The Lessons of Rogue Supreme Court Advocates, Github, and Frictionless Markets

One of my favorite stories of someone breaking open the doors of a closed guild is that of Tom Goldstein, now a leading Supreme Court advocate.  The full story, worth reading is here, but the very short version is as follows.  The Supreme Court bar is the most elite of elite places, generally not open to those who have not clerked on the Supreme Court.  Goldstein, not a graduate of the most elite schools much less having a Supreme Court clerkship, but blessed with skill and passion, did the uncouth thing of actually finding parties with potential Supreme Court cases, calling them to ask for the work.  This attitude earned the affection of future Chief Justice John Roberts — at the time a leading Supreme Court advocate with the right credentials —  who said something to the effect that if he needed a heart surgeon, he wouldn’t hire one who called him looking for business.

So what does this have to do with using the internet to create more efficient markets. What if you had a market ecosystem that:

  1. Empowered artisans to create and establish their reputation such that they can compete with and even outcompete the incumbents and big guys, so that guild-like barriers come down and the number of suppliers in the market is increased;
  2. Provided a marketplace where big guys and small guys all compete with each other and customers are empowered with tools to  evaluate the available offerings side-by-side at procurement;
  3. Collected and provided metrics and other data to customers on whether a task is high-value, low-value, how much it has cost before, etc, to solve market signal asymmetry;
  4. Enabled the sharing of information in a community of customers, including the reuse of off-the-shelf information (like asking a friend for help who has already taken a course) and assistance through recommendations and sharing of best practices for procurement and accountability.
My bet is that the sum of these characteristics — more suppliers, more information on skills and pricing flowing from the supply side to customers, and more customer discussion on matters and suppliers — would revolutionize an existing market.  This is made possible by creating a community where suppliers and customers engage with each other.
First, by utilizing social dynamics through a github model, you increase the number of competitors by encouraging and empowering suppliers, in line with the general societal trend toward a freelance economy, where a lot of talent sits dis-aggregated from large institutions.  The best expertise is no longer just at brand-name organizations and firms.
Second, by empowering talent to demonstrate skills and establish prestige, the marketplace also empowers customers.  Customers can harness the competition in a marketplace attached to the github.  Initially, the old guard of customers — nervous to use newcomers — will continue relying on the establishment service providers.  Still, even the cautious can use the newcomers, bringing them into the competition, for comparison pricing to discipline the rates that they obtain from their establishment providers.  Other customers, more on the cutting edge, will take a shot with the young Turk suppliers.
Eventually, like with disruption innovations generally, the niche — demeaned at first — will become the market, as it is proven that services can be provided better and more cheaply, through a better market mechanism that mediates between and among customers and suppliers, enabling the frictionless spread of information (both market signals (product quality and price) and substantive content).