Shpoonkle – Measuring the Value of Experience For Attorneys Practicing Law

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Shpoonkle.com, created by Grant Niznik, an entrepreneurial law student at New York University, has created quite a stir recently, eliciting strong criticism from the legal communityand praise from entrepreneurs.The name itself is a divisive topic and tests the long-standing rhetoric that all press is good press. However, looking beyond the name, the concept raises a more interesting question: how much do consumers of legal services value experience and credibility?

First off, this is novel name, not a novel idea. Several other reverse auctions have launched and folded with little fanfare, so the issue is whether the proliferation of the Internet, social media, and increased unemployment, has made Shpoonkle a viable option for both consumers and lawyers alike.

Legal services are not the first professional services to utilize the myriad of discount websites and online marketing tools currently available. Dentists have flocked to Groupon and Living Social as a cost effective way to attract new clients; are doctors and lawyers next? Dentists embracing the discount websites is not surprising given that many consumers perceive check-ups as standard non-intimate procedures, requiring no expertise beyond a degree. I don’t believe that dentistry and legal services are common goods, but it is certainly arguable that in certain areas of both, price is the dominant factor.

The most common fear amongst those in the legal community is that a reverse auction will generate a race to the bottom and further damage the perception of lawyers. Generally speaking, my intuition is that a race to the bottom is the most likely outcome of such a website and would undermine its success. However, given the excess supply of lawyers and proliferation of blogs and social media, the time may be right for a website like Shpoonkle to succeed.

Here at Lawmatch, we post roughly 50 legal jobs a day, and very few require less than two years of experience. For this reason I believe it will be new attorneys crossing the finish line first in this “race to the bottom”, but that the bottom may be higher than we think. In this economy, people are not necessarily struggling for work or unemployed because they are bad lawyers, and the importance of satisfying your customers is higher than ever. The old adage, “satisfied customers tell three friends, unhappy customers tell 3000” still holds true, only now, unhappy customers write a blog, post on Facebook, and the bad review shows up on Google. For this reason, I think their are sufficient external checks and balances and that fears that Shpoonkle will be a black eye for the legal profession are overstated.

The state of flux in the legal community and over-saturation of the employment market is only half of the equation. If consumers are unwilling to deviate from the standard hiring practices the viability of Shpoonkle’s services is moot. However, many traditional brick and mortar services have successfully transitioned to the Internet and removed the taboo. It seems unlikely to me that Shpoonkle will have a drastic impact on legal services; however, if ever the conditions were going to be right for a reverse auction website to succeed, now is the time.  So if you are an under- or un-employed licensed attorney, you may want to consider it, if for no reason other than it is a new option that might result in work.

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