Top 10 desiderata for law firms when they respond to RFPs

Based on my consulting to seven law departments that have conducted competitive bids using RFPs and other sources of experience, here are the 10 commandments:

1. Answer the questions asked in the RFP.
2. As much as possible, give an example or reference for an answer. Rely on reality.
3. Leave out the generic marketing material and brochures.
4. Put in alternative approaches to handling tasks, if only to show that you are aware there are other possibilities.
5. Be specific, such as saying, “Chris, Robin and Jean will head this group,” rather than, “We will assign three distinguished lawyers to this group.”
6. Be explicit about the assumptions you make, especially when you describe timeframes, staffing, and – most of all – your pricing. “We have assumed no more than two appeals.”
7. Explain areas where there are risks of time slippage, excessive costs, decision-making blocks or other somewhat known unknowns. “If your leases are sub-standard, we will require more review time.”
8. If at all possible, flash some creativity. Even if you state ideas in terms of alternative ideas or speculation, try to think differently than law firms typically do. For example, you might make it clear that you would be willing to team with another law firm for the good of the client.
9. Invest in the opportunity and make it clear what you will do to invest. It might be that you would handle the transition of cases at 50 percent rates, or that you will send your five key lawyers for two days of training at the client at no cost.
10. Summarize your key points in a table, especially the pricing considerations.

(See my posts of April 5, 2005 on putative lackluster responses by firms to RFPs; April 14, 2005 on threshold amounts needed to justify the process; Feb. 15, 2006 and its defense of $500K plus as the threshold; and Oct. 1, 2005 about the ethics of disseminating good ideas in proposals.)

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