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Incumbents: Love ‘Em or list ‘Em?

So how do you feel about your law firm incumbents? Do you love ‘em? Or need to list ‘em? The answer: most definitely yes!

We Love Our Incumbents

There are many reasons to love one’s incumbents. These relationships can run deep. Maybe your lawyer is a dear friend from back in the day. Or, maybe your lawyer has become a dear friend because you’ve partnered together for years. Maybe you officed next to your lawyer when you were in private practice. All are meaningful—it is human nature to want to work with people you know and like. Beyond your personal relationship with your incumbent, his or her institutional knowledge is material. A firm’s knowing of your company’s issues and issue resolution over time is helpful. Your current firms also understand the way you work, what tasks you typically handle in-house and know how to separate your wheat from the chaff. All told, the combination of these factors makes it easy to stick with an incumbent.

We Need to List ‘Em

There are some obvious times when “listing” your incumbent makes sense. Is the relationship partner retiring? Was that partner your true connection to the firm? Has the firm become complacent? Has client service taken a hit? Does the firm seem to count on your business but is no longer being the proactive counsel that you need? Do they provide any value-added services? If you are no longer feeling like you are getting the attention or service you deserve, it is time for a competitive process.

Do We Love ‘em or List ‘em?

If you have not checked the marketplace in about five years, it is also time to check-in on your relationships. After working with a firm for a while, you may not realize that you are overpaying or being underserved. For example, a Fortune 500 client had not refreshed its immigration counsel in about 10 years. As a part of a panel update, this client ran a competitive process and invited ten firms to participate. Shockingly, their incumbent, who they liked, ended up being the most expensive. How could this be? Well, the client’s domestic business had changed over time and was now spanning the globe. This client really needed a firm with a global footprint to service its immigration portfolio. This RFP illuminated that they had been overpaying to have their long-standing incumbent, a regional firm, handle the work.

Have you run a competitive process in the past five years? If not, the time is now. Your needs may be evolving. It may be that you are overpaying for your work. Questions on how to start the process? BanyanRFP is happy to help.I

Kathy Heafey is the President of BanyanRFP, a consultancy fueled by a cloud-based platform that together make running RFPs to hire outside counsel painless. Prior to leading BanyanRFP, Kathy enjoyed over 20 years in management roles, most recently on margin management and continuous improvement initiatives that enabled $20MM in annual cost savings. She is now helping in-house legal teams save millions of dollars as they find best-fit counsel for their legal work.

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