LawPivot and Quora: Some Unanswered Questions for Lawyers

Over at Slaw.ca, Jack Newton, a self-described “pioneer in the area of legal cloud computing…and a founding member and acting president of the newly-formed Legal Cloud Computing Association” discusses the next big thing in social media for lawyers: LawPivot: Crowdsourcing Legal Advice:

LawPivot brings the Quora concept to legal advice, allowing companies to confidentially ask legal questions of lawyers that have registered with the site. LawPivot employs a recommendation algorithm that will match the company and the question it has with the best lawyers best suited to answer its question, and the company will have the benefit (or the curse) of receiving answers to its questions from several lawyers.

The startup promises to deliver companies high-quality legal advice at a lower cost via its crowdsourcing model. Given the tremendous success of Quora, I see no reason to think they won’t succeed. Google appears to agree: Google Ventures has just invested in the company.”

This shift is not merely paradigmatic, it’s a veritable tectonic plate smasher.  Opa!!!

Hold on a second, not so fast, suggests Vivek Wadhwa, who in his TechCrunch post “Why I Don’t Buy the Quora Hype. explains why Quora will not be a diaper, er, I mean game-changer:

“The answer is simple: I think that Quora will continue to be an excellent resource if the same people who have been hyping it, and who have invested in it, keep posting their thoughtful answers. But I believe that the excess hype is destined to make Quora a victim of its own press.  The quality of answers will decline.  The people whose opinion I value, such as Quora’s #1 respondent, Robert Scoble, will simply stop posting on the site when they get drowned out by the noise from the masses.  They will turn away after having their posts voted down (so that they look less important than their peers) and being personally subjected to the types of mindless, anonymous attacks that you see in the comments section of TechCrunch.”

That’s just myopic, says Keith Rabois, “Internet entrepreneur, investor, contrarian” who provides some remarkably banal stats on Twitter:

“Quora’s Alexa rank in US #637, UK #492, Israel #589, Canada #690. iPad 14.5 milllion sales. Vivek unemployed.

Well, not true. Professor Vivek isn’t unemployed, he’s just passing through.

So where are the social media visionaries, thought leaders, Power Thinkers ™? Why can’t you find a Prophet of Profit when you need one?

While we wait for the next Digital Messiah, at least we have Milo Yiannopoulos, whose article in The Telegraph “Quora will be bigger than Twitter”, predicts great things for the Q&A site:

“Twitter was fun for the few, but Quora will be useful to the many. It’s is the place to go for on-demand answers to specific questions from people who know what they’re talking about. That’s something no search engine – or existing social network – comes close to. Monetisation strategies present themselves readily, where they did not – and still do not – in the microblogging platform’s case.”

Larry Bodine has a more creative way of using Quora by excerpting John Hellerman’s Hellerman Baretz blog post to rail against the ABA Ethics 2020 campaign to regulate lawyers on the internet:

“Quora proves both points. Existing rules already covers the ethical concerns raised by Quora.  “There are indeed some obvious ethical questions around Quora that will leap out at any lawyer:

  • By answering a question on Quora, am I providing legal advice?
  • Have I formed a lawyer-client relationship, even inadvertently, with the questioner?

“These are hugely important questions that bear on malpractice exposure and duties of confidentiality, among other issues. And yet, creating a special rule for Quora would not make sense.

“If the ABA did create such a rule, it would have to be amended on an almost weekly basis. Rather than updating the Quora rule constantly, it would be much better to rely on the ABA and state bar associations’ already-established general principles, and apply them to new situations as they arise.”

Good luck with that, Larry.

I’m equally impressed with my erstwhile Twitter buddy Nikki Black, who takes a surprisingly strong stand against the utility of Quora for lawyers:

“So, the question remains: Does it make sense for lawyers to be among the first to use this site? Do lawyers who are so-called “early adopters” of Quora stand to benefit?

In my opinion, the answer is “no”—for most lawyers, using Quora at this early stage of the game would simply be a waste of time. I say this for two reasons.

First, I’m not convinced that Quora will be around for the long haul. The user interface is clunky and confusing. Questions from topic threads that you subscribed to appear on your “home” screen, seemingly at random and you have to click through to read the answers provided. There is no search function, which makes it difficult to sort through the vast amount of data and locate those questions and answers that are particularly relevant to your interests. The bottom line: it’s difficult to navigate the site and after spending about 5 minutes on it, I tend to experience information overload.

Second, for most lawyers, participation on Quora is pointless. Quora only makes sense for a minority of lawyers, including those lawyers whose target client base consists of technology geeks, software developers, or social media consultants. Lawyers who live in or near Silicon Valley would also benefit from participation.

But for the vast majority of lawyers, participating in Quora at this early stage in the game would be a huge gamble and an enormous time sink, with the likelihood of minimal returns for the time investment.”

The early adopters should pay attention to Angad Chowdhry (Twitter: @angadc) who offered this sage advice on Twitter:

“There are some real ass****s on Quora, with small territories to defend. Sadly, you can’t bitch slap them cause you get flagged.”

Chowdhry’s right: Opinions are like ass****s , everyone’s got one and they usually stink.

In fairness, let’s see what Quora founder and internet wunderkind, Adam D’Angelo, says about lawyers using the Q&A website:

Sure, there is a cadre of eager beaver lawyers who desperately want to give “the” definitive answer to the perennial question: “How do I get clients and make money but not create an attorney-client relationship  or get sued in the process?”

Here are but a few variations on the theme posted on Quora:

Related Questions

If an attorney answers a legal question on an internet forum, and someon… (continue)

What do lawyers need to keep in mind when answering questions about law … (continue)

Why do lawyers always say “This is not legal advice” in non-client commu… (continue)

Should lawyers disclaim as legal advice Quora answers regarding legal ma… (continue)

What is the most effective lawyer compensation model for a law firm?

When lawyers give advice in an informal context, but include a disclaime… (continue)

Should I use Legal Zoom or some other service to incorporate my startup … (continue)

Does the phrase “this is not legal advice” magically make any legal advi… (continue)

If a doctor or lawyer gives advice anonymously on Quora, can he or she b… (continue)

What do lawyers need to keep in mind when answering questions about law …

So, I guess it’s caveat emptor and disclaimers galore until further notice.

 

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