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Scott J. Fields, an intellectual property partner at Philadelphia’s Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel, is staking his claim on an Internet niche. Just over two weeks ago, Fields launched FeeBid.com; a database-powered matchmaking Web site for potential clients in need of IP attorneys. “There are lots of RFP sites,” Fields said. “None of them are specific to IP.” An RFP, or request for proposal, is a vehicle used by most large companies that have attorneys competitively bid for their business. Much like new consumer Web sites that allow the public to bid on products and services, FeeBid.com is meant to serve clients with little or no idea of reasonable legal fees for patent, trademark and copyright work, Fields said. Potential clients fill out a brief registration form and answer a series of questions designed to narrow their needs to particular criteria. The client RFP is then sent out to participating attorneys who decide whether or not they are up to the task and want to respond with a bid. Once the client company is furnished with a list of willing participants and fee proposals, it is advised to contact the attorneys themselves. This is done without the attorney being given the client’s specific information, such as name and phone number, so that confidentiality is maintained. “We use generic data and we don’t access it,” Fields said of his growing database of client information. Clients are not the only ones who face difficulty in measuring reasonable legal fees. According to Fields, most IP attorneys have only the American Intellectual Property Law Association fee report by which to judge appropriate fees for services. This report is published infrequently and is derived from data reported directly by attorneys. “When attorneys report fees to each other they must be taken with a grain of salt,” Fields said. A series of formulas within the site generates a reasonable dollar figure based on the client’s answers to the questionnaire. Thus, both attorney and client know what to expect, and they are better prepared to make an intelligent choice. “People know how much a hamburger costs. They know how much gas costs. Shouldn’t they have some ballpark figure of what their legal fees might be?” Fields said. But doesn’t this service, which Fields developed on his own time, have the potential to take business away from Obermayer? “In the long term, no,” Fields said. “There is so much business out there, and the site brings the firm notoriety. It’s a derivative benefit. Our participation in this raises the confidence level of our clients.” Obermayer doesn’t have a financial stake in Feebid.com; Fields made the initial investment of $35,000, filed the patent and provided much of the content himself. Dan Holtz, of Philadelphia-based SmartGorilla.com, designed the Web site. Following the “soft launch” of this beta version, as Fields calls it, the site will be continually updated. Although FeeBid is currently a free service, Fields does have plans to turn a profit. He said he intends to make money by implementing activation and user fees and by generating advertising dollars. Attorney advertising will be a focus of the upcoming FeeBid.com marketing campaign. “You do it or someone else will, right?” Fields said. Fields made a lateral move to Obermayer this summer from another Philadelphia law firm, Klehr, Harrison Harvey, Branzburg & Ellers. His background is in electrical engineering and computer science. Fields concentrates his practice on Internet technology and e-commerce.

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