What does wine pricing have to do with legal services?
- The more expensive the wine at dinner, the pricier the legal fees will turn out to be.
- Give the client enough expensive wine, and she won’t notice the legal fees.
- The same people who set wine pricing Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays moonlight at law firms on Mondays and Wednesdays.
- Studies showing that wine pricing has little relation to actual quality1 have been plagiarized and redacted to refer to the legal world.
- You get what you pay for.
- Perception is reality.
According to Jonah Lehrer, author of the wonderful How We Decide, suggests that the answer might be #6. It’s a very interesting article, both in its own right — especially if you like wine — and in how it might reflect certain aspects of buying legal services.2
Like any metaphor, it’s of limited literal value… but like any metaphor, it can open up new ways to think about an issue.
1The Freakonomics guys are big on this issue.
2My own experience is that while I personally can find it hard to distinguish decent wine from good wine, I can (usually) tell bad wine from decent wine. I also had an opportunity not long ago to sample a bottle of extraordinary wine, a long-cellared bottle of Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf du Pape, at a dinner hosted by a friend whose family has been in the high-end wine distribution business seemingly forever. It was probably the best wine I’ve ever had — and it wasn’t until after the dinner that I found out that the bottle would have sold at retail/auction for around $600!! So maybe there really is a discernible difference at the high end. Indeed, perhaps there are some “law factory” firms that will turn out Two-Buck Chuck (which is Three-Buck Chuck in Washington State), there’ll be a few boutiques bottling the best Chateauneuf du Pape, and a lot of folks in the middle will try to distinguish Hess Allomi Cabernet from that from the Frei Brothers.