Ebay For Lawyers and Other Alternative Fee Arrangements

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about Sphoonkle, a new ebay-like website that lets clients post their legal issues and solicit bids from lawyers to perform those services. The client would, presumably, pick the bidder with relevant experience and, most likely, the lowest bid.

As you can guess, the white-starched legal world is up in arms about the site, saying that blind competitive bidding on legal work degrades the profession.

While I wouldn’t stake the future of my practice on something called “Sphoonkle,” I like the effort to connect clients with lawyers in an innovative way. That’s half the reason I have this blog, to break down some of the traditional barriers between “the Law” and “the Client.”

Alternative fee arrangements are something that any forward-thinking lawyer has to embrace, especially in this economy. Right now, my firm is experimenting with flat rate, contingency, and blended rates when reasonable.

That having been said, I think Sphoonkle and the process behind it is flawed. Competitive bidding creates the presumption that the lowest bid is the best choice, but, with professional services, so much more goes into the work (experience, location, staffing, etc.).

Plus, as with many things, you get what you pay for. Sure, some lawyer who you’ve never met may propose to do your Will for $100, but there’s always risk in going cheap.  You don’t want to sacrifice quality for savings, and that’s a fine line to walk when comparing lawyer quotes, whether you’re on ebay or in downtown Nashville.

My advice? Be careful, but always focus on quality first. But, don’t be afraid to ask about cost, and have a frank conversation about estimated costs on the front end.

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