There is a new approach to buying legal services and the new way forward is the mission

of the Buying Legal® Council.

Dec 6 - 6 min read

    The Key to Winning Proposals

    How to get a leg up on the competition, an interview with John de Forte.

    Do you want an advantage to winning proposals? We believe you will have an advantage, if you familiarize yourself with John de Forte's book, appropriately titled, Winning Proposals.

    Submitting proposals is a stressful process, so John has clarified and simplified with content that is organized as a reference volume with detailed examples and checklists. Yes, checklists, and who doesn't love checklists!

    One key factor to success, is understanding the client. Click here to get a free checklist from John's book, to help you better understand the client.

    But that's not all.

    We've asked John a few questions to elaborate on the current procurement environment. John specializes in advising firms on winning new work, strengthening relationships with clients and communicating effectively with stakeholders.

    Buying Legal® Council interviews John de Forte, author of Winning Proposals – The Essential Guide for Law Firms and Legal services Providers.

    BLC: How has the procurement environment changed for law firms in recent years?

    JdF: “The Buying Legal Council has been closely involved in highlighting the changes. For example, your survey of major companies in 2016 showed that the procurement function was influencing 40 per cent of spending on external law firms – up from ten per cent a few years previously.

    “ ‘Influencing’ does not usually mean making the final decision, of course – the survey indicated that that applied in only 13% of cases. But most agree that as the role matures, the percentage will continue to increase. Whether or not procurement teams are involved in the final decision, they are helping to ‘make the weather’ in the selection process. No firm can afford to ignore them if it wants to perform well in tenders.

    BLC: How does the procurement department’s perspective differ from that of general counsel or other users of external legal services? How is this affecting tendering processes?

    JdF: “Law firms may be forgiven if they are sometimes a little cynical about the role of procurement - “they’re just about hammering us down on price”. Well, it’s true that procurement departments are expected to help ensure that the client gets good value for money.

    “But their role is wider than that. The growth of procurement reflects a recognition on the part of corporations and other organisations of the need to professionalise the buying process. That includes attempting to develop more objective means of assessing prospective suppliers, and subjecting them to more formal appraisal methods.

    “Similarly, it implies acceptance of the idea that the users of a service are not always, or not wholly, the best people to decide which supplier should be chosen. For example, for many years now many clients have streamlined their panels. They have done this on the basis that the organisation will receive both greater value and better advice by partnering with a small number of strategic suppliers – rather than leaving service users to make their own ad hoc decisions about which firms to hire.

    “All this has had a big impact on the way that tenders are conducted, as most business development specialists involved in the field will testify. The process has become more formal and apparently further removed from the decision makers. Again, the cynics might call it bureaucratic. But the motive behind these more rigorous processes is not to eliminate the role that subjective factors such as relationships play in choosing advisers, but to complement them with broader criteria.

    “The interesting thing though is that when those involved in buying external legal services are asked about the attributes they rate most highly in external providers, there is no significant difference between procurement, C Suite and in-house legal buyers.

    BLC: What then are the attributes that are most important?

    JdF: “Proposal debriefs and a variety of evidence from other sources indicates that understanding the client’s business, and having the ability to give advice which takes into account the organisation’s objectives and circumstances, rate most highly among all audiences.

    This is supported by the Beaton annual study of 3,000-4,000 buyers. This shows that of the five factors considered to be the most important in determining the final purchasing decision, ‘understanding the client’s business’ was decisively ranked first (39%), well ahead of legal expertise (30%). The other three top factors were commerciality of advice, responsiveness and price. The latter was fifth.

    BLC: What do bidders therefore need to do to achieve the best scores in the tender evaluation?

    Clearly, demonstrating a good understanding of the client and its objectives are critical. so firms need to do their research. They also need to be methodical in making best use of what they already know. Particularly when it comes to the more highly weighted questions, bidders have to be disciplined about the way they put together their answers.

    A tender response is not like a brochure or website - a bit of free advertising for the firm. Unfortunately, many documents read as if they were. The answers must be as tailored as possible and should show the firm understands the issues that are most important to the prospective client.

    Showing you understand the organisation, however, is not an end in itself or enough on its own. In connection with any given issue, where possible the bidder should also put forward an approach or solution which reflects the organisation’s objectives or concerns. A technical solution also needs to be translated into a benefit – an articulation of how the client will gain from the proposed approach or solution. Only then should the firm talk about itself - why it is well qualified to carry out the solution, its track record, or other evidence that shows it is capable of delivering.

    “These have always been the essential elements in putting forward a persuasive case for being entrusted with the client’s instruction. So, it’s fair to say that while the process of selecting legal services providers has certainly changed, the factors which are often critical in determining the outcome are perennial.”

    Procurement Activities throughout the Year

    What is the typical ebb and flow during one year of legal procurement professional?

    When is the best time to do extra reporting to identify issues? Or the bet time to make improvements? What types of activities have consistent intensity throughout the year?

    Procurement teams across various industries operate according to an annual rhythm. Legal procurement takes on a cadence of its own.

    Listen to the Buying Legal® Council's interview with legal procurement expert Magen McClintock.

    Members can click here for the graphic.


    Deadline is Friday December 7th!

    Are you interested in sharing expertise, real-world strategies and knowledge with other creative professionals? Are you experienced and comfortable speaking in from of a large group of buyers and sellers of legal services? If so, apply today! We are looking for speakers to partner with us to deliver the best possible experience for the audience. If that is you, then we want to hear from you. Please click here for more information.


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    Books make great gifts!

    John de Forte's Winning Proposals is a gift that keeps on giving.

    It provides insight into how clients can best manage the bid function, how to establish rules for responding to opportunities, and guides readers through the initial fact-finding and intelligence phase to developing the bid strategy, preparing the submission and presentation.

    The content is organized as a reference volume with detailed examples and checklists 

    Where do you start to consolidate cost? Improve efficiencies? Increase predictability? Monitor budgeting to get the right firms for the right matters at the right price? The Legal Procurement Handbook has answers.

    The Legal Procurement Handbook was published by the Buying Legal Council®, edited by Dr. Silvia Hodges Silverstein with forewords by Prof. Stephen Mayson & Tom Sager. It includes 27 articles by 27 legal procurement experts.


    We regularly hold members-only calls for buyers of legal services. Our calls focus on practical information and solutions. We cover issues you face in your daily work, best practices, and the latest trends in buying legal services.

    Our next call is Wed, December 12, 2018 | Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability for legal services with Pamela Cone (Milliman)


    Intellectual Property (IP) and its associated costs is complex, multi-tiered and as noted below, expensive. As we are always thinking about you and how we can support you, we've asked the IP experts at Brandstock to shed some light on what organizations can do to control costs and prevent imperilment. Please click here to access the IP Portfolio Cost Management Primer.


    Check out Jason Winmill's (of legal management consultancy Argopoint LLC) practical, effective approach to navigate the challenges of benchmarking. To access the largest repository on Legal Procurement, please go to For specific information on legal services benchmarking go to


    NEW! Legal Budgeting and Pricing Manager (Goldberg Segagalla), Senior Manager - Category Lead, Legal Services (Johnson & Johnson) For a detailed description of each, head on over to our Careers page.

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