Emerging portals such as RocketLawyer and LawPivot offer one option – operating by referring work to panel firms or by getting lawyers to compete with one another for clients. Reliance on such portals has its risks though – especially if you become dependent on the success of a third party’s brand for acquisition of new clients. What’s missing is a similarly quick and easy way for a law firm to acquire clients through its own website and grow its own brand.

Meet HonestyBoxx
HonestyBoxx helps people around the world access affordable expertise from lawyers, accountants, consultants and other services professionals, and helps professionals from across the globe find new clients. When professionals add HonestyBoxx to their blog or website they’re telling visitors that they are happy to answer their questions in exchange for a fair fee. By providing an easy way to collect questions and payment from website visitors, HonestyBoxx instantly provides a new source of revenue and a stream of warm leads for larger pieces of work.

With HonestyBoxx the buyer asks their question and says how much they’d be happy to pay – just like the honesty box payment system you sometimes see at small stores. (The guideline is anywhere from £10 to £300 – free is not an option – users set the rate, payment is via PayPal so no additional paperwork is associated with micropayments.) In exchange, professionals get to demonstrate their expertise and build trust so that when the buyer needs a larger piece of work, they’ll be the first people they think of.

HonestyBoxx CEO Linda Cheung said: “By helping buyers connect with professionals around the globe we’re changing the game for the little guy. Now small businesses, start-ups and individuals anywhere can get the expert advice they need to solve their problems and make informed decisions. And, by helping professionals reach a new market for their expertise we’re providing them with a stream of warm leads and clients at a time when new business is at a premium.”

Heather Townsend, co-author of How to Make Partner and Still Have a Life said “HonestyBoxx solves a problem for many lawyers: How can you quickly get recompensed for your knowledge without your clients having to formally contract with you – particularly when all they needed was 10-15 minutes of your time.

“It offers a great opportunity for the younger professionals in a firm to increase their chargeable time without requiring a partner or senior manager to have sourced the work in the first place. To be honest, I’m surprised that someone hasn’t thought of this simple idea before.”

Linda added “The services sector has remained largely unchanged by ecommerce and the internet, but with the current economic climate we believe the time is right for change. Law firms have always won new business by demonstrating their expertise. These days the initial hook is provided by websites and blog posts. HonestyBoxx provides the next step so that lawyers can earn directly from their websites.”

How does HonestyBoxx Work?
We give you a small snippet of code that you can paste into your blog or website. If your website runs on WordPress we have a WordPress plugin too. The HonestyBoxx widget then appears on your website allowing visitors to ask questions and make payments. More info: http://honestyboxx.com/how-honestyboxx-works/

What does HonestyBoxx Look Like?
We provide two different styles of widget: inline and fly-out. View a live demo of either of the two available widget styles: http://honestyboxx.com/widget/

How much does HonestyBoxx cost?
HonestyBoxx is free to join and set-up. For each answer accepted, we take a small fee of between 12% and 30% of the question value.

Who’s Behind HonestyBoxx?
HonestyBoxx was founded by corporate escapees Linda Cheung and Mark Bower. With backgrounds in the services sector themselves (financial services and IT consulting services respectively) HonestyBoxx is a natural evolution for the team that developed the award-winning social CRM, CubeSocial. CEO Linda Cheung is a CIMA Fellow and former Executive Director at Morgan Stanley. CTO Mark Bower is a former Lead Program Manager at Microsoft.

COMMENT: HonestyBoxx seems to honestly tick a lot of boxes (that’s enough puns ..Ed) Back in the early days of online legal services, some law firms experimented with giving away free legal advice as a way to attract new clients. Try-before-you-buy/commit in fact however the experience of most of them was that they either attracted time-wasting loonies (a term of art M’Lud) or else failed to convert a genuine enquiries into a fee-paying clients.

Over in the US, Lawdingo is attempting something similar with a try-before-you-buy free telephone/Skype consultation with a lawyer for a pre-determined number of minutes, followed by billable time (the rate set by the lawyer) for every subsequent 5 minutes. Lawdingo makes its money by charging participating lawyers a flat-rate monthly fee for being on the platform – so there is an upfront financial commitment to be made. By contrast, HonestyBoxx charges service providers nothing and only takes a cut from what they earn.

We also like the way questions are asked – you key in you question in a text box, with questions limited to a minimum of 30 and a maximum of 1900 characters (not words), so there is no risk of you being swamped by question of War & Peace length.

It has long been an adage of online professional services that you may need to give a little before you earn, hopefully, a lottle. The issue has always been how much? You don’t want to give away the family silver but maybe toss in the odd spoon or fork? HonestyBoxx seems to neatly address this issue, with the nominal fee hopefully fending off the complete time-wasters.