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Rebuttal to bashing RFPs for rehearsed shows and swapped-out talent

At a recent panel, general counsel from several small law departments dumped on RFPs. As described in the Legal Intelligencer, Oct. 3, 2008 (by Zack Needles), one of them is put off by the “dog-and-pony show” aspect of presentations. Another panned bait-and-switch tactics.

A proponent of RFPs, I read this as their misunderstanding the role of RFPs and the power of buyers. RFPs are about collecting market information and winnowing out firms; they are not solely stilted presentations sugared with marketing froth. You have the absolute right to tell the firm who should attend the presentation and what those lawyers should do. You are not the passive recipient of whatever the firm decides to unveil. If you let a firm trot out the trained dogs and ponies, shame on you. Tell them what you need, or see how well they extemporize. Experienced lawyers should be able to parry effectively.

As for bait and switch, that comes down to your toughness. With no breath bated, switch firms. Short of that, list the core team members at the firm and heavily discount the rates charged by other timekeepers. If you want the time of a particular lawyer, establish that quota at the start and refuse to pay for lesser talent.