When Lawyers Compete, You Win

from the the-middleman-model-for-everything dept

Wasn’t the internet supposed to do away with middlemen? It seems that’s another myth that can be tossed away. While most people know about using online middlemen to get the best deal on things like airfares and loans, it seems that even lawyers are getting into the reverse auction business. This Business Week article talks about an increasingly popular site that lets people who need a lawyer input the details of their case, where it will get submitted to “member” lawyers who can then “bid” on your business. Some think it’s a good idea, but other lawyers are horrified – worried that it will bring back typical ambulance chasing activities where marketing your services at any cost is more important than figuring out what’s honestly best for the client. As the guy who runs the site points out, since these are specific requests for information, rather than proactive “ambulance chasing”, those fears may be exaggerated. Of course, I think the bigger fear for most people looking for a lawyer is how to determine if that lawyer is actually any good – and this system doesn’t do much to solve that question. I doubt that most lawyers would be willing to work under an eBay style feedback system…

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Comments on “When Lawyers Compete, You Win”

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Anonymous Coward says:

may be decent for non-dispute issues

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and have never hired a lawyer.
I would think that ‘how good’ a lawyer is, would only be an issue for me if I needed to pit my lawyer against another lawyer (in a dispute case). Actually, I wouldn’t even know how to judge how good a dispute lawyer is (ask other lawyers in the same area about them?).
I would think that for a majority of legal needs (writing wills, business contracts, setting up businesses, etc), competence (as shown by passing the bar) would suffice for me as long as they are affordable.
So, in principle, I think this is a worthwile venture.

Rick Colosimo (user link) says:

Re: If you need a lawyer, there's a dispute

First off, almost any time you need a lawyer to do something, there’s a dispute involved. Either it’s a future dispute (you against your disinherited children, you against people who want to sue your business, you against the people you’re contracting with).
Please do not confuse passing the bar with competence! I appreciate the vote of confidence, but: I have passed two of the most difficult bar exams in the country, I went to an Ivy League law school, and I’ve worked at two large, well-known law firms. If I agreed to write a will for you, I’d be committing malpractice. Similarly, I know very smart colleagues who could not negotiate a contract for you. Legal specialties are extremely varied, and the better a lawyer is, the more likely she is to focus on a specific area of practice. There are plenty of generalists, lawyers usually in very small offices, who dabble in real estate closings, simple criminal cases (maybe just short of DUIs), simple wills, and no-fault divorces. But there’s little question that those folks are not as good as lawyers who focus on those areas. How much lawyer you need is another important question when you are looking for services. Unfortunately, the non-lawyer usually doesn’t know the answer to that question.
Lawyer referral services run by local bar associations almost never give qualitative information, that is, they don’t say X is a good divorce lawyer. All they can do is pass on the names of people who agree to be referral candidates. The best ways to get a lawyer are to ask a lawyer you’ve worked with for a referral, ask your friends and colleagues, or ask a related professional, such as your accountant. Word of mouth delivers the best information that a layperson can get on whether a particular lawyer is qualified, responsive, easy to work with, and delivers fair value for money paid.
The problem with the service outlined in the article is that there’s no qualitative information. The proprietor says it’s just like a yellow pages ad. I agree; it’s probably legal and probably ethical. However, it’s not any *better* than a yellow pages ad either. The gentleman talks about “search costs.” It’s simple to call names out of the phone book. What additional *valuable* information do you really get from this site? My name? A profile I wrote myself? How much I charge for some hypothetical work? None of that has significant marginal utility nor is it even particularly trustworthy. Finally, as far as price goes, would you go to the lowest price doctor for an operation? Maybe, maybe not. The problem again is that non-professionals are not in a good position to judge the competence of professionals; that’s why they’re called professions. The best method by far is to seek personal recommendations.

Anonymous Coward says:

A Modest Proposal:

Since we’re not going to be able to reverse the course of US legal/judicial hisotry by deciding upon a day on which to shoot all lawyers in the head once the revlution has begun, may I suggest that *ALL* laywers be required to work on a no-win, no-fee basis. That’s every lawyer… criminal and civil; on the private practice or corporate/government dole.

I mean basically this would cut through a huge amount of bullshit by injecting some capitalist reality in the legal system.

Of course this would devistate the current hurd of laywers plying the current sate of their carnie trade, but 50% less lawyers (without having to shoot them in the head) would be a good thing… and probably legal too!

Linda says:

Re: A Modest Proposal:

All I can say is “you first”. Please go spend a minimum of 7 years in school and run up in excess of $100,000 in student loans. Spend countless hours sitting in classrooms, studying for exams, and writing papers. Sacrifice your friends, family and social life to attain this goal.

Then proceed to pay to take the bar exam-anywhere from $400-800 depending on where you take it and add to that $1000-$1500 in bar review courses. That is assuming of course, that you pass it on the first try and only take it in one state.

When you have dedicated these years and money to pursue a career in law, THEN YOU WORK FOR FREE!!!

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