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Quick and Dirty Professional Advice, Just a Click Away

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An apple a day may keep the doctor away – but an app each day ensures that a doctor is always on-hand.  One new app, First Opinion allows users to text message doctors health-related questions. FirstOpinion pairs each user with a specific doctor and over time, they build relationships. The app isn’t intended to offer medical diagnoses but rather, enable users to get answers to simple health related questions.  Currently, the service is free to use but eventually, users will be charged $9/month.

Another similar quick and dirty consult concept is offered by Sherpaa, a  web service sold to corporations as an employee medical benefit. Members can send emails to Sherpaa’s three full time doctors, who will respond to questions 24/7.  According to Sherpaa, their doctors are able to resolve 70 percent of the calls, thus cutting down on visits to the doctor.

So naturally, after reading this, my first though is whether this type of system could work in the legal profession?  Instead of all of the smarmy lead gen platforms where lawyers pay to sign up to offer free legal advice as a way to attract new clients, why not create a service that employs a few experienced lawyers on a part-time or full-time basis to provides unbiased advice without trying to make a sale? Finding the right lawyers could be difficult – you’d need experienced lawyers with an ability to listen and skill to ask the right questions – but like the medical sites, a legal advice app could focus on solving Tiny Law problems to avoid having them morph into huge legal matters.

Even if a legal consult app might not work commercially, consider the potential for assisting pro bono clients. Having handled some pro bono matters myself, I’ve learned that frequently, even a positive outcome like avoiding eviction or securing benefits doesn’t guarantee a happy ending. Many of the problems that lead the client into legal trouble – language barriers, lack of education or impulsive decision-making — can cause the cycle the repeat. Moreover, many of these clients are intimidated by or can’t understand automated legal forms. But what if these clients could click a button on their phone to speak with a lawyer before signing a usurious auto-loan or locking into a 30 year mortgage with escalating interest rates? Providing individuals with the power of their own personal lawyer in their pocket won’t solve all the problems of access to justice, but it might prevent some of these legal problems from developing to begin with.

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