Toby Brown posted a compelling (and slightly hypothetical) letter from a law firm to a client. You should read it at the link in the prior sentence. The “tl;dr” short summary: we get you want speed, quality and low cost; unless you’re OK with two out of three, we need to talk.”
When I was a general counsel, I didn’t receive a letter like this. Maybe it would have helped. I did have a number of discussions with outside counsel that proceeded along those lines. So since I didn’t have a chance to respond to a letter that was never sent, I thought, with Mr. Brown’s understanding, I’d respond here.
Dear Waiting for More Guidance:
I am in receipt of your letter dated November 19, 2012. I appreciate your candor and willingness to reach out and get further insight into what MegaCorp expects from its outside counsel.
As far as your choice of less hours or cheaper hours, we’ll take both if possible. Some of our other firms are doing this, and are getting there by integrating technology when warranted. Of course, We don’t want to tell you how to run your business. But the competition we are facing in ours forces us to ask.
I agree with your point that most law firms think they are already efficient. I fell out of my chair laughing, but I agree.
You may be right that some firms are confused by this state of affairs. As far as you wondering whether others are “ignorant of our needs,” that’s something we wrestle with every day.
You conclude your helpful letter with this: “as a favor to your firms, be a bit more specific about what it is you want exactly the next time you ask for more efficiency.” We should do this, and we should start right now.
So tomorrow your firm, as our primary outside counsel, and nine other similar law firms (I think these would be the “ignorant” ones you mentioned) will receive a Request for Proposal to perform all the work (a) your firm currently handles for us and (b) the work I was just about to refer to you today before I received your letter.
I am attaching your letter as an exhibit to the RFP, and am asking for guidance on those issues from the recipients. It will be extra credit added to our final ranking. Since you do not have anything else to add on those issues at this time, your firm should not complete that portion of the RFP.
Thank you for your thought-provoking letter, it really helped us get going on an RFP process that we have been kicking around internally for the last year.
Very truly yours,
I’ve always wanted to respond to a “Dear John” letter.