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After handing the first wave of work to come out of the pandemic without RFPs, clients are now changing course. They are issuing RFPs and making sure everyone is invited. This means including small- and medium-size firms. Legal decision makers in the US are tackling their US issues — so the global firms have to win on merit and are up against everyone. 

These decision makers tell us they are sending their RFPs to between 9 and 12 law firms. They are emphasizing 6 points: 

  1. They Demand Predictability and Certainty
    This is for both time and money. Budgets are client speak for predictability and certainty. They know things can change, but expect their experienced law firms to anticipate and allow for these changes in their proposed budgets.
  1. Ideas and Approaches
    Our decades of research consistently show how the biggest benefit of the RFP process is new ideas. They may only get 1 or 2, but it makes it all worth it. You not only win the work, but you get branded as client-centric and innovative.
  1. Customization
    Clients are starting to talk about canned approaches to reopening, litigation, and compliance. These same clients see themselves as more unique than ever. Workforce issues go well beyond compliance — it dives into the culture and how management thinks about the workforce. Clients want to see if you bring, or how you will acquire, this understanding.
  1. Solutions
    Clients say it’s easy to find law firms with great credentials. But few want to talk about solutions. Clients are looking for a path forward and to manage risk. They want you to offer yours in the response to the RFP to replace the pages of statistics on attorneys, matters, and locations.
  1. Concise and Brief
    Clients will skip through your proposal to find the meat — your approach and strategy — next they will go to the fee section. No strategy section? The fee starts to look high. A good strategy section makes your fee look like value.
  1. Fixed Fee Beats Rates x Hours
    Going back to number 1 above — clients want predictability and certainty. Rates x hours, even at a discount won’t provide certainty. They leave the client to determine what it will cost — and this is work clients just don’t want to do right now.

The message is clear. Clients want a customized approach with predictability — nothing less. 

Less Patience than Ever

Clients have less patience than ever, and don’t want to wade through an RFP searching for the nuggets of strategy. We recommend changing the RFP protocol and place your strategy and approach right up front, followed by the fixed fee. Put all the stats about your firm in the back — these clients know who you are. Skip any discussions about discounts and hours — this undermines predictability. And last of all, be selective in where you respond. You will win where you can demonstrate you understand some nuance of your client’s needs, you won’t where you rely on boilerplate. Bet on the places you can win. 

Be safe. Be well. Be careful.


The MAD Clientist

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