It seems that RFPs to buy legal services are like alternative billing – much discussed but limited impact. 

I’ve suggested in prior posts that auctions relate to BigLaw technology because “price pressure should drive even top law firms to think more creatively about how they can deploy legal technology to deliver high quality results at lower cost.” Similarly, I’ve thought that growing use of RFPs would also drive efficiency and innovation.

Law firms eschew movement toward bidding for business (Baltimore Business Journal, 7/14/06) reports that “Only about a quarter of in-house counsel, 23.9 percent, reported that they had issued one or more RFPs in 2004, according to the newest survey of members of the Association of Corporate Counsel. That percentage has stayed consistent over the past six years.”

Doctors and lawyers are often mentioned in the same breath. Yet doctors have been subjected to incredible economic pressures to change in recent years. Lawyers have not. Health care is driven by third party payers who create huge pressures to change (and who have bargaining leverage).

BigLaw faces no no equivalent outside pressure. General counsels may say they are unhappy with outside counsel and are managing costs, but survey results like these and BigLaw profits suggest that complaints do not translate to actions.