Two Keys to a Respectful RFP

What would you want if you were on the receiving end of an RFP?  You would likely have a couple simple requests.  Experience shows that a respectful RFP, at its core, has two key elements:  honest communication and clear instructions.

Honest Communication

From pre-launch through firm-selection and final communication to the participants, honest communication is a must.

  • At the outset, it is absolutely fair to say to your firms, “I appreciate our relationship and know you would do a good job on this matter, but we need to see what the market will bear for our work.”
  • It goes without saying that is good form to invite firms that you would genuinely consider selecting. However, it is also completely within bounds to invite a firm that you are willing to give a shot, but aren’t as familiar with its work. It may be that you have been using national firms, but want to explore the possibility of a regional firm. Or you may have a go-to firm for your M&A work, but haven’t used them for IP litigation. It would be fair to invite them, but disclose that there are others in the process that have represented you previously in litigation and you are biased to hiring one of those firms.
  • Be clear about how the process will wrap. It is helpful to the firms to know when will you make a decision and how will you communicate out the resolution. Should they be expecting a call? An email? Will there be additional steps for finalists (e.g. In-person interviews, additional qualitative questions, etc.)?
  • Lastly, it’s a best practice to contact all the firms who responded and thank them for their efforts. If you have the time, it is helpful to offer the opportunity for the firms to connect with you to understand what they would have needed to do to win the business.

Clear Instructions

The smoothest processes are those in which the firms have a clear understanding of the matter and a clear understanding of your needs.

  • Be sure to provide sufficient background information on the matter. It will help each firm better tailor its response and it will also spare you lots of questions from the participants about the content of the matter.
  • Be clear and specific about the nature and scope of the work. The more thoughtful you can be in the construction of the RFP, the better responses you will receive. It is easy to ask for a lot of information, but better to be clear and concise. It’s not productive to put the firms through unnecessary paces of pulling together reams of data, nor is it efficient to have reams of data to sift through when it comes time to select a firm for your matter. You should feel comfortable asking for exactly what you need to make your decision and nothing more.

About the author – Kathy Heafey is President of BanyanRFP, a cloud-based RFP platform that helps companies control spend on legal services. She has over 20 years of management experience working with large brands such as Pillsbury, Green Giant and Progresso Soup.   A proven leader in Cost Management and Continuous Improvement, she enabled over $20MM in annual cost-savings for General Mills.  As both a consumer of professional services and a key partner with strategic sourcing at General Mills, she has a deep understanding of professional services procurement.  For more information, visit

Back to top