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Have a legal need? Could Google have a lawyer waiting for you?

October 14, 2014

Healthcare has become one of Google’s biggest side projects, reports Conor Dougherty (@conordougherty) in the New York Times.

Rather than just supplying people with healthcare information on search, Google is now providing people a more reliable resource, a doctor.

Google’s “Helpouts” product — a service where people can search for experts and talk to them over video — is running a trial program in which people who are searching for symptoms like pink eye and the common cold can video-chat with a doctor. The company is working with medical groups including Scripps and One Medical, which are “making their doctors available and have verified their credentials,” according to a spokeswoman.

Google is not alone either. This year alone, between 800,000 and one million medical consultations will be done over the Internet directly to consumers in the United States,” Jonathan Linkous, chief executive of the American Telemedicine Association, told Dougherty. “So clearly consumers want this.”

Could Google make “Helpouts” available to consumers of legal services? In addition to healthcare, Google “Helpouts” offer expert advice on computers & electronics, fitness & nutrition and home & garden, among other things.

Tele-legal services are already available through the Internet.

Rocket Lawyer, financially backed by Google Ventures, already combines free legal documents and free legal information with access to affordable representation by licensed attorneys.

Avvo Adviser enables consumers and small business people to get legal advice from a “top-rated” lawyer on the phone. Pay online, and an attorney calls you back within minutes.

And from a practical standpoint, virtually all lawyers are in the tele-legal business. Consumers of legal services find lawyers online and they give them a call.

90% of lawyers then gather information and render some level of legal advice without charge. It’s done as part of screening and getting the prospective client in if the lawyer believes it worthwhile.

It’s possible Google could get into the tele-legal business. God knows they’re at the top of list for online lawyer searches. The company also has all sorts of data about you and your needs based on your historical searches.

The biggest reason Google may not get involved is the size of the market. The United States health care market is $2.8 trillion in size, per Dougherty, and is financially supported by large insurers, health care providers, health plans, and the federal government.

Law is about a $300 billion industry and is a highly fragmented industry, both as to the suppliers of legal services and as to those who foot the bill.

But you always want to look over your shoulder. Who would have thought as a taxi cab company owner that Google Venture backed, Uber, would erode your business overnight?

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