See what I did there with “flavor?” You’re welcome.
The law is a cottage industry. Starting with LSAT prep, the test itself, “How-To” Guides for law school, supplements, textbooks, Bar Prep, and then the Bar itself—and that’s just to get there! Once you’re a lawyer, there is a chorus of impassioned voices calling you to buy their product, all of which is the magical key to lawyerly success.
Even I (who will listen to nearly anyone) have learned—in just one year of practice—to hang up on these people. I have heard it all and been duped on several occasions and have become pretty darn calloused to all these snake-oil salespeople peddling these law-practice panaceas. (Can “panacea” be plural? I am not sure.)
Avvo falls in that camp. It’s better than many, but it is still easy to game. If you spend some money and answer some questions and haven’t been disciplined, you’re likely to rise to the top and achieve the highly sought-after pinnacle of Avvo-ness: a perfect 10.0 out of 10.0 rating. (Let me check my cynicism for just a moment. I have read many responses on Avvo that were genuinely helpful and obviously written by someone who knows what he or she is talking about. But there’s plenty of drivel.)
Avvo recently announced a new product: Avvo Advisor. Whereas normal Avvo (Avvo Answers) is just a free forum for people to ask (always interesting; often inane; sometimes insane) questions about their pressing legal issues, Avvo Advisor is a paid service. Evidently you pay $39.99 for 15 minutes from a “top-rated” (HA!) attorney who specializes in your particular field. It isn’t being offered in Arkansas yet, but I am sure we are quick to follow the other nine launch states.
I am intrigued by this concept. One on hand, I would LOVE to make some money off all the good free advice that I give away literally (not literally as figuratively—I mean “literally” literally) every single day. I’m not sure what percentage of the $39.99 would actually go to the lawyer, but it would seem to be a decent way to fill some gaps in a lawyer’s day. And it would certainly be more profitable than browsing Facebook or ESPN or something. I also think that I could give someone enough good, solid advice in the span of 15 minutes to make it worth his or her while.
It doesn’t take long to realize, however, that this is unlikely to work. (I know it will “work” in the sense of making a profit, of course. The folks behind Avvo are clearly pretty shrewd.) When I say work, I mean will it actually provide benefit for the callers—the people who are paying for the service and expecting help. In my experience, the people asking questions on Avvo have a difficult time understanding their issue and narrowing their question down into understandable, answerable parts. (For example, people will often include nearly anything under the umbrella of family law, apparently under the impression that because they have a family and need a lawyer that they need a family lawyer. Sadly, it is not so.)
Another recurring issue is asking a question in the wrong jurisdiction. For instance, there are regularly people on Avvo who ask questions on British law and mistakenly assign the jurisdiction of England, Arkansas. Would someone who paid the $39.99 be more sophisticated than the person looking for free advice? Perhaps, but I doubt it.
It’s one thing to game lawyers. We tend to be critical and are on guard for would-be manipulators. (Usually, anyway. I fear that many lawyers check their brains at their web browser—”Wow, I can give you $500 a month to make Google like me? Here’s my credit card!”) But consumers—especially folks who are looking for their lawyers online—are unlikely to know that their legal issues cannot be addressed in 15 minutes. Nor do they know that the person at the other end of the phone, Avvo rating notwithstanding, is unlikely to give a crap about helping them.
The thing’s got some more problems, as pointed out by Simple Justice.
I think I’ll just keep giving my time away—15 minutes at a time.