The “P” Doesn’t Have to Stand for Pain: Making the RFP Process More Efficient

Stressed Out AttorneyMore than a century ago, Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing—and wrote his name into the history books—by pioneering the use of the assembly line in building cars. Ford recognized that standardizing the manufacturing process made cars cheaper and more efficient to build.

The assembly line approach normally doesn’t apply very well to legal marketing, where every task tends to be its own unique challenge. But Ford’s thinking can be helpful in one legal marketing duty—responding to the Request for Proposal (RFP).

RFPs can be an arduous chore for the legal marketer. A company’s counsel sends over a long list of complex questions and expects intelligent answers, often on a tight deadline. Since many firms will likely bid and only one (or a few) will be selected, the odds of winning work from an RFP are relatively small. However, responding to these requests is a vital, necessary job for any firm wishing to expand its corporate client base.

Too often, legal marketers approach a Request for Proposal as if it were a brand-new project, the same way Henry Ford’s predecessors approached making a car. But the truth is that companies generally ask the same types of questions on RFPs. Examine enough of them and patterns of inquiries clearly emerge.

So a better, more efficient way to tackle an RFP is to prepare some standardized, boilerplate answers to commonly asked questions. Some of the most frequently asked questions include:

  • Provide a basic overview of your firm.
  • Describe your key practice areas
  • Why should your firm be hired for this work?
  • What related experience do you have in this practice area?
  • How do you bill for your services? Are you willing to discuss alternative fee arrangements and other discounts?
  • How do you work to contain costs?
  • What resources/staff would you employ for this matter?
  • What technology will you employ in handling this matter?
  • How do you measure and ensure client satisfaction?
  • How does your firm promote diversity?

These answers may need tweaking a bit, depending on the specific question, but they at least provide a baseline from which to work.

Also, take care to craft answers that are concise and direct. Lawyers tend to be cautious and thorough by nature, and these are skills that generally serve them well. It’s hard to be too careful when drafting a contract or preparing for a deposition. But these same cautious instincts often lead to bloated RFP answers. Many attorneys are so afraid of leaving out an important piece of information that they will stuff an RFP with extraneous content and verbose answers.

It’s worth remembering that in-house counsel, like the rest of us, are busy people with a finite amount of time in the work day. Their response to an overly long RFP response is likely to glance over it, skim a few pages and move on to the next item on their long list of to-dos.

So in crafting your boilerplate answers, use only the minimum number of words it takes to answer the question. For some questions, a one-word answer (i.e. “Yes” or “No”) is completely sufficient. A tightly written, focused RFP will be viewed far more favorably than one that includes everything but the proverbial kitchen sink.

RFPs aren’t going away (as much as we in legal marketing might wish!) But crafting some well-written answers to frequently asked questions on the front end can save you a great deal of headache on a future Friday afternoon, when the RFP response is due in the GC’s inbox by close of business.




Submitting a ProposalHow to Win a Competitive Proposal Process – Webinar Recording

More clients are opening their business to a competitive proposal process – where two, three or more equally  qualified firms vie for the business.  Yet, many firms and attorneys wing it in these situations.   They mistakenly  think that if they convincingly pitch and persuasively promote throughout the process, then they will win the  client over.  Let the other firms make mistakes!

Learn how to manage these proposal opportunities and  perform in a manner that maximizes your winning percentage.  

Get the How to Win a Competitive Proposal Process Webinar Recording. 

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Bruce Buchanan

About Bruce Buchanan

After a 10-year career as a newspaper reporter, I've been the Marketing Copywriter for Womble Carlyle since 2006. My job has involved pretty much any type of communication that a 550-attorney, 14-office law firm might need. I'm based in the firm's Greensboro, N.C. office.

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