Last week, Google introduced Helpouts, a service that offers “real help from real people in real time.” The idea is simple: If you need help with something — a recipe, a computer problem, a home repair, or whatever — you can turn to Helpouts to find people who have the knowledge to help you and then connect with them via real time Web video. Some people offer their help for free, others charge by the minute or hour.
I searched Helpouts for lawyers and found only two — and neither is offering legal services.
The first, Marvin Ammori, is a Harvard Law School graduate, a blogger, a former law professor, and a TEDx speaker. As the former general counsel for Free Press in 2008, he litigated the Comcast-BitTorrent case before the FCC and argued it before the D.C. Circuit on behalf of citizen groups and technology companies. Currently, he is a fellow at the New America Foundation and the CEO of a startup in Washington, D.C., that makes software for Google Glass.
On Helpouts, Ammori offers his services on two topics:
- Which law school should I go to — if any?, in which he offers advice on whether to go to law school at all and which one to attend.
- How to start a tech company or join a startup–for liberal arts majors, in which he offers to help liberal arts majors get started as entrepreneurs.
Surprisingly, given Ammori’s background, his fee for a 30-minute Helpouts session is just $50. Why would an accomplished lawyer charge so little for his time? He explains it this way on the law school Helpouts page:
Considering I’m a lawyer, I can usually charge hundreds of dollars per hour (I know, crazy), but I’m setting a hopefully low price because so many people helped me when I was in your position.
The only other lawyer I found is Larkin Robson, who offers a Helpout called Learn the LSAT. Larkin is a 2010 graduate of NYU School of Law who runs a company called 180° LSAT Prep. According to his bio, he scored in the 99.9th percentile when he took the LSAT. On Helpouts, he offers to teach the particular skills needed to do well on the LSAT and also to help with admissions counseling. He charges $360 per Helpout or $5 per minute.
Where Are the Lawyers?
As far as I could find, Ammori and Robson were the only lawyers offering Helpouts. Why are there no lawyers offering direct consultation on legal matters?
For now, it appears that the reason is that they were not invited. One can become a Helpout provider only by invitation from Google. And the invitation-request page suggests that Google is not currently extending new invitations.
The bigger question is whether Google will ever invite lawyers. There are no Helpouts categories related to law or legal advice (just as there are none for medical advice). Perhaps Google fears that allowing lawyers to provide legal advice on Helpouts could be a potential minefield and, for that reason, will never allow legal services there.
Should Google ever open Helpouts to lawyers, however, you can be sure many lawyers will flock to offer their services there.
File this one under “stay tuned for further developments.”