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Kind of Like Match.com, for Lawyers and Clients

Corporate counsel routinely issue requests for proposal as a way to hire law firms. Now, even small fry clients can do the same using a just-launched site called LawBidding.com, featured today in an article on the State Bar of Wisconsin's Web site. From the article, here's how LawBidding.com works:

[T]hose looking for legal services post a description of the work they need performed. Acknowledging that many of these matters may be personal and confidential, [Nicholas Cronin, site founder] explained that only attorneys who have set up an account with the site are able to view the postings.

“To further protect personal information, the attorneys will not be able to see any identifying information other than the city, zip code and state where the legal matter is located,” Cronin states in his description of the service found at the web site.

Lawyers registered with the site browse the postings and then bid for the work, choosing an hourly, contingent or a flat fee structure. If clients do not like any of the bids, they have no obligation to choose an attorney, Cronin said. If the client does find what they are looking for, the attorney selected is provided contact information and work can begin to resolve the legal issue, he said.

Hundreds of lawyers have registered for the site since its May 27 launch. Registration is free, with the site supported by ad revenue. A similar concept is LegalRiver.com which is geared toward small business needs. Small businesses can sign up and post a description of a matter in which they need assistance and receive proposals and fee estimates from lawyers.

So what are lawyers saying about bidding sites? Richard Sheil, a solo practitioner in Oregon quoted in the Wisconsin article, observed that these sites provide benefits and drawbacks. On the plus side, Sheil believes that auction systems can make information available more broadly, which can reduce costs for consumers. At the same time, Sheil worries that lawyers might undervalue their services when submitting a bid in an effort to win the client.

So far, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York has found that bidding sites pass muster. In a recent opinion, the bar found that these bidding systems are often similar to the RFPs employed by the government or corporate entities. The bar, however, did caution the company to take care to safeguard confidential information.

So will these sites attract bonafide cases, or just those where clients have dud cases and have been rejected by other lawyers? That was one of the complaints often raised about lawyer matching sites like LegalMatch.com, which were popular in the heyday of the dotcom. Still, it costs nothing to register for these sites, so at least lawyers can experiment to determine how the bidding process works for them.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on September 16, 2009 at 05:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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