Hiring Expertise

A recent client encounter prompts this post.  The client was requesting what we refer to as a “proposal” for mock jury research.  She repeatedly called it a “bid” and I guess it is.  It is (unfortunately) increasingly common that clients seek competitive bids.  And, while I understand this, and do the same for some minor things I need to purchase, it is increasingly clear that many of the prospective clients are looking for the lowest bidder.  I rarely operate with that mindset because quality is generally more important to me than being cheap.  And, perhaps because of this, the “bid” terminology seems price driven.  But what really annoyed me during this conversation was the person’s comment that “I understand things would be different if we were hiring an expert, for that we rely on the attorneys, but this is just a mock trial and we only need a price.”  Excuse me!  It is very unfortunate that, due to the low level of expertise and services provided by some “trial consultants,” some clients do not comprehend the expertise required to truly be a trial consultant and provide high level input on complex and difficult issues.  We firmly believe we are providing expertise on human decision making and behavior.  This expertise is based on high levels of education and decades of experience.  To reduce that to bidding like a vendor of commodities is insulting.  But, while my frustrations are showing, the real point of this story is that clients must often be educated about being informed consumers.  It is probably unfair to expect them to know what expertise is required and, perhaps because we generally operate smoothly from intake to reporting, it appears easy.  It is not.  For many things that are bought and sold, one must look beyond the surface of the item or service to comprehend the difference in price.  Betting the case on the low bidder on a mock jury is a way to disaster just as it is oft proven to be in many other fields.  It takes care to understand what one is buying when hiring an expert.  It is improper to assume one knows, as a buyer, what the seller knows.  I don’t presume to know how to do my clients’ jobs – or what expertise is required to do them.  Finding a way to tell them this is more difficult sometimes than others.  To be continued…

From the earliest days of co-owning Magnus with David, it has never been our desire to be the cheapest provider of any research or consulting service we provide. It is acceptable, in my view, to provide high quality work at a reasonable/fair price, but being the low cost bidder is not something to which I have ever aspired. I have worked on many construction cases, in which lawsuits were the end result of shoddy work performed by the lowest bidding contractor. Millions of dollars were wasted by companies (and government agencies that are often required to hire the company with the lowest bid) on work done by unqualified people, only to be repaired by someone more qualified after defects were exposed in the original work. Things would have turned out a lot better if only the contractor who had expertise had been hired in the first place, instead of after something went wrong at the hands of the low bidder. The work performed by my company is performed by many other companies nationwide. However, just as someone can hire the cheapest contractor to build a building or the best contractor money can buy, there are vast differences in the quality of services provided by Magnus and its low cost, also known as cheaply priced, competitors. Excellence has a cost; it doesn’t come cheap. Therefore, to potential clients who are looking for the cheapest solution to complex litigation, I say, “Keep looking. You won’t find anything cheap here.”

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