This is incomprehensible, a string of words designed to appeal meaningful when it is not. By “today’s one-size-fits-all method of getting legal help,” does Avvo mean consulting with a lawyer? And that “overcomplicates” “legal issues that could be simple”? Granted, this comes from a press release, which by definition is meant to appear to the lowest common denominator and suck them in for a buck, but it’s kind of hard to embrace a company that claims to be providing a benefit to legal consumer when it uses gibberish to try to convince them to give it a try.
For now, Avvo Advisor is launching in a limited number of states, and in nine practice areas:
Legal Categories: Small Business, Divorce, Family, Immigration, Real Estate, Landlord-Tenant, Criminal Defense, Employment, and Bankruptcy/Debt
For obvious reasons, I’ll address criminal defense. Having fielded thousand of calls in more than 30 years of practice, my experience is that callers have the most incredible lung capacity in the world and will fill up the entire 15 minutes without taking a breath. They will tell you their life story, replete with every irrelevant detail they insist you must know about them, ending either without a question or with the amorphous, “what should I do.”
Others may disagree with me on this, but I see the likelihood of being able to offer any meaningful assistance in a 15 minute call as ranging from slim to none. Even assuming you can cut their monologue short, there are a series of questions that must be asked to gain a basic understanding of their needs. Then there are a series of questions that must be asked to get beyond the self-serving descriptions of their innocence or the wrongfulness of their arrest, to what they’re actually accused of doing, what they’re charged with, and why.
Frankly, I don’t see any competent lawyer reaching the point of offering anything worthwhile within the constraints of a 15 minute consultation, even under the best of circumstances. Maybe 30 minutes would be doable, but my experience is that it usually takes an hour to get to the point where the lawyer has a basic working knowledge of the case and can offer something useful.
Most importantly, if I can’t offer any helpful information, I can’t justify taking someone’s money. In a criminal matter, I suspect most advice will be, you need a lawyer. The options are limited.
It was my plan to test my theory by signing up for Avvo Advisor, seeing whether my experience held true. It was then that I learned that in order to participate, the lawyer needs to work through text messages. Avvo will notify the lawyer of a question via text, and the lawyer will text back if he’s available and interested. It’s unclear, but it appears that the phone consultation will also be done via cellphone.
First problem was that I don’t do text. Not even last decade, when it was popular, especially with the teenagers. At my desk, I’m happy to take emails and phone calls, but I do not text. And, I might add, texting doesn’t work in my office anyway, despite what Verizon says in its TV commercials about coverage. That pretty much killed the idea for me.
Second problem, I do not engage in substantive discussions with client about legal issues on cellphones, because it’s unsecure. I’m weird about giving the government a chance to listen in on attorney/client consultations. Now, I realize that these won’t likely be earth-shattering cases, of the sort that would likely interest the NSA, DEA, FBI and any other alphabet agencies, but you never know. More to the point, there being no doubt that cellphones are not secure, why create a consultation medium that you know to be problematic?
On the bright side, Avvo Advisors is certainly a huge step above Avvo Answers, which was a disaster from the start. Whether it’s worth the $39 for 15 minutes to clients remains an open question. I doubt it, at least in criminal defense. Perhaps it’s more viable in other practice areas. Can you competently consult with a client in 15 minutes and provide the client with legitimate, ethical legal advice?