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Everyone hates RFPs. Clients. Law firms.

And now clients are changing how they use them. They are not.

Like so many things arising from the pandemic era — we are looking at extremes. Only 11.2% of clients are preparing to issue an RFP, with another 10.2% thinking about it. This is down from 32% of clients who issued RFPs in 2020 — a record high. Here’s what the other 78.6% are doing:

    • Engaging with their trusted partners from current law firms
    • Seeking out referrals from industry peers
    • Asking current law firms for referrals for work the incumbent can’t handle
    • Using thought leadership on new relevant topics to single out possible attorneys
    • Scanning LinkedIn for active and insightful attorneys in their network

This has profound implications for law firms:

    • Day-to-day attorney interactions will have even more influence on hiring — aka client service
    • Any client conversation can easily be an informal interview for the new work
    • Expect invitation-only pitches
    • Your pitch will have more riding on it than ever
    • Your early assessment and strategy about the matter will mean more than any firm history and stats
    • Clients only want to meet with the partners who will be doing the work
    • Sourcing work you can’t handle is now an asset — clients view your referral to other law firms as an investment in their best interests
    • As we discussed last week only 21% of clients report having high-value voice dialogue with their relationship partner — leaving the others especially vulnerable to being excluded from new work
    • Clients are opening up more than ever to Business Development Executives and Client Service Executives — the professionals from BD who talk to clients about their needs and expectations and work with partners to meet those needs will have a clear advantage

Clients aren’t announcing these plans. Partners relying on clients to issue an RFP to identify a need will be especially hard hit — as the RFPs just won’t arrive.

The drop in RFPs will compel partners to reach out to clients and start a dialogue — despite the obstacles. Law firms would be well served to refresh their Business Development training to help those new partners elevated in the last 3 years. All of whom enjoyed work coming in the door at breakneck speed during their tenure — until now.

The good news — law firms will see a small group of partners thrive on this trend — they will be current and soon-to-be rainmakers. We encourage every law firm to find and nourish aspiring rainmakers — give them extra attention and resources. They will give you outsized returns for years to come — even if clients reverse course and jump on RFPs.

Best in the market ahead.

The Mad Clientist

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