Published on:

A hat trick of ways to cull out law firms in an RFP process

Counsel to Counsel, May 28 at 19, describes portions of the process Union Pacific Railroad’s environmental group went through to slash the number of outside counsel it uses. David Young, the railroad company’s general solicitor, started by writing approximately 80 law firms that had been representing his company for environmental services.

As the article puts it, he asked them “to assess their own value.” That is a new question for me: “Tell me how you add value to me, as a client, and why your contribution is more valuable than that of other firms” might be the form of the question. It would be quiet obvious which firms provide thoughtful and substantive answers.

Second, Young found that some law firms failed to respond at all (See my post of Nov. 23, 2007: send the post to the firm’s managing partner.). Third, “some submissions were so bad the firms were easily eliminated.”

That question and the two missteps knocked out some number of the 80 firms. “The rest were invited for interviews.” To my way of thinking, far too many firms were asked to come to Omaha to present, since in the end the railroad selected 25 law firms. The company certainly chose a large panel, but it was deliberate; Young wants “to reduce the number of firms he currently uses to 15 or 10 over the next year, and maybe even fewer.”

A two-step convergence makes sense and heightens the competition between the firms that make the first tranche.