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“Legal and janitorial services” in online marketplaces for procurement

Relish this juxtaposition from an article about electronic exchanges between purchasing companies and selling providers: “Increasingly, companies trade in services, too, placing bids for legal and janitorial work, for example.” The dirty truth is ought.

Seriously, are we going to see a surge in online auctions and electronic procurement of law firm services? The NY Times, Nov. 21, 2010 at BU3, promotes the vastly increased scale and capabilities of companies such as Ariba and CombineNet. Ariba’s network links about 1,000 buyers and 300,000 sellers. CombineNet may not be as sprawling but it is “a specialist in complex transactions.”

My crystal ball says that online purchases of even moderately sophisticated legal work loom far off in the future, if ever. But more general counsel may venture to seek fixed fees by electronic for a for routine work, willing to test a new method of obtaining better prices, accepting that multiple firms have equivalent capability, wanting to streamline the competitive bid process.

The day will come, mark my words, when matter management systems of legal departments have built in capabilities for online purchasing or can integrate smoothly with corporate systems.