Friday, May 31, 2013

Conducting RFP Post Mortems

In responding to RFPs and RFIs, it is important to keep in mind your backup plan should you not be awarded the engagement. Keeping good records of how the RFP response is handled, the questions asked and the process the client required will be important as you perform the post analysis on your response process, also called a 'post mortem'.

In conducting post RFP reviews with clients, it is important to understand what you are trying to accomplish. The objectives can vary from trying to find additional ways to win work from the client to identifying ways to improve the future win rate. I suggest focusing only on the latter. Having clarity as to what you are trying to find out will guide the particular questions you ask. Regardless, there should be a core set of questions which you ask during every post mortem interview process in order to benchmark performance and build a better response process.

The second consideration is who will conduct the interview. I suggest using third party professionals who can provide an unbiased assessment, bring to bear comparative information and draw out unvarnished feedback. If, however, the accountant, attorneys or marketing department conduct the post mortem interviews, it is important that the interview is conducted as objectively as possible. Avoid defending the firm or trying to explain the firm's responses. It’s much better to learn the perceptions that clients have of the firm than to try to correct misperceptions of the firm’s response- unless they are glaringly blatant and correcting them could change the outcome of the decision.


1. Who won the work and why did they win it?

2. What qualities or strengths stood out about the winning firm?

3. What characteristics or weaknesses did you not like about the firm?

4. Who had influence over the final selection decision?

5. What non-technical services factored into your decision? (non-accounting or non-legal)

6. How did you select the firms which received the RFP?

7. On which key factors did the decision hinge and how would you prioritize the importance of each of these key factors?

8. What was the overall impression of our firm?

9. What was your overall impression of our people at the presentation?

10. What did you find were the strengths of our firm?

11. What did you find were the weaknesses of our firm?

12. What was your impression of the working relationship exhibited by our team in the presentation?

13. Were we accessible for your questions and how well were your questions answered?

14. How did our pricing/fees line up with others?

15. What other advice would you give us to help us improve our responses?

16. Is there anything we should ask that we didn’t ask?

17. How would you rate the quality of our written materials?

18. How would rate the quality of our technology offering?

19. To what extend did Diversity, pro bono, community investment and other programs weigh on your decision?

20. Would you consider us for other service needs you have?

Performing Post Mortems on legal services bidding processes is one of the most effective ways to improve the win rate on RFPs. It also goes a long way toward building a relationship with in house counsel and becoming the strong runner up in the contest, a good position from which to receive future engagements.

If I can help you improve your RFP responses, give Eric Dewey a call at 502.693.4731. You'll find that I am an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Understand the Implications of Your Solutions

I had the distinct pleasure of presenting at the New York Bar Association's Fall Intellectual Property Conference in Philadelphia. I was joined by Anil George, Senior Counsel for IP at NBA Properties. Our presentation was on the business of law and the current trends in the relationship between corporate counsel and outside counsel (hat tip to BTI Consulting Group for making available their latest Premium Practice Forecast survey- worth getting a copy).

[Note: This post originally appeared on the Lawyer Up! blog in the fall of 2011.]

This presentation led to some interesting comments from Anil describing a situation in which an attorney gracefully recovered from a sticky situation. The situation? The Chief Legal Officer thought the bill was too high. The law firm lowered the bill and explained that they were doing it to preserve the relationship with the client. Anil's point was that the law firm took a short term loss in order to invest in the long term relationship- something not lost on him, in fact, a cementing gesture in the relationship.

While the lesson was important, the discussion that followed was even more revealing. One law firm attendee asked whether the bill was sent in one lump sum or whether it had been broken into pieces and whether it would have made a difference were the bill to be sent broken into monthly increments. 'No', Anil said. It wouldn't have mattered. What he didn't say, but surely was thinking, was that his Chief Legal Officer was capable of simple math. The lawyer in the audience was thinking that the substantial amount of the bill may have raised eye brows and thereby the solution was to send bills that were more likely to 'sneak under the radar' (my term, not hers). Clearly the large bill caused notice. But breaking it up doesn't reduce the total amount.

Still, the law firm handled the request well and salvaged an otherwise difficult conversation. But, let's agree, this was a law firm's attempt to recover. It still chalks up in the 'save' column. The question is, 'could this have been avoided altogether?' The answer is yes. Anil, a typical in-house attorney, shook his head in agreement as I suggested that the issue was not that the fees were too high, the problem was that the CLO did not see the value the company received from the law firm's handling of the matter.

Lawyers identify the problems that company's face and present solutions to address those issues. But rarely do they have the intimate knowledge of the implications of those problems to the business. Indeed, corporate counsel have a finer filter they apply to solutions. As Anil put it, 'lawyers who develop a solution in the unique context of my business set themselves apart'. Anil is alluding to the knowledge of the implications which could result from the solution or, conversely, the implications which might result should the right solution not be found. Understanding the implications of the solutions is the essential ingredient to mapping the value of the best solution. Lawyers that have learned enough about their client's businesses to understand the implications will be able to monetize their solutions. They can show, in business terms, how the solution creates or protects value for the company.

Had Anil been able to take a large bill to his CLO and been able to show how they projected a 7:1 return to the company's investment in this firm handling this matter, for instance, the entire conversation would have been transformed. And, the CLO would have had the ammunition he needed to face the CFO or CEO and defend the large bill. Without that, the CLO knows exactly what's on the minds of the CFO and CEO and was simply arming himself for that conversation by extracting a discount from the firm.

The frustration that many corporate counsel express about their outside counsel is that they present the scope of possible solutions but fail to make a decisive recommendation. Instead, they leave that to corporate counsel to figure out. To make a decisive recommendation, you must be able to reasonably project outcomes, monetize the results and calculate the best investments among the various options. Law firms deeply experienced in the issues and variables in specific types of matters or cases, should be able to project reasonable outcomes. That's the dividend of experience. And if you have a wealth of experience in an area, use it.

Lawyers who outline the various options demonstrate their understanding of the company's problem. Lawyers who commit to definitive recommendations demonstrate they have an understanding of the implications of the problem and have calculated the best investment of the company's resources. And that sets a lawyer apart as a true business partner.

As always, if I can help you develop more effective solutions for your clients, give Eric Dewey a call at 502.693.4731. You'll find that I am an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Simplest Explanation of Law Firm Marketing

The average equity partner in the average law firm makes an annual contribution of between $20,000 and $30,000 each to market the firm. Think of this as the reinvestment each partner makes out of the equity pool each year. A significant chunk of change, to be sure. Viewed this way, marketing managers may have a better appreciation for why they feel constantly under the microscope. They are!

Unfortunately, the aperture of that 'microscope' is too often focused on what the marketing department should be doing for that individual partner. And, the focus can change depending upon what that partner needs at the moment. Widening the aperture helps the partner understand the various demands on the marketing department, the sales cycle law firm marketing departments are attempting to influence and how all the tools of marketing work together in an integrated fashion.

To facilitate this conversation, I developed the following graphic to illustrate how all the pieces fit together. The Marketing-Sales-Service chart shows the relative costs in both attorney time (Attorney Involvement) and firm financial resources ($) to affect each stage of the legal services buying cycle (Awareness through Loyalty) and the box of tools available to influence each phase (Marketing, Sales and Service). Obviously, this graphic is overly simplified. But it has proven useful in helping everyone in the firm better understand the roles and contributions of the marketing department. And, in understanding this, being better able to support the marketing group in their support of the attorneys.

As always, if I can help you get more from your marketing department, please give Eric Dewey a call at 502.693.4731. You'll find that I am an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Five Obstacles to Business Development Success, Part 5

Every year law firms spend millions of dollars in marketing, client development, training and technologies to attract more clients. Law firm leaders understand that business development is the life blood of the firm. Or do they? An argument can be made that a law firm that puts business development as one of the top drivers of the firm’s growth would do a better job of addressing the most common challenges that are obstacles to the success of most attorneys. Many law firms survive on the client development effectiveness of a small group of the firm’s partners making law firms generally extraordinarily fragile. But eliminating these barriers could produce significant returns and spark faster growth in the firm.

What are these obstacles? This is the fifth in a five part series outlining the obstacles to business development in most firms.

Obstacle Five – Lack of daily sales management and coaching.

Many firms have moved to toward a practice group management model and client service teams in order to facilitate the cross selling and client development processes in the firm. However, too often firms fail to implement strong sales management and coaching processes. Stark evidence of this can be found in the separation of the compensation decisions from the practice group, client service team and other sales management processes. Those responsible for developing the skills are often left out of the rewards and incentives decisions.

Law firm “Sales Managers” are not spending enough time effectively coaching and developing their “salespeople”. The job of a sales manager is to coach their people just like in professional sports. Law firms saddle the coach with the responsibilities of also playing on the field. The value and leverage that can be achieved by sales managers is simply not appreciated or valued in law firms today. As a result, the organic growth of most firms today is anemic at best and contracting at worst.

If I can help you alleviate the obstacles to business development in your firm, call Eric Dewey at 502.693.4731. You'll find that I am an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.