A Note on RFP Responses

by Timothy B. Corcoran on April 8, 2009

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In his excellent blog “Set in Style” that demonstrates how lawyers can become better writers, Mister Thorne suggests today that responses to an RFP (request for proposal) are ineffective when written poorly and contain primarily propaganda about the law firm, rather than something interesting, innovative and compelling.  Bullet points don’t replace good prose, and the assumption that no one reads anymore is false.  Thorne quotes an article (original author not provided):

“If the content is truly interesting and valuable to its audience then you should have no fear of lost readership as a result of communicating in well written prose.”

This calls to mind a time when I was managing business development efforts for a BigLaw firm.  I retained an experienced proposal manager to help us clean up our disorganized RFP response process, and move us toward client-focused needs analysis as the basis for our proposals.  She was wholly ineffective.  As one senior partner and department chair expressed, “This isn’t rocket science and we don’t need a high-paid professional to do it. List our past deals, attach our bios, fill in the blanks on the RFP and we’re done. This has worked in the past and will work in the future.”  Perhaps he confused high demand with competence?

His work has since dried up. The proposal writer is now successfully assisting another law firm take work away from the BigLaw firm. When demand declined, the partner’s template responses that highlighted his experience were ineffective at winning the work from competitors who place the client’s needs above all else, and in their RFP response offer specific solutions and techniques.  THIS is interesting to the prospective client, and will ensure a full read-through.

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