Of Legal Auctions and Icebergs

When the Wall Street Journal talks about auctions and legal pricing, people take notice. The WSJ's Law Blog has an excerpt of a subscription-only article about reverse auctions and law firm pricing. A reverse auction purports to flip the normal roles; here sellers (law firms) compete to obtain corporate legal business, typically driving down prices in the process. The corporate clients mentioned (GlaxoSmithKline, eBay and Toyota) have the scale of business to do this and the staff and advisors to run it. (I look forward to eBay offering such auctions for consumers for generic substitutes for Glaxo prescription drugs or Chevrolets to swap out for Toyota automobiles). There is some conventional wisdom that this is the start of a "trend" and has law firms scared and clients excited. There are probably some people in each camp, but this strategy right now is an outlier at the tip of a mountain of outlier cost-savings options. There's a mother lode to mine before auctions. If a picture is worth a thousand dollars, maybe that mountain is really an iceberg…

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