Clients, Lawyers, Second Opinions, and Agency
We model the game between an informed seller (a lawyer) and an uninformed buyer (a potential client) over the choice of compensation for the lawyer to take a case to trial, when there is post-contracting investment by the lawyer (effort at trial) that involves moral hazard. Clients incur a one-time search cost to contact a lawyer, which parametrically influences the monopoly power of the lawyer when he makes a demand of the client for compensation for his service. The client uses the demand to decide whether to contract with the lawyer or to visit a second lawyer so as to seek a second opinion, which incurs a second search cost. Seeking a second opinion shifts the bargaining power to the client by causing the lawyers to bid for the right to represent the client. We allow for endogenously-determined contingent fees alone (that is, the lawyer covers all costs and obtains a percentage of any amount won at trial) or endogenously-determined contingent fees and transfers; in this latter analysis, lawyers could buy the clientï¿½s case. Under asymmetric information with only a contingent fee, in equilibrium the first lawyer visited demands a higher contingent fee for lower-valued cases, signaling the caseï¿½s value to the client. If a transfer is also allowed, then in equilibrium the higher contingent fee (and transfer from the lawyer to the client) is obtained by the more valuable case, with only the highest-value case resulting in the lawyer buying the entire case (100% contingent fee with a transfer); again, in equilibrium, the value of the case is signaled. In both settings the client uses an equilibrium strategy that involves seeking a second opinion a fraction of the time, which induces separation. In equilibrium the presence of asymmetric information does not affect the clientï¿½s expected payoff, but it does reduce the lawyerï¿½s expected payoff and it does increase moral-hazard-induced inefficiency on the part of the lawyer in the post-contracting investment.
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