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I strenuously disagree that “a lot of RFPs are simply fishing expeditions”

Larry Bodine, a respected marketing consultant to law firms, riled me when in Law Practice, Vol. 32, Oct./Nov. 2006 at 12 he writes that “a lot of RFPs are simply fishing expeditions that result in nothing more than wasted time for the firms that respond to them.” Larry, throw that one back!

His “red flags” for worthless RFPs are bull. “If the company won’t reveal its legal budget, it may mean that the company is losing money, can’t pay its bills and is just kicking tires to attract a lowball bid.” Wrong. The company does not want law firms to frame their bids in light of what the company has been paying, but rather in terms of what the firm would charge for the anticipated work.

“If the company won’t answer any questions — such as what it wants to see in the bid, who else is bidding, or who will decide the winner and when that will happen — the RFP is probably wired and you’re just window dressing.” Mostly wrong. Bodine exaggerates (“the law department won’t tell you anything”) and then pummels the over-statement. Law departments, to be sure, need to tell firms enough that the firms can propose intelligently and they ought to give a sense of their timing, but they have no obligation to answer everything firms might like to know.

In my extensive experience with RFPs, law departments take the time-consuming and disruptive process very seriously. They do no pre-ordain winners and subject all the other firms to a meaningless charade. Disappointed firms may not believe the good faith of law departments, and if they are not selected it salves their pride to rail about fixes and wires – they may simply not be as good as the winning firms.