A better approach for law firm RFPs
To say that the current state of the RFP process is reactive, not proactive, isn’t new news. Despite the breadth of responsibilities put on a law firm’s business development team’s plate, the arrival of an RFP often signals the beginning of a “drop everything and go” response. What happens next is a breathless sprint, filled with long hours from a few unlucky individuals on the BD team, to get the massive document completed and delivered before the (tight!) deadline.
The cycle’s end doesn’t seem to be in sight as the procurement process continues to become more complex as clients become more sophisticated. RFPs are on the rise and addressed by a cycle that is often repeated yet rarely replicated.
It’s all too common in law firms large and small. Worse, there’s no time to be strategic or forward-thinking in the completion of an RFP when it’s all your firm can do to meet the deadline. And although strategic collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the firm’s network are central to winning business, the 2018 Law Firm Growth Enablement Survey (a partnership between Intapp and Calibrate Legal) found that law firm CMOs and their teams face entrenched, internal barriers to collaboration.
But it doesn’t have to stay this way. Embracing a proactive approach to business development—particularly one that that fosters strategic firm-wide collaboration—is an important first step to enhancing your RFP process.
Managing your RFPs means taking control of your data
More data, more problems: That’s what it feels like for firms that have yet to get control of their information management. When it comes to RFP fulfillment, control is everything. Ensuring that data is securely accessible from any location, any time it’s needed, will always matter—as will the ability to rapidly gather precise information about your firm wherever it exists.
A growing number of law firms have deployed solutions that allow them to utilize data in support of business development efforts. In fact, 82% of respondents in the 2018 Law Firm Growth Enablement Survey are leveraging data and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to automate manual processes and initiate programs that weren’t previously possible, including leveraging targeted insights to support cross-sell and upsell activities as well as managing staff matters and staying ahead of client needs.
With control comes understanding of what’s working
RFP fulfillment requires a major commitment of time and money. Ideally, resources should be tracked. If they’re not, the learnings that can be derived from these challenging endeavors are lost forever. Firms that successfully measure RFP efforts have visibility into time and results, revenue for new clients, hours required for the individual proposals, and even whether time would have been better spent on work for existing clients. More importantly, they’re able to tap those insights to determine if similar RFP opportunities should be accepted or avoided in the future, launching business development into proactive initiatives to grow review with the firm’s strategy in mind.
How to win an RFP: Real-world insights from the front lines
There’s no silver bullet that enables law firms to win and expand business consistently, but there are priorities that can help your BD team decide how to focus its efforts and investments. These priorities, identified through Intapp’s work with many of the leading law firms in the world, demonstrate the importance of the fundamentals:
- Depth of the relationship: Meaningful bonds are formed whenever firms are able to nurture client relationships by demonstrating their ability to deliver valued services across the client’s business. These bonds can be leveraged in all business development activities. To start, relationships can be measured through not just dollars and hours but also by the number of lawyers engaged, the age of the relationship, and the number of practice groups engaged. Understanding these metrics can help firms identify the depth of relationships to help segment and target to clients.
- Specialties and type of work product: How prospective clients see your firm’s experience and capabilities may come down to the importance they place on the types of work your firm does. Therefore, it’s essential that firms can easily access the right cross-section of data to tap into.
- Price of services: How your firm prices its services is more dependent than ever on the perceived value of those services to clients; simply put, clients will pay more if they believe they’re getting better outcomes. It comes down to properly articulating cost to value, which is often a collaborative effort between business development and pricing. This is made possible by having all the data you need to illustrate the experience and value the firm brings to the table.
Automating the RFP process—and driving ROI
For law firms that have continued to rely on legacy BD processes and systems, the time is now to build intelligent automation into operations. Automation helps to eliminate the reactive process and fosters a shift into a more proactive approach. It facilitates a mindset change around connecting people, process, and data at all points of the matter life cycle; prioritizing and expanding client relationships; and in leveraging technology to make strategic, data-driven decisions that drive competitiveness.
For anyone involved in the RFP process, the impact of automation means that the days of hunting for relevant skills, endless emailing and calling, and waiting for the answers to complete RPPs are over. Business development can now be enhanced with an AI-based approach that sources current, comprehensive, and granular data to give your firm the answers it needs when it needs them. And it puts your firm’s collective experience at your fingertips, so you can tap into the full power of your firm’s abilities and realize the ROI at every turn.
Jennifer Roberts is responsible for the analytics and research component that supports thought leadership and new initiatives at Intapp. Leveraging her skills to advocate, evangelize and build data-fueled products and insight. She examines the legal industry to drive analytical intelligence that informs strategic decisions and solves organizational needs.