Are Virtual Law Firms Gaining Traction?

Over at my home blog, MyShingle.com, I’ve been running a series on low cost business models for lawyers, featuring practices that offer services at under $100 an hour.  But online, prices for legal advice are even lower, reports the Wall Street Journal. In addition to Avvo, where consumers can find answers to legal questions free, there are sites like Pearl.com where lawyers charge an average of  $30-$40 to answer a specific question or  Law Dingo where lawyers offer short video consults at no costs.

The good news about the proliferation of these sites is that consumers have the ability to access lawyers. The flip side is that there’s no way to determine whether the advice offered is accurate or relevant.

These sites are also huge moneymakers; Pearl.com (which again, is not lawyer specific) generates $100 million in revenues from subscriptions and user fees. Moreover, because it’s not a law firm, Pearl.com isn’t liable for malpractice claims resulting from a user relying on inaccurate information.

But I predict that this immunity won’t last long.

Creative lawyers (who aren’t charging $40/hour) will be investigating ways to bring malpractice/tort-type actions against these sites for false advice and judges will be receptive to those claims. After all, if sites like Legal Zoom or Pearl.com are going to enjoy the considerable financial benefits of making legal advice available online, shouldn’t they suffer the burdens of making inaccurate advice available as well?

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