It’s the End of Q1 – Do You Know Where Your Goals Are?

This guest post was contributed by Dawn Zerbs, principal of Dawn Celeste LLC. Dawn Celeste is a strategy execution firm that blends thinking and doing; in short, she’s an expert at getting things done. Learn more about Dawn here.

The first quarter of 2018 is almost over. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to set goals to advance your practice. Here are a few tips and topics to help you get started.


  • Less is more. Set 5 goals or fewer. If you can’t remember and recite your goals using your fingers it is unlikely that you’ll achieve them.
  • Break it down. Set a measurable goal for the year and immediately divide it by four to create a trackable milestone for each 13-week period. Then break each 13-week milestone into what needs to happen weekly.
  • Start small. Be honest with yourself about your current performance in the goal area. If you’re starting from ground zero don’t try to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It won’t work. Building habit and routine is hard, but the work is worth it. Start small, celebrate early accomplishments, and enjoy your achievements. Don’t expect to launch from couch potato to marathon-runner in 13 weeks. Get off the couch in the first 13 weeks. Then walk around the house and maybe even jog outside for the next 13 weeks.
  • Get started. Once you have your goals clearly set and know your 13-week milestones, stop thinking and get started.

Do you need some ideas for goals?


  • Client Listening. Would you like to begin a post-case debrief or post-transaction satisfaction survey? Or ask your clients what they like and/or dislike about your service? Perhaps do this for your top three clients 2x/ year.
  • Client Service and Operations. What about improving or setting service standards? Is there something in the operations/administration of your practice that needs improvement? If so, set a goal here.
  • Professional Development. What legal or non-legal area would you like to learn about or get better in? Set a goal to get closer to your ideal career by planning on taking the time to invest in your own learning and growth.
  • Community Involvement. Are you active in the community? If so, where do you want to concentrate your efforts to make a bigger impact in 2018? If not, where could you start to serve (remember the start small tip)
  • Business Development. BD goal-setting opportunities are endless. First, get clear on your overarching objective. Do you want to acquire new clients, expand current clients, or retain existing clients? Pick one. If the latter, Client Listening goes a long, long, way in understanding needs of current clients to expand the relationships. If the objective is to acquire new customers, make sure that your Client Service is top notch so you’ll be referred by existing clients. If you’re building a practice, work with your marketing team, consultant, or mentor to identify your ideal target client. This will direct your speaking, writing, and other marketing efforts for the greatest impact.

What is it that you want to do to improve or enhance your leadership skills in 2018? What specific goal do you want to set for yourself and your practice in 2018 to be your best self? Is it starting or increasing your community service, starting a mentoring program at your firm, or making a commitment to walk beside new lawyers when they join the firm? What are your unique gifts and skills and how can you use those to benefit your career, your clients, and your colleagues?

In setting and achieving goals there are three mantras to follow: 1) Don’t overthink; 2) Don’t underestimate; and 3) Just try it.

Good luck! A helpful tool for accomplishing these goals is the monaplanner©. It’s an easy-to-implement and simple-to-use planner that helps people get the Right Things done at the Right Time. It was designed by productivity consultant Mona Raglow. Daily use of the monaplanner© can lead to less stress and increased productivity!

From Recreation to Revenue: Using Your Hobby for Business Development

Warren Buffett has the ukulele. Jay Leno has antique cars. Richard Branson has kitesurfing.

Most successful people have some kind of recreational hobby – a passion for a musical instrument, a unique collection or a devotion to a certain sports team. (Go Jayhawks!)


Leisure activities have proven benefits, including a positive effect on blood pressure and stress levels. But what if your hobby could also lead to a bigger book of business?

That’s exactly what happened for Breandan Filbert, the founder and managing partner of SalezWORKS, a business training and consulting company. Filbert started a monthly networking-on-horseback group in 2001 with others who shared her love of all things equine.

Filbert can directly tie her “most significant business” today to relationships she formed in that networking group throughout the years – and she’s not alone.

Helen Gulgun Bukulmez, a personal injury and immigration attorney in Kentucky, founded Hiking Lawyers in 2008 when she began meeting other lawyers, judges, clerks and legal staff who shared her passion for the outdoors.

“Initially, it was a laughable idea: hiking lawyers,” Bukulmez said. “Over time, other colleagues saw how hiking provided us with the balance, health and networking we all want in our lives and began joining us.”

A decade later, the group now touts more than 1,000 attorneys across the country and around the world, who frequently share ideas, recommendations and expertise with one another. Shared interests can provide a common denominator, but Bukulmez said business development opportunities come from actively building relationships and offering value.

How can you turn your hobby into a marketing method? Filbert shared her process:

  • Understand the people in your network. Take time to know their interests – and what their business needs might be. Social media profiles can be very informative.
  • Look for common ground. Actively cultivate connections who share your passion. Include it on your social media profiles, and share it (when appropriate) in business meetings. (If your contacts don’t share your interests, they might know someone who does.) That added connection will allow you to build affinity and trust.
  • Create social engagement opportunities. Bringing people together outside of the workplace is key to nurturing these relationships. Filbert mentioned a well-known financial advisor who invites a mixture of current and potential clients on “extreme” hunting trips. By the end of the excursions, he has connected with prospects over a shared experience, transforming many of them into clients.
  • Transition to a professional level. Between innings or axe tosses, engage your fellow hobbyists in business conversation. Invite them for a meeting to learn how you can help each other.

As Filbert said, the only thing setting you apart from the competition is your ability to forge a stronger bond. The more you share with a client or prospect, the better your chances for referrals and leads. (And you might just have fun doing it.)

How to Handle a Partner’s Death with Grace

From employee handbooks to partnership agreements, there are plenty of resources to help navigate the straightforward “do’s” and “don’ts” of law firm management.

However, there are sometimes unexpected instances that aren’t explicitly covered – like how best to handle the death of a partner. Who should you contact first? What’s the most suitable way to inform your staff? Do you post on the website?

While a partner’s passing may be unexpected, you do not have to be unprepared. Handling sensitive issues is easier with a plan; if you develop a general protocol for these situations, the process will be smoother for your firm and the family. You can balance business needs with empathy and emotional intelligence.

We talked to Courtney Fadler, founder of Courtney Fadler Etiquette. Fadler, a graduate of the Emily Post Institute, stressed the  importance of offering condolences to all parties and keeping sentiments focused on the partner’s life and accomplishments. Fadler teaches the three etiquette principles of consideration, respect and honesty.

Here’s how to apply those principles to the passing of a partner:

  • Work with the family. Fadler says the first point of contact should always be the family of the deceased. The family may wish for privacy, and it is important to know that before communicating a partner’s death to your staff. The family may have specific wishes on where flowers, notes and charitable donations may be sent, and they may not wish to have meals delivered to their home. Remember: They are grieving. Be mindful of putting too much pressure on the family. It is often more helpful to say “We are thinking of doing such-and-such, is that OK?” versus “How can we help?” Don’t put it on them to develop your plan. Be tactful when asking permission to inform staff, clients and the public of a partner’s passing.
  • Tell your staff as soon as appropriate. Once you have received approval from the family, communicate the partner’s death to other partners and leadership first to discuss the best course of action for your firm. Be efficient in your execution of strategy. Do not let your staff find out in the newspaper or through gossip channels. Give them some time and space to mourn.
  • Contact clients, too. Make a practical effort to call the decedent’s clients, when possible instead of email. Let them know the new contact at the firm and offer some reassurance.
  • Post the news on your website and social channels. Once staff and clients know – and with the blessing of the family – make a tasteful announcement on social media. Consider adding a remembrance page on your website’s news section. Don’t immediately erase the deceased; add an In Memoriam header to the partner’s online biography. Fadler says it’s best to have the partner’s email automatically forwarded to someone who can personally respond to each email, whether by phone, email or in person. Make sure your receptionist knows how to direct calls, too.
  • Remember your colleague. Consider memorializing the individual with a dedicated conference room or internal award. (Again, be sure to get the blessing of the family.) We know one firm that named its annual office putt-putt event after a deceased partner who used to organize it; the firm invites his widow and toasts his memory each year. It is a genuine, heartfelt commemoration.

“In these delicate and sometimes unexpected situations, it’s important to make every decision based on consideration for the family and those closest to the deceased,” Fadler said. “If so, you are probably making great etiquette decisions that will help honor the deceased and be comfortable for all involved.”

Thrive in 2018: Ten Marketing Resolutions for Lawyers

The most popular New Year’s resolution in the United States? To get fit and healthy, according to Nielsen data.

A laudable goal, of course, but as purveyors of Enlightened Legal Marketing, we counsel you to think about the health of your practice, too. Purposeful client development is about more than billable hours – it should provide stronger client relationships, more stability of income and more enjoyable work. No offense to six-pack abs, but those are some resolutions worth fighting for.

Our 10 legal marketing resolutions for 2018:

  1. Think about what’s next. Get curious about how the legal profession is changing – and where your place might be in the new reality. One good place to start: The Future of the Professions by Richard and Daniel Susskind. Calibrate Legal’s Jennifer Johnson Scalzi reviewed the book; as she wrote, “If the Susskinds are correct, the entire social rationale for the professions’ existence is disappearing – and their role as stewards of the world’s expert knowledge will inevitably be superseded.” That certainly merits consideration. We’d also recommend following “Today in Legal Artificial Intelligence,” a daily roundup compiled by Market Intelligence, and Robert Ambrogi’s Law Sites Blog. (And maybe a marathon of Battlestar Galactica.)
  2. Update your bio. More than 80 percent of in-house counsel use lawyer bios to research new providers. Is yours up to snuff? Review our guide in Forbes, “Beware the Seven Deadly Sins of Attorney Bios.
  3. Manage your online reputation. After you have updated your bio, look at your online presence as a whole. Attorney at Work provides simple tips for monitoring your name, maximizing your Google results, addressing negative reviews and maintaining at least a little privacy.
  4. Talk to your clients. Law firm clients who are asked for feedback are reported to be more satisfied, more likely to recommend their firms and less likely to switch. If you do no other marketing activity in 2018, do this one. Experts from the Legal Marketing Association share some thoughts for getting started.
  5. Make a plan. You will be 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down, according to research from Dominican University. There’s a great worksheet to get you started here. If you are an associate and need some ideas for where to begin, check out The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist.
  6. Execute your plan. Consider some tested methods for following through on resolutions – tell a friend, build in some rewards. Make business development a habit. (A friend says “Spend as much time building your business as you do brushing your teeth.”)
  7. Connect with your next generation of clients. In 2018, members of Generation Y will be 23 to 38 years old. They will purchase more legal services – both on the corporate side, as they ascend within organizations and start their own companies, and on the personal side, as they find new needs for estate planning and family law. How can your firm appeal to Millennial tastes? The Lawyerist lists “What Millennials Want From Their Lawyers.” Interactive websites and fixed fees top the list.
  8. Get clarity on your brand. We don’t mean your logo – we mean your firm identity. Who are you? What do you stand for? If you’re not sure – or if each attorney at your firm would have a different answer – consider a positioning exercise like Firesign’s Firm Foundation, which can brand your firm in two weeks.
  9. Mind your network. “It’s not what you know, it’s who knows what you know,” as Kelly Hoey professes in Build Your Dream Network. (Read the book, or at least this crib sheet.) Indeed, your network will be your No. 1 source of referrals, new work, new hires and job opportunities. Build and cultivate your network with purpose (and good manners and honest dealing).
  10. Call a timeout. Go on vacation; take that sabbatical. Harvard Business Review credits extended time away from the office with a decline in stress and stronger overall well-being. With the help of a lawyer/touring rock musician, we provide some advice for going on the road.

If your firm looks to attract, win or retain more clients in 2018, we would love to help. Contact us today. 

How to Rock Your Sabbatical

Josh Luttrell is a litigator at Tenopir & Huerter in Topeka, Kan. And for six weeks this autumn, he was the keyboard player for an electro-industrial rock band.

Luttrell had developed a friendship with En Esch, the German musician behind KMFDM, Pigface and other bands. He went to see him in concert in Kansas City in September, and the two reacquainted after the show. A few weeks later, En Esch asked Luttrell to play keyboards on a North American tour with Lords of Acid, Combichrist and Christian Death.

“I initially said thanks, but there’s no way,” said Luttrell, whose practice includes criminal defense and family law. “I told my wife, and she insisted that I do it. I figured out the logistics, went to my boss and asked if I could take six weeks off. He said you only live once.”

It may be an unconventional sabbatical, but upon his return Luttrell reported many of the benefits Harvard Business Review attributes to extended time away from the office: a decline in stress, an increase in psychological resources and stronger overall well-being.

“Employers should recognize the practice of law is demanding,” he said. “If you give attorneys a reprieve, they can bring something back that will benefit the firm.”

Harvard Business School agrees; in the studies it shares on sabbaticals, they are found to benefit not only the individual who takes them, but the organization as a whole. Sabbaticals help law firms by maintaining lawyers’ creativity and resilience, but they also provide opportunities for the colleagues to fill in, and serve as a “stress test” for the organizational chart – a meaningful reality check for succession planning.

Sabbatical programs can thrive at law firms of all sizes. Perkins Coie LLP has more than 1,000 attorneys and offers a two-month sabbatical to employees with 10 to 13 years of service. (It’s one reason the firm has been ranked among Fortune’s 100 “Best Companies to Work For.”) Meanwhile, at Hutchinson Black and Cook, LLC, a 25-lawyer firm in Colorado, partners are eligible for a full year off, at full pay, after 10 years of employment and every seventh year thereafter, according to Legal Management magazine.

“The reality is that sabbaticals are a fantastic chance to introduce clients to other attorneys in the firm,” a Hutchinson Black and Cook administrator told Legal Management. “I’ve witnessed this time and time again: attorneys come back and they just look younger – physically. It takes years off their aging.”

Whether your sabbatical is part of a formal firm program or, like Luttrell’s, a serendipity seized, manage it mindfully to make the most of it. The career site The Muse offers several tips:

Get settled. Establish your home base, and start some routines to keep you grounded – specific times for exercise, checking your email, et cetera. As The Muse notes, “Keeping certain tasks consistent can help you stay focused and efficient and establishing some familiarity can help lessen the shock of such a big change.”

Luttrell’s schedule was completely inverted – he would play concerts almost every night, then sleep on the tour bus during the day. He developed a rhythm of communication with the associates who were staffing his cases; they often touched base through text.

Get out of your comfort zone. Learn something new; try new food. Cultivate your curiosity, and remember that your sabbatical is your time for adventure, not the same old-same old.

Luttrell’s adventure took him coast to coast. In six weeks, the band traveled by bus to Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and New Mexico. (The one constant: Burger King.)

Manage your time. At some point, the sabbatical life may start to feel like your new grind – what once was your favorite thing about a new place can become a frustration. (See: Burger King.)

Luttrell said he was surprised by the amount of work involved in the tour. “I always assumed it’s fun all the time. But you sleep, you get there, you unload, you set up, you play. It’s exhausting.”

Be proactive with your calendar; schedule things that excite you.

Document the journey. Share what you’re learning on social media. (Luttrell shared his photos on Facebook.) This is fun for your friends and family, but it also preserves it so you can meditate on it when you get home.

Recognize the experiences that are relevant to your career. Great advice from The Muse: “Try to identify experiences that utilize your skills, help you master new ones, and offer something unique to future [clients and prospects].”

Luttrell said it was “pretty handy” to have an attorney on tour: “There were contract issues with venues. There were certain times you had to deal with authorities or give advice to people; being an attorney helped.” He is considering building a niche practice on bands’ tour issues.

Return home and keep exploring. Have a purposeful plan for reintegration – catching up on correspondence, getting back into the rhythm of your legal practice, reconnecting with your friends and colleagues. Think about how to foster new contacts and skills.

“People want to work with each other again –a lot of connections are made, and a lot of conversations about what’s going to come next,” Luttrell said. “In life, it’s good to be able to go try and experience things like that. I wouldn’t say I necessarily came to my practice different, but I’m inspired to expand and take advantage of connections to do something different.”

Concert footage from Luttrell’s tour via YouTube; he is the keyboard player on the right of En Esch.

Money Talks, Part 2: The Client Perspective on Legal Budgets

The fourth quarter brings Halloween, Thanksgiving….and budget talks. In a recent survey, 72 percent of in-house counsel said they faced increased pressure to better manage legal spend; lawyers who want to keep their business must help with this task.

In Part 1, we spoke with Lizzy Duffy, a client feedback and research specialist, for tips on how lawyers can initiate constructive budget conversations. Now it’s time for the client’s perspective, courtesy of Todd Silberman, the president of General Counsel Mediations. Todd has nearly 20 years of in-house experience and has held leadership positions within the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Small Law Department Committee. His take: “Don’t put it off.”

What do you wish outside counsel knew about the business budgeting process?

Silberman: We report to someone – or several someones….and budgeting for matters can be as quick as an email or as long as waiting until all stakeholders are in the same room, focused, and actively discussing….so give as much advance notice as possible. And yes, we do continue to look at the budget compared to where the matter is currently pending.

What kind of friction exists between legal departments (which have to submit formal business budgets by 4Q, typically) and law firms (which push through rate increases in 1Q)?

Silberman: It depends on the level of partnership between the two. I always try to have a high level of trust and appreciation going both ways in partnerships with law firms. In fact, I have no problem advising a partner when their rates are low and need to be increased. Of course, that conversation is usually simpler than the opposite when advising a partner firm that their rates are not within the range of national/regional counsel in a particular area of expertise.

In a perfect world, how would law firms and legal departments work together on this important business process?

Silberman: In my world, we sit down, ideally in the same location but at least on the telephone, and discuss ALL aspects of the relationships, including budgeting. I always want this to be done at the beginning of a relationship and each matter so there is no miscommunication from the outset.

What should law firms know/recognize/do about the in-house counsel budgeting process?

Silberman: Give advance notice. Advise about any expected or actual major changes immediately – and periodically review the proposed and actual budgets with us to ensure we continue to be on the same page in terms of dollars spent as well as those to be spent going forward.

What’s your advice for how a proactive lawyer can initiate a healthy and productive budget discussion?

Silberman: Open and frank conversations with the client representative. Don’t put it off. We understand your business and hope you understand ours, as well as the goals, which may vary matter to matter. Continue to have the conversations with us as the situation/facts change so we and our stakeholders are not caught by surprise – and do not change your opinion mid-case or at the end of the case, without significant fact changes. Nothing makes us more frustrated.

Firesign Wins Public Relations Award

Eight months after launch, Firesign earned our first PRISM Award, recognition for outstanding work in public relations. The PRISMs are presented by the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America; the 2017 awards were announced at a gala October 12 at the Uptown Theater.

Firesign won top honors in the category of editorial writing for founder Katie Hollar Barnard’s article, “Beware the Seven Deadly Sins of Attorney Bios,” which appeared in Forbes in March 2017.

A full list of PRISM winners is available here.

Photo credit: Jake Jacobson

Money Talks: How to Discuss Budgets With Your Clients

More than 70 percent of companies use the calendar year as their fiscal year, according to Audit Analytics. That means that right now – in the third quarter – your clients are budgeting for 2018. But sadly, there’s a traditional disconnect between companies and their law firms, many of whom won’t communicate about their rates until the new year….long after business budgets are finalized.

Savvy lawyers should talk to their clients during the budget process. It’s an opportunity to learn about your client’s goals and pressures, and to show that you are a true business partner. How do you do it? We visited with Elizabeth Duffy, vice president of Acritas Inc., a leader in client feedback and the force behind Sharplegal, the most comprehensive annual study of the global legal market.

In your feedback discussions and legal department research, what pain points do you hear about the annual budget process?

Duffy: In our annual general counsel survey, Sharplegal, we found that in 2016, 76 percent of general counsel are setting an annual budget. Of that number, 29 percent exceeded their budget.

In our interviews with general counsel each year, the topic of budget, cost and fees come up regularly. Where general counsel are spending more than they would in a typical year, two-thirds attribute the overspend to the unanticipated complexity of work (deals and litigation both responsible).

While it may be impossible to perfectly predict the path that a dispute may take (and therefore the ultimate cost to the client), by taking steps to help the client manage internal expectations and plan ahead for increased legal fees, the pain of the final bill will be much reduced.

We are also hearing frequently that clients are under pressure to reduce their legal spend each year too – additional pressure to protect the organization from risk on an ever-reducing budget.

What kind of friction exists between corporate legal departments (which have to submit formal business budgets by 4Q, typically) and law firms (which push through rate increases in 1Q)?

Duffy: We hear most often that clients don’t like surprises. It is important to remember that general counsel have to report to the CFO and their boards on at least a quarterly basis. While they understand that sometimes the unexpected may occur, they need to be able to get out in front of anticipated overspend and communicate early and effectively to their business partners:

  • “Everybody has individual objectives and goals based their assigned tasks.  Mine, for instance, would be the litigation that I manage, making sure it comes in under budget whenever possible. That’s not always possible, but [I can] provide guidance to subordinates, provide timely responses to the business leads who rely on us internally, things like that.”

The earlier that general counsel learn about an anticipated overspend, the better that they are able to offset the increased fees for a litigation matter that overran by pulling back on spend in other areas:

  • “There has been a cost overrun for patent litigation because we have spent over the budget, but then we compensated by reduced costs on other items; therefore, it has actually been neutral.”

In a perfect world, how would law firms and legal departments work together on this important business process?

Duffy: Law firms should be giving transparent access to all their matter bills so that a client can review at any point how much things have cost in the past and where they on current matters. At budgeting time, relationship partners should sit down with their clients and have a holistic conversation about all areas of work they could be considered for – how can they help the client to drive more value and keep control of costs. This may take a few iterations and the general counsel should brief the firm on what they have planned for the year ahead.

What should law firms know/recognize/do about the in-house counsel budgeting process?

Duffy: Start with the simple step of speaking with clients proactively to find out when their budgeting process takes place.

What’s your advice for how a proactive lawyer can initiate a healthy and productive budget discussion?

Duffy: Ideally, this should be done in person.  General counsel are increasingly sophisticated and engaging with data to measure and manage their resources, so offer them some relevant benchmarking data (for example, Acritas) to help them see if they are in line.

Save Time, Win More: Implement an RFP Checklist

A Request for Proposal can be an opportunity for new or expanded work – or it can be a waste of time for an incompatible or unprofitable client. Indeed, when it comes to RFPs, we side with BTI Consulting’s Mad Clientist: Not every opportunity is created equal.

Law firms should have “clear and decisive criteria” that helps them decide which RFPs to complete (and which to delete), says our dear Mad Clientist. A long-held best practice of other professional services firms (accounting, financial services and others), an RFP Go/No Go checklist can help generate more business, develop more long-term relationships and drive improved performance.

But how do you get started?

We visited with Elisabeth Megli, principal of Theme: Strategic Proposals, a certified proposal management professional who pioneered an RFP Go/No Go Checklist for an AmLaw 100 firm. She shared rationale and advice for implementing (and enforcing) firm criteria.

Why should a law firm make a formal process for RFP screening?

 Megli: Firms with a formal Go/No Go process more efficiently use their time and resources and will likely improve their RFP response success rate.

A Go/No Go process to evaluate RFP opportunities requires the recipients to mindfully evaluate the opportunity and potential value through questions developed by firm leadership. These questions should enable partners to make a decision more objectively, “Can they pay our rates and what competitive qualifications do we offer?” versus subjectively, “I want to respond to introduce our firm to a potential new client.”

All law firms can benefit from creating and adhering to a process for responding to RFPs. Establishing a Go/No Go process is the first step in developing a culture that creates, follows and benefits from proposal and project processes.

What’s the harm in doing every RFP that comes by? (“Can’t win if you don’t play, right?”)

 Megli: Pursuits are costly. Time is valuable. Relationships grow better with human-to-human connections than wordy paper submittals.

I recommend taking a more candid approach. Picking up the phone and explaining to an existing or potential client you are not well-suited to this RFP’s particular scope of work, but do have other capabilities and lawyers that can help their business, is more likely to open the door for an in-person meeting. An in-person meeting to introduce a practice’s capabilities is a much better environment for introductions and organic sales. Submitting RFPs as a way to get your firm’s information in front of a potential new client for the first time is harmful to your reputation and the firm’s profitability.

How do you get started outlining a Go/No Go process?

 Megli: I have three recommendations:

  1. Use available resources. Check out this sample form provided by the Society of Marketing Professional Services. Shipley Associates regularly offers free webinars on best practices for pursuit and RFP processes and strategies.
  2. Begin with a conversation between firm leadership, frequent RFP recipients, and the administrative/marketing professionals involved in RFP responses. Plan to create a form or questionnaire and simple process for evaluating RFPs. If you don’t have the necessary internal resources, hire someone who has familiarity and experience with proposal best practices. Ask around and see if other firms have already established a Go/No Go process and can share some suggestions. They may even share their process or questions with you.
  3. Begin drafting your firm’s checklist by identifying the key factors you want to evaluate. This could be any combination of several factors – client familiarity and experience, project scope and relevant capabilities, profitability and required resources, client’s decision-making process and knowledge of decision-makers, the strength of your strategy, whether the cost to respond and maintain the relationship exceeds the value of the work.

A few strategic questions to consider:

  • Who is the competition?
  • Is our experience stronger than our competitors?
  • Does our experience match the client’s needs and expectations?
  • Can we claim some experience, strength or tool that our competitors cannot?

On the checklist, do you advocate an objective (points/criteria) or a subjective approach?

Megli: I advocate an objective approach. For example, a firm that has three options for each criterion can assign a points value to a multiple-choice answer. This eliminates impassioned pleas or demands to “respond to introduce ourselves.” Responding to an RFP to simply serve as an introduction to your firm when you’re not positioned to win will likely do more damage than good. An objective approach draws a line where no line previously existed. There will be growing pains as leadership makes tough decisions when a “no-go” decision is made, but establishing boundaries will help your firm to grow strategically, not haphazardly.

Once a checklist is in place, how do you evaluate success?

Megli: Do a six-month check-in: Is the process consistently used? Has it eliminated pain points for lawyers, business development teams and firm leadership? Does the team feel the dollars spent were wisely invested? Has your rate of success improved?

A telling factor is to compare your win rate before and after the process is implemented. If you are vetting each opportunity, collecting the right information, and implementing a strategic proposal plan, you should end up with stronger proposal responses and a higher win rate.

Modern Media Tips: Working with Reporters in the 24-Hour News Cycle

Every interaction with the media is an opportunity to showcase your work and expertise. And in the age of Google, when stories live forever, every article can build or bust your personal brand.

It’s critical for attorneys to know how to work with reporters effectively and respectfully. This becomes harder as in-person interviews become less frequent; the 24-hour news cycle keeps reporters on constant deadline.

How do you make your interviews productive and successful? We provided some insight for Forbes on the modern rules of media engagement (full story here).

One major takeaway: Have some empathy.

Reporters are now expected to do far more with fewer resources … [In] a survey conducted by Indiana University, 62.6% say their organization’s workforce has shrunk. Only 23.3% of journalists report being “very satisfied” with their careers, down 10% from 10 years earlier.

“Journalists today are asked to do five times more than they did 10 years ago,” said Aarti Maharaj, director of communications and executive editor of Ethisphere. “Today, rather than investigating a story, conducting interviews and writing for the morning paper, they are asked to write one story for the paper, two for the website and also do a video report.

“Their time is precious, so interviewees should exercise courtesy by being mindful.”

And as always, be prepared, be prompt and be ethical.