Just last week, I wrote about Avvo Advisor, the new service from Avvo that provides on-demand legal advice by phone for a fixed fee of $39 for 15 minutes. (See my posts here and here.) Turns out another company, Lawdingo, recently started a similar service, offering telephone consultations with a lawyer within minutes for a fixed-fee of $30.
Lawdingo’s service differs from Avvo’s in the way it works. With Avvo Advisor, the consumer uses the Avvo Advisor app or website to identify his or her location and type of legal matter. The consumer then pays the $39 fee and receives a call-back from a lawyer within 15 minutes (or a refund).
Lawdingo routes the consumer through a screener before making the connection to a lawyer. The consumer can select to connect with Lawdingo either by phone or chat. Either way, the consumer is connected to a Lawdingo representative. The representative helps the consumer determine whether he or she has a legal problem and, if so, what type of lawyer could help.
If legal advice is appropriate, the consumer then has two options. If the consumer wants only a telephone consultation, Lawdingo connects the consumer to a lawyer within 15-20 minutes. Once the connection is made, the consumer is billed $30.
Alternatively, if the consumer wants to skip the consultation and go right to retaining a lawyer, Lawdingo charges the consumer nothing and arranges for a lawyer to call the consumer within minutes. It is then up to the lawyer and consumer to decide whether to proceed and negotiate a fee. Any payment agreed on can be processed directly through the Lawdingo site.
Company Started in 2012
Lawdingo founder Nikhil Nirmel told me that his site started offering flat-fee legal advice five months ago, but that he had not yet aggressively marketed it while he tested it out. He opted to use human screeners instead of direct lawyer contact because he found that a lot of consumers did not know how to categorize their legal problem or even if they had a legal problem.
“We find that people need that initial conversation with someone,” he said. “And it saves the lawyers from hearing these screening conversations.”
Screeners are trained to make clear they are not lawyers and not to give legal advice, he said.
Lawdingo started in 2012 as a service that connected consumers to lawyers by video or voice chat, billed by the minute. The company has gone through several iterations since then, Nirmel said.
The common thread, however, has been connecting people with lawyers. The site also maintains a directory of lawyers by state and practice areas that consumers can browse and use to connect with a lawyer.
The Lawyer Side
When a consumer requests a flat-fee consultation, Lawdingo’s system selects an appropriate lawyer. The selection is done through an algorithm, Nirmel said, and Lawdingo screeners do not recommend or refer to specific lawyers. The lawyer receives a call or email from the system and then can choose whether to accept or reject the call.
Signing up for Lawdingo is currently free for lawyers in many states. Only lawyers in New York and California must pay a monthly membership fee to participate. For them, the standard monthly fee is $297, although that can go up or down depending on the number of practice areas a lawyer wants to list and the number of cases a lawyer wants to accept.
Nirmel said that he is currently charging only in New York and California because those are the states where the site has its greatest penetration.
Nirmel recognizes that his site currently has significantly less traffic than Avvo, but he hopes that will change. “We’re aiming to be eventually the largest site of our kind.”