Responding to a Request for Proposal Time, Money, People and the Law Legal ways to make money in Management

Abraham lincoln’s clients often came to him on the day their ways to make money in matter was scheduled for trial to ask the illinois rail-splitter if he would serve as their counsel. Today, a client inquiry is likely to first appear in the ways to make money in form of an email or express letter comprised of 3 ways to make money in to 30 pages of questions presented as a formal request ways to make money in for proposal (RFP).

Depending on the complexity and scope of work contemplated, the process of responding comprehensively to an RFP could take ways to make money in anywhere from 4 to 40 hours. Making that sort of time investment into a speculative venture ways to make money in like an RFP response should mean that the effort is ways to make money in seriously and professionally pursued — not slapped together as an annoying side project. Even the biggest law firms report that their success rate ways to make money in in the RFP process is 30 percent or less. When an RFP is sent out to dozens of firms ways to make money in at once, the expected success rate is clearly lower.

For law firms in aggressive growth mode, or those struggling to keep their work pipeline full, this can be a difficult decision to make. If the chances of success are slim, is there any reason to put the time and effort ways to make money in into preparing a proposal? The answer to that question depends on two things: 1) how accurate is your assessment of the chances of success? 2) how much is the time put into the project really ways to make money in going to cost the firm?

Determining chances of success regarding any particular RFP is clearly ways to make money in difficult (unless, perhaps, your firm already has a pipeline to information from the ways to make money in requesting organization, say from a pre-existing relationship). But as imprecise as the process of making that determination ways to make money in may be, in a world where time is inelastic and one of ways to make money in the most limited of resources, doing the research necessary to gauge the likelihood of success ways to make money in is well worth the time.

For example, finding out what you can about the requestor online, polling your colleagues within the firm, or even talking with colleagues outside the firm about the ways to make money in organization issuing the request may help you understand whether the ways to make money in organization has longstanding relationships with other firms. A check of public documents, such as U.S. Security and exchange commission (SEC) or state filings, may reveal the relevant relationships of larger entities. A glance through the plaintiff-defendant index in the relevant courthouses — both state and federal — may provide some insight as well, both as to existing relationships with law firms and the ways to make money in type of issues otherwise facing the issuer of the RFP.

Once the decision is made, make the necessary investment to formulate a quality responsive proposal, it makes sense for the persons involved to take on ways to make money in an “all-in” attitude toward the effort, despite being engaged in a speculative investment of time and ways to make money in passion. A flawed, incomplete, tardy or half-hearted effort will constitute a waste of time and resources. If the response team leader finds the team unenthusiastic, they should consider either changing the roster of participants or ways to make money in the decision to proceed. Preparing an RFP, like trying cases, is not for the faint of heart. Issuers of requests for proposals, like juries, can sense a lack of enthusiasm and confidence.

Understanding the elements of a compelling response to an RFP ways to make money in is central to identifying the skills that should be brought ways to make money in to bear on the project. Those elements, in turn, are dictated by the expectations of the organization issuing the ways to make money in RFP. Understanding what potential clients want to see in a proposal ways to make money in should drive the decisions about what to include in the ways to make money in proposal and which individuals should be assigned to the task.

• generally, make sure you address each of the specific areas of ways to make money in inquiry contained in the request for proposal, at a minimum. Potential clients that have gone to the work of issuing ways to make money in an RFP may be sending their request out to either ways to make money in a handful or perhaps as many as 40 recipients. When the responses come in, one of the easiest ways to winnow down the stack ways to make money in is to check each response for completeness. Failure to address a question contained in the RFP is ways to make money in likely to be a quick disqualifier.

Style considerations also matter. Proposals are not legal briefs — they are sales presentations. They should move briskly, be devoid of errors and free of heavy prose. Most issuers of an RFP value brevity and thus prefer ways to make money in to read documents written in a creative, fluid, active fashion. This skill is not common to most lawyers who write ways to make money in briefs, contracts, pleadings and motion papers pursuant to the rules of civil ways to make money in procedure or the dictates of established caselaw.

At the same time, relying on senior lawyers comes with its own set of ways to make money in disadvantages. For one thing, such individuals have alternative demands on their time, many of which are billable at a high rate. That makes the opportunity cost associated with their involvement in ways to make money in the proposal drafting process very high. Furthermore, the most senior and knowledgeable lawyers in the firm are ways to make money in often also those who manage their responsibilities on a “last-minute-crisis” basis. This is an invitation to failure in answering a request ways to make money in for proposal. Responses received late are often summarily dismissed. Even a barely timely response may suffer when compared to ways to make money in an early and comprehensive response, as first impressions count in the proposal process.

Responses, if taken seriously, deserve to be dealt with as urgent matters addressed by ways to make money in gifted writers, well-organized team leaders and knowledgeable firm advocates. Much as law firms have come to realize that the ways to make money in ideas and impressions of the lead partner don’t necessarily serve as the best possible foundation for a ways to make money in marketing campaign, the specialized requirements of the RFP response process can often ways to make money in be better served by less senior personnel with relevant skills, access to necessary information and a reasonable cost profile.

First, many corporate legal departments have ascribed and committed themselves to ways to make money in “best practices” when retaining outside service providers. Bringing the notion of competitive bidding — or at least open competition — to the counsel retainer process is now a high priority ways to make money in for corporate general counsels who are under unrelenting pressure to ways to make money in reduce the cost of outside counsel.

Changes in personnel within the corporate legal department may lead ways to make money in to a “take a fresh look” approach to the retention of legal counsel, too. Injecting competition among firms serving a common client can often ways to make money in improve communications, responsiveness, staffing and billing practices of those firms who have come ways to make money in to realize that their work will always be measured against ways to make money in the performance of other entities.

Firms that are most successful in gaining work through the ways to make money in RFP process still succeed only about 25 percent of the ways to make money in time when they submit a proposal. With many issuers dispatching rfps to anywhere from 3 to ways to make money in 30 law firms, the odds of winning a specific assignment, are often slim. In view of this, the most important thing firms engaged in responding to rfps ways to make money in can do to ensure they are getting a fair return ways to make money in on their investment in proposal writing is to determine which ways to make money in opportunities carry with them a reasonable chance of success. Then, once the decision is made to go ahead with a ways to make money in submission, they should deploy the proper mix of skills and knowledge ways to make money in that will create a timely, impactful and economically sensible proposal.

Using previously drafted firm descriptions and tweaking prior proposals can ways to make money in speed completion and reduce costs. This can be the task of administrative personnel with communications ways to make money in skills. It does not take a $1,000-per-hour partner to assemble and edit an effective response to ways to make money in an RFP. Using such high-priced talent drives up the cost of creating a proposal ways to make money in and drives down the likelihood of dispatching a prompt response.

What about the notion of origination credit? Ideally, this is an issue for the firm’s senior managers to decide in advance. The administrator may assist in developing a firm-wide process for crafting rfps and contribute to greater harmony ways to make money in among partners, greater efficiency in crafting proposals and higher success rates in ways to make money in submitting proposals.

As an example, it could be understood that if a particular partner is ways to make money in the initial recipient of an RFP that person will share ways to make money in in the origination credit, even if the substantive area of law involved has nothing ways to make money in to do with that person’s practice. Furthermore, if substantive inputs are obtained from others in the firm, it should be understood in advance that their participation will ways to make money in be noted and considered if the proposal proves successful. If the firm is fortunate enough to have a nonpartner ways to make money in or outside source with the skills necessary to lead the ways to make money in effort, that fact alone could do much to make the response ways to make money in effort as efficient, timely and effective as possible.

Proposals are subject to the same set of ethical and ways to make money in regulatory restrictions as lawyer advertising. Those rules are complex, constantly changing, and vary from state to state (a challenge for multistate law firms). A survey of those rules and sampling of cases would ways to make money in require a separate article, but areas that deserve care are worth highlighting.

First, the general rule in all states is that use of ways to make money in false or “inherently misleading” information is prohibited. Thus, while exaggeration or subtle suggestions not grounded firmly in discernable ways to make money in fact are acceptable in other fields, such puffery is suspect when utilized by lawyers. Even a factually accurate statement — if presented in a way that is likely to be ways to make money in misunderstood by the reader — can be found to be “inherently misleading.” many states ban or restrict the use of terms like ways to make money in “specializing” as well.

Finally, the penalty for violating such ethical rules can involve lawyer ways to make money in disciplinary proceedings, even if the error was the result of a non-lawyer action. Ultimately the partners or leaders of the firm — as well as the lawyer supervising the drafting of the ways to make money in proposal — are ethically responsible for content. This does not mean that every element of a proposal ways to make money in needs to be created by a lawyer, but it does mean that someone well-versed in the applicable state limitations on ethical marketing should ways to make money in review the final product before submission.

Requests for proposals are proliferating and law firms big and ways to make money in small are wise to have an effective strategy in place ways to make money in for determining the following: 1) which requests deserve a response, 2) how great an effort should be made to prepare each ways to make money in response, 3) who should participate in and oversee the proposal-writing effort, and 4) how to follow up and evaluate the effectiveness of proposals ways to make money in after dispatch.

Keith hanson is the managing partner of hanson law group ways to make money in in barrington, illinois. He has been an equity partner in firms as large ways to make money in as 500 lawyers and as small as 5 lawyers. He is also a mediator, writer, college professor and public official. In those roles, he has authored both requests for proposals and numerous responsive ways to make money in law firm proposals.

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