Bid4fees – Definitely not a legal comparison site?
From the Law Society Gazette 05/08/10:
The site, bid4fees dot com, provides an online platform for prospective clients to confidentially list their legal problems and find a lawyer to advise them.
Lawyers registered with the site will be able to see the advice requests posted, and correspond with the potential clients via a messaging system to learn more about their case.
If a lawyer decides a case is appropriate for them to help, they can bid to represent the client, informing them of their fee. The client then selects the lawyer they want to instruct.
Lawyers must submit a fixed-fee bid rather than an hourly rate. The client is free to choose any bid submitted, not necessarily the lowest.
There is no charge for clients or solicitors to register, but lawyers who get instructed pay 10% of their fee to the site.
When I first saw this site a few weeks ago, I initially put this idea down as gimmicky with a ‘been there – done that’ kind of feel. However, revisiting it over the last day or so, I’ve had a slight change of heart. What dawned on me is this isn’t just a simple rehash of a legal comparison site – it’s a rehash with a twist.
Whatever the pros and cons, I don’t think the choice of name is great and their site has well and truly overdosed on web 2.0 design features, but if it brings in the moolah, I’m sure they’ll be forgiven.
In the comments section on the Law Society Gazette site, (where I first saw the story), bid4fees was subjected to a veritable diatribe. This (unsurprisingly) largely stemmed from embittered solicitors past and present, many of whom suggested that the site, just like legal comparison sites, promotes a ‘race to the bottom’. I’ve already added my two penneth, laying into the fallacy that legal comparison sites add anything worthwhile to the legal market place, and there’s no point repeating all that here. But the crucial point is this: while bid4fees might, at first glance, seem different from a meerkat in his court robe and wig proclaiming that choosing the right lawyer is ‘simples’, I think it’s still going to be used by clients who aren’t going to be well-grounded enough to prize quality over price.
Moreover, I still doubt that this ever going to be a rich enough revenue stream to make it worthwhile for firms to throw resources at it to filter out meritorious pieces of business. (What’s not clear is whether firms can register criteria of their firm’s speciality and receive email updates when potentially suitable business pops up.) Surely there is, but the site makes no mention of it.
But if not, perhaps there’s potential for a 3rd party to build an API to tack onto this and offer this functionality? Maybe that’s their plan – to turn bid4fees into ‘the’ legal bidding platform for the 21st century offering 3rd party developers the ability to cash in with a whole host of apps! ;-)
Who knows? But for me, the concept is flawed and unlikely to succeed on any kind of scale but it’s going to be an interesting experiment all the same.
For an added groan, I’ve just read about the upcoming site ‘wigster dot com’ which is under construction. I just give up!