Research subjects had their brains imaged in a magnetic resonance scanner as they drank and rated several wines of seemingly different prices. In fact, the wines were randomly assigned high and low prices. As summarized in Leonard Mlodinow, The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives (Pantheon Books 2008) at 132,”The scans showed that the area of the brain thought to encode their experience of pleasure was truly more active when the subjects drank the wine they believed was more expensive.”
If wines thought to be expensive alter perceptions of quality, couldn’t the same hold true for expensive law firms? The expectation of quality may trigger neurological differences in how we perceive. High billing rates proclaim terrific quality in law firms, at least in some parts of our brains.
A psychological twist suggests itself. If lawyer A is working with famous (expensive) firm One, how does lawyer B feel who is stuck with unknown (cheaper) firm Two? The prestige of the brand firm probably wears off on the inside lawyer who manages it (See my post of Nov. 28, 2007: branding by law firms with 11 references.).