To read the June feature on the RFP process, click here.
Besides drafting the RFP, nothing is more important to the competitive bidding process than the actual proposals. That's why understanding the law firm perspective on RFPs is crucial to creating and deploying a successful RFP process.
Each law firm to which you send an RFP might handle the process differently. At Fulbright & Jaworski, the relevant attorneys come together as a team to respond to the RFP. If the RFP comes from an existing client, the team will typically include lawyers who have relationships with the client and are in the relevant geographic and practice areas. If it's a new client, Fulbright's attorneys work with an internal client-relations specialist to put together a proposal that is responsive to the issues the prospective client wants the firm to address.
"I recently helped respond to a large RFP for an existing client, and we had a team of five lawyers and two client-relations specialists," says Judith Archer, partner at Fulbright & Jaworski. "It was extensive, but we worked together."
As for reviewing the RFP, there are certain protocol law firms like to see and certain things they don't. For instance, the clearer the RFP, the higher quality the law firm response.
"Make clear the nature of the information you are seeking, and make clear, or at least provide some indication, as to why you believe this information is important," says Don Rupert, partner at Marshall, Gerstein & Borun. "If we know why that information is considered important, then it gives us the opportunity to make sure we're providing the information they want."
Rupert cautions that legal departments should never use an RFP as a fishing expedition.
"A few times I've seen RFPs used to justify decisions that are already made," Rupert says. "Companies should understand that law firms that take this process seriously take a lot of time and effort to respond."
Finally, if a company is going to take the time to draft an RFP, it should take the time to tailor that RFP to be as specific as possible to the project at hand.
"Really address it to the business the company wants serviced," Rupert says. "Getting a RFP that says 'We'd like you to handle all our transactional activities' is so broad we could write a book-long response."