Vendor Management - Legal Services RFPs, Part 1 & 2

In this series we will focus on RFPs. Ops in a Box, Legal Edition includes 2 model Request for Proposals one for legal service providers , and a 2nd for technology tools, as a well as an evaluation deck template and scoring sheet.

Running an RFP is similar to running  a fellowship program albeit on a much smaller scale. For many years before moving into Legal Operations, I managed competitive fellowship programs, including Fulbright student grants at IIE and Ph.D. and post-doctorate fellowships for The Rockefeller Foundation.  In this period, I read well over 3,000 proposals, facilitated review committees and planned and participated in coaching workshops for proposal writing.

Over the past 14 years, applying principles learned managing competitive fellowship programs, I’ve had a strong record of success in matching legal services to the needs of the companies I have worked for, improving the quality of service and overall value of service received for the price. 

For a legal services RFP, from a process efficiency point of view, one asks only for that information one needs to make a distinction among candidates and to facilitate comparative analysis.  After confirming the candidate has appropriate training and credentials, you are generally looking for someone who -

  1. Has good people skills, and will represent you well in sensitive settings
  2. Appropriate local experience and contacts
  3. A good working hypothesis and well-considered strategy for a project
  4. Well-defined procedures and process mechanisms to maximize output and minimize errors,
  5. An accurate budget and
  6. Willingness to adhere to policies and procedures

On item 6, the proxy for assessment is adherence to submission instructions. Candidates that do not follow basic instructions usually do not make it to committee review.  In a legal service provider-client relationship the ability to listen to the client and take instruction and to meet court or regulator set instructions,  as well as to give guidance, is important. Thus a prospective client should feel zero guilt in screening out applicants that do not provide the information requested in the format requested.

The RFP template provided in Ops in a Box, Legal Edition limits responses to 5 pages.  Keeping the text brief and to the point allows one to focus on what is important and minimizes opportunities for filler language.

Examples of types of work I have found amenable to RFPs include court reporters, discovery providers, labor and employment advice and counsel, technology procurement contract negotiation, and general corporate work by region in which we do not have full-time attorneys.

Ops in a Box, Legal Edition also contains two different versions of an RFP scoring sheet and a single RFP evaluation deck.  In an upcoming session, I’ll discuss technology RFPs and approaches to scoring.