Before responding to an RFP or a proposal for legal services outside of a formal bidding process, you must first assess the likelihood of winning. Lawyers usually have a good sense about their chances of succeeding in a bid process. If you have never succeeded in bidding for the prospective client’s work, have never represented them, or have never made a concerted effort to marketing to this potential client, your chances of winning are slim.
Why then should a firm bid at all?
Why not just concentrate on current and prospective clients who are better bets?
To answer these questions, a firm must decide whether the impact of representing the seemingly out of reach client is material enough to warrant a long-term bid process. For example, responding to a an RFP in such a way that it shapes future RFP’s resulting in an advantage to your firm.
Before going for a strategic win, honestly assess the following factors:
• Your firm’s qualifications to excel at solving the client’s legal problems;
• Your firm’s demonstrable track record in the relevant practice areas or skill sets;
• Your firm’s relevant available capacity to dedicate to the client’s account;
• Whether you can offer a unique qualitative advantage to the client;
• Whether you can gvie a real price/cost advantage;
• Your plan for addressing your firm’s perceived weaknesses on the client’s part;
• How you can best remove any perceived risk on the part of the client associated with giving your firm an opportunity.
Carefully articulating each of these points may not win the business. But if the answers to these questions are compelling enough, it may spur a deeper evaluation of existing counsel and may inform future bids.
Many solicitations (RFP’s, formal bids, panel applications) require strict adherence to the form of the proposal or bid documents. These documents often favor incumbent firms for, no other reason than, prior experience with the prospective client’s cases. Clients may try to compare submissions, making it difficult to evaluate and compare proposals that do not follow bid guidelines.
Enlightened clients may allow for alternate submissions in addition to the proforma bid or proposal response. In these instances, it is much easier to affect the bidding process strategically. Clients who allow additional alternate submissions suggest that they are open-minded to creative approaches and want to learn from their own processes.
Clients who do not solicit alternate responses may not appreciate a firm’s efforts to include an alternate proposal option. Just because they don’t ask, however, does not mean someone who can influence future decisions won’t read it.
Taking this down to a more practical level, you can apply these same concepts to smaller opportunities and clients, or clients that do not have a formal procurement process. For example, if you have cultivated a great relationship with a prospective client, but your competition is strong and has a long-standing relationship with the desired client. Or if a client has a difficult time adding new law firms a list of approved counsel. In both cases, immediate success is not likely. However, if you can change the conversation to an innovative pricing strategy, a technological advantage, or a forward-thinking approach to the legal work, you may create an advantage for yourself.
Before bidding or proposing on new legal work, give an honest assessment of your firm’s chances of winning. If the existing process favors you firm, comply with the requirements of the bid and submit your proposal.
If winning the new work is determined to be a long shot, comply with the proposal requirements, AND consider an alternate submission. An alternate approach is more likely to succeed if your firm can convey its real advantages that may create future opportunities.
Strategic approaches take time and often don’t pay off, but they are often the only chance a firm has to secure a prospective client’s work.
Pricing legal services is a complex and evolving topic. PerformLaw posts have recently covered the following points:
Please look for our future posts on the following topics:
- Contract General Counsel services
- Technological value adds to build client loyalty
- Effectively communicating cost savings related to various billing approaches
- The impact of pricing and cash flow considerations on pricing