Online Auctioneers Struggle to Attract In-House Counsel in the July 2004 issue of Corporate Legal Times suggests that online auctions and match-making services such as Procuri and eLawForum for legal services have not gained much traction. 

“Beyond a handful of early adopters who have dabbled with online bidding for legal services, the process hasn’t yet become standard operating procedure in the legal world – and may never find widespread acceptance.” So concludes the article. This conclusion is consistent with a recent American Lawyer article about “Five Big Ideas,” discussed in a prior posting.

I still hold out hope for the ultimate success of this approach (if not these specific players). It seems to me that if general counsel adopt e-billing more widely and, more importantly, analyze the data generated, they will begin to get a handle on how much cases should cost. Even for unique matters, it should be possible to assign a subjective weight to the matter importance and use this to “normalize” across matters so that they are comparable. A more data-driven approach to analyzing past matters might allow a broader range to go to auction.

I realize that auctions are not a panacea. Interestingly, the same issue of the magazine reports on Annual Survey of General Counsel (pdf format) and a key finding that GCs biggest concern regarding outside concern is reducing cost. In my view, GCs have to take a more active approach to controlling costs. It’s not obvious to me that enough have tried the auction route to conclude that it does not work.