Recap of NYLMA Program – RFPs: Can We Learn to Love Them?

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On May 17, LMA’s New York Group hosted a lunch program on RFPs. Panelists discussed how to prepare a strategic approach to respond to RFPs for legal services and that managing the process and tactical/responsive pricing may result in markedly improved success rates. The panel was moderated by José Cunningham, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer, Nixon Peabody LLP.

The panel included:

  • Todd Suhar, Leader, Law Financial Operations, MasterCard
  • Margaret Hensler Nicholls, Director, Business Development, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
  • Mike Milazzo, Director of Strategic Pricing, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP

Following are some key takeaways from the discussion.

Be the quarterback. As the BD person, your role is to be the quarterback of the process. Have a plan in place and direct the rest of the team though the process. Determine why an RFP was sent out in the first place and let that guide your strategy as to the team and pricing.

Start off strong. Identify the most unique or exciting aspects of the RFP and run with them. Also identify the most challenging pieces and tackle them early.

Expect the unexpected. Put extra time in your plan to allow for surprises along the way.  That way if there are IT/technical or staffing issues, things will not get completely off track.

Collaborate. Have pricing conversations early and often. Share the RFP with the pricing department and get input from them before getting too far into the process. They may determine that the opportunity is not worth pursuing or offer other helpful guidance. Team with the library to pull intelligence reports and get more info. If there is a requirement that your firm does not fulfill, consider partnering with another firm.

Turn a “no go” into an opportunity. While telling an attorney that an RFP is a “no go” can be challenging, it is a good chance to sit down with that attorney and go over their business plan/strategy to identify other leads worth pursuing.

Know your clients. When an RFP is from a current client, know their pain points. Do not be overly inclusive and try to fit a square peg in a round hole. Clients appreciate honesty about gaps.

Handling a reverse auction. Set your strategy ahead of time and stick to it or walk away. The winner is often not the absolute lowest bidder.

Winning the work. Get to know the client team, the work is not done when the RFP is won, especially if your firm is on a panel. Remember that a well-crafted RFP can help the sender build a business case for hiring you now or in the future. 

Always conduct a postmortem. Win or lose, conduct a postmortem to uncover what went right and what went wrong. Having BD involved in the postmortem often helps get more honest answers as to why the business was not won. Stay in touch and keep the relationship warm even if you do not get the work. You never know what the future will hold.

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