Legal Panel Selection, Full Service and Matter RFPs
I have written hundreds of full service and matter specific proposals for all sizes of law firms: global, national, regional, mid-size and boutique firms.
I worked on contract with a Top 10 global law firm while they were hiring full time proposal writers across the country. As the firm wanted to take their time to hire the best candidates, they hired me to write bids during their recruiting process. The trick is to learn the internal processes and technology to hit the ground running and become a valuable resource with little downtime. I am acclimatized to being parachuted into firms with a heavy workload and working globally or across the country with partners, proposal teams, legal project managers and pricing professionals. I worked end-to-end on bids right from the beginning of the engagement—starting with the Go/No Go process—to the kick-off strategy meeting—to the approved bid, in addition to preparing proposal teams for the client presentation. I am happy to say we won a high percentage of bids.
I worked with a regional firm on a “bet the company” bid. A significant percentage of the law firm’s business was with the client that submitted the RFP so it was critical that they kept the business. We worked on various pricing scenarios as the law firm did not have AFAs in place and developed customized content to respond to the sophisticated RFP. All hands were on deck and with the commitment of the team and well placed strategies we kept the client and won a larger piece of the business going forward.
I consulted with a firm that had an overload of RFPs. In order to make the process run smoother I quickly developed a process to improve the workflow. Everyone was on board and many bids were won because strategy was applied at critical milestones of the bid process.
Reverse Auctions Preparation
I have prepared global and national law firms for reverse auctions. As reverse auctions are relatively new in the legal services space it is critical to have a plan before jumping in to a live bidding arena.
My law firm clients did not have experience preparing for reverse auctions so I developed a step-by-step process and provided the pricing team with instructions on how to prepare for the auction. Software functionality differs for each RFP system. I provided software training prior to the live auction.
Everyone fulfilled their role. The reverse auctions went very smoothly and we won most of the projects we bid for. The training really paid off.
Client Proposal Debriefs
Many firms do not conduct debriefs as to why they won or lost a proposal. This is a missed opportunity to gather intelligence as to how to improve your proposals. I have worked with global, national and mid-size firms to uncover valuable information to increase their win rate. To leverage the “lessons learned” I created a report on ways to improve and strategize future bids.
An example of a useful debrief was for a national firm that was not successful on an important bid. As a third party consultant the GC freely shared information with me on how the law firm missed the mark. In the proposal, the firm put their biggest clients as representative clients not recognizing that the company was not a big player in its field. (I always preach in my workshop “Strategic Proposal Management” that doing your homework is a critical step in the proposal process.) At the presentation when the partners were asked where they would fit in the firm’s roster of clients they said,“At the top of the list.” However, the potential client would have been a small client for the firm as the company did not require extensive assistance from external counsel as a result the law firm lost credibility with the potential client. That kind of information was very useful for future bids.
Best Practices Standard Content
I have written best practices standard content for many global, national, regional and mid-size and boutique firms. Having a central repository of standard proposal copy avoids duplication of effort, reinventing the wheel and chasing copy approval. A central database also saves a lot of time and provides a place to house siloed content.
A global client needed copy for Canada for an offshore global proposal standard language repository. The process involved analyzing existing content, conducting interviews with partners and subject matter experts (SMEs) and creating new approved best practices content. Creating the first draft of a proposal with content from around the world just got a lot easier.
A regional firm needed approved proposal content for partners and proposal writers in various parts of the country. I created content that was typically required for proposals and was able to be accessed in a MS Word document using the “Find” function, simple — but effective. The firm was very happy with how it easy it made developing proposals and that the copy was much improved.
A national firm did not have a standardized database of approved content. Lawyers and proposal writers just went back to the latest proposal that they had written and copied and pasted content. This did not ensure that the copy was the best content or that it was winning content. The approved best practices copy ensured that the entire firm coast-to-coast used the same branded verbiage when responding to bids.
I have created proposal processes for many law firms including global, national, regional and mid-size firms. Processes, while having many milestones in common, need to work within very different cultures and their own way of doing things. Therefore, proposal processes need to be customized to align with the corporate culture and processes.
A top 10 national law firm wanted to make sure that their new proposal manager hire would land on his feet and be able to start writing proposal immediately. I was hired to develop proposal processes that would align with the firm’s strategy, culture and procedures, and promote collaboration across the organization.
A regional firm’s proposal department lost the confidence of the partners because there wasn’t a process in place to get proposals out on time. There was a lot of duplication of effort and roles and expectations were not defined. They needed a process to reduce both errors and frustration. Their requirements included an end-to-end process from on boarding the RFP to delivery of the approved proposal. I conducted interviews with lawyers and subject matter experts (SMEs) to understand their key pain points. Next, I presented a report to management and the proposal team outlining best practices processes that met the criteria of the partners and the proposal team. The procedure formed a framework for how the two entities could work well together and resulted in better proposals.
Pricing and Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs)
I work with national, regional, mid-size and boutique firms on fee quotes in RFPs often involving templates for explaining the math. AFAs are gaining in popularity as they provide predictable budgets and transparency for the client. That is not to say that they are statistically taking over the hourly fee at this time, however, more sophisticated procurement professionals are pushing the envelope when it comes to fixed fees.
I worked with a boutique firm on pricing and AFAs. The firm was being asked for AFAs in RFPs and did not have AFAs in place. As many pricing RFPs were from important clients they recognized the need to get into the game. I reviewed the RFPs and suggested several appropriate AFAs that they could offer. I then created templates that they could use for future RFP responses. The firm was now ready with a full arsenal of good pricing alternatives for the next AFA RFPs.
Proposal Presentation Team Preparation
I have run rehearsals and developed visual aids for global, national, mid-size and boutique firms for decades and always find that rehearsals bring out the best in the presenters. I always say: “the worst case scenario is – your competitors are prepared – and you’re not. The best case scenario is – you are prepared and your competition is not.”
Because lawyers speak for a living (and do so very well) they often think that they do not need to rehearse their presentation when it is the final step in the selection process. I worked with a boutique firm that was asked by one of their largest clients to present their full range of services in a competitive bid. We discussed their past experience with presentations and isolated some of the reasons why they may not have been successful. I then worked with the partners on a presentation and visual aids. We rehearsed the presentation making adjustments along the way. We also rehearsed responses to potentially difficult questions. The team felt confident when they gave their presentation and the hand-offs went smoothly. They were successful in retaining their key client.
A global firm was asked to bid on new work. The presentation team included partners from two countries. We discussed the presentation and visual aids and rehearsed the presentation via conference video. The team discovered that they had a lot of good things to say that they didn’t get the opportunity to express in the written proposal; the presentation was not just a regurgitation of the proposal. They won the work.
Another notable presentation involved a national firm who was also presenting to a strategic client. They partnered with law firms from several continents. The presentation was quite complex as the partners had to explain how a new software system was going to be used to coordinate work on a global basis. We prepared great visual aids. As the partners had not met each other in person prior to the rehearsal we took the time to get them in sync. The presentation went very well even though they were told before they began the presentation that the company had pretty much already made up their mind about the winning team. The presenters were confident that they had the perfect solution to the company’s key issues and gave a great presentation. They won the bid.
Proposal Software Implementation
I have implemented several proposal software systems for law firms. Some systems were developed in-house and others were “out of the box” systems that needed to be customized. Proposal software is expensive and needs to be selected and implemented with buy-in from numerous stakeholders such as IT, knowledge management, finance, proposal team, and management. I coordinate the various contributors and vendors. I also write best practices standard copy for the content database and tag the content for the search engine.
A national firm built a proposal software system in-house and needed guidance defining the functionality and building of templates for the system. I was instrumental in defining the structure of the system and wrote best practices standard content and tagged the documents for the search engine. I tested the system to ensure that it worked well for the proposal team and assisted in the training. It was a rewarding project as I saw instant results in the improved quality of proposals and the shortened timeframe in which it took to create a first draft and the final document.
A national firm purchased an “out-of-the-box” system. To align with the firm’s proposal processes the software had to be modified. I worked with the stakeholders and software provider to customize the software. In addition, I wrote best practices content for the standard language repository. The firm was very happy with the results and the proposal team was ecstatic.
In-House Legal Departments
Legal Services Panel Selection RFPs
I have been asked by large corporations to recommend law firms that I believe would be good candidates for panel RFPs as I work closely with many great firms. Legal departments need assistance with Outside Counsel Guidelines and Billing Guidelines and structuring RFPs. I have responded to hundreds of RFPs and have seen where better questions would provide better answers. I developed a database with hundreds of questions by industry and practice area that should be asked in RFPs.
A global financial services industry required assistance with a panel RFP. I established the goals of the RFP, timelines, value added services, fee quotes, questions, and how the proposal would be scored etc. The structured RFP enabled the GC to select the best panel firms.
Legal departments of all sizes need assistance with matter RFPs. I can execute RFPs from beginning to end.
An insurance company discussed the needs for assistance with a compliance RFP. I had in my tool kit questions and pricing templates to ensure that the right questions were asked and the right pricing templates were used.
RFP Software Implementation
I work with many RFP software providers. Each vendor has different features and benefits that need to be analyzed to decide upon the best provider for your legal department’s need and structure. My database of hundreds of questions by industry and practice area is a valuable tool when inputting RFP questions into the system.