Like the men and women behind the wheels of the company’s parapatetic brown delivery trucks, the self-described “lean on the inside” legal department at UPS, Inc. knows a thing or two about getting from point A to point B.
That’s especially apparent when it comes to vetting outside counsel. “Frequently, we are looking for firms that are creative in billing options that provide value and also consistency,” says Norman Brothers, Jr., Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of UPS, in a recent Corporate Counsel article authored by Kristen Rasmussen.
With an outside counsel panel that’s been reduced to a little more than two dozen key firms, Brothers says that choosing a law firm “is just as much about relationships as it is the bottom line,” Rasmussen writes. Those relationships, Brothers says, can mean turning matters over to outside lawyers who have 15 to 20 years experience working with UPS.
But that doesn’t necessarily bar a firm that’s not on the UPS panel from getting its foot in the door. As Rasmussen explains in her article, Brothers likes to shake things up by asking firms – whether they are on the UPS panel or not – to submit RFPs. In addition to relationships, Brothers says, it’s important that firms take steps to understand what’s going in the company’s business when they present a pitch.
To that end, Brothers recommends looking at public filings to learn what litigation has been disclosed or reviewing the company’s annual report or quarterly filings to gain a better understanding of the business. But that’s not all that law firms can do to stand out.
As firms leveraging a technology-enabled business development solution, such as InterAction Business Edge begin to carve out a competitive advantage, these early adopters are changing the lay of the RFP landscape in a significant way.
As we reported in a previous Business of Law Blog post, there are three things law firms should keep in mind regarding RFPs:
- Client dissatisfaction is the driving force
Corporate counsel is dissatisfied with the level of law firm client service. According to BTI Consulting, the increase in RFPs “is due directly to the rock-like drop in client service performance clients are experiencing.” Just one-third “of corporate counsel recommend their primary law firm to a peer,” which is down roughly seven percentage points from the same survey a year earlier. It’s also one of the biggest drops in client satisfaction in 15 years.
- RFPs are inherently reactive
An AmLaw 200 law firm fields 200 RFPs a year and has a win rate of one in three. This sounds pretty good until you realize that law firms are typically pursuing business on the back-end of an RFP. Because it’s reactive rather than proactive, it’s nearly impossible for law firms to align business development resources in one cohesive sales motion. A better alternative is building relationships in advance (as the firms on the UPS panel have done). It’s a shift some law firms report making towards a focused BD effort, such as identifying a list of 15 people that can make or break a firm
- There is a clear need for better BD data
Law firms need greater visibility into BD data to drive better decisions. Most firms have it, but until recently, they haven’t had the technology tools to tie all the pieces together for decision-making. The result is BD decisions made on anecdotal information and intuition, rather than facts.
With UPS joining the ranks of corporate law departments that rely on a shrinking network of outside counsel, the tools that help firms identify, establish, strengthen and maintain relationships, and that support strategic and measurable business development initiatives, take on even greater importance in the drive to win RFPs and deliver positive BD results.