Buying Legal Council - RFP Process for Managing and Sourcing Legal Matters

Jul 6, 2017 11:15:12 AM

Legal Procurement is unlike 99% of Procurement in other, non-legal industries. Lawyers (sell-side) and legal departments (buy-side) often have long standing relationships that are not easy to quantify or put into a scoring matrix. Legal issues can often be very niche and complex, requiring specialist or expert skill sets. These issues were at the forefront of my mind when I had the chance to listen to the recent Buying Legal Council call on unique processes for sourcing legal matters. The process the speaker has put into place is much like the one legal and IP departments are looking to achieve when they engage Yerra’s procurement experts. Hearing how this particular case has succeeded brought many of our own projects to mind.

One of Buying Legal Council’s members has called upon their vast experience to design a customised RFP bid template which has streamlined the process of going out to the market, receiving RFP bids and selecting firms. The process is now so efficient that RFPs are generally completed in 60 days, with over 30 RFPs being issued in the last 24 months. This is an impressive volume from a procurement team of only 3 members.

With so many RFP processes going on there is obviously an influx of vast amounts of data from law firms all around the world. It was very interesting to hear how the team stores this data and has created something of a knowledge bank. This was one of the key takeaways from the session – data is everything.

Often issuing an RFP can be avoided by drawing on the information from this knowledge bank, making recommendations to legal departments on which firms would satisfy the requirements/specifications they have for specific matters, allowing legal to directly approach the right firm for the job at hand. This information is also key in allowing the exclusion of firms at the issuing stage of the RFP due to known conflicts. Leveraging existing knowledge to drive greater efficiency is always a focus in our own procurement engagements with clients. It is very important to success in the long term.

It was impressive to hear just how integrated with the business the RFP process has become, the business is heavily involved in the decision-making process around when an RFP is necessary and the Procurement department appreciates input regarding special business needs, geographic considerations, unique legal issues requiring special legal expertise and the need for convergence in specific markets.

One of the most exciting parts of the discussion involved plans to fully automate the RFP process in the future leading to even greater efficiencies, saving a huge amount of time not only for the procurement team but also for legal teams. It will be exciting to see how these plans develop. Specifically, it will be interesting to hear how a system will deal with the more subjective parts of the RFP evaluation process, assessing the value of alternative fee arrangements and assessing the level of expertise a firm demonstrates. I’d love to attend a future discussion revisiting this topic once the automated system is up and running.

As demand for specialist legal procurement increases, the discussion was of particular interest to Yerra’s specialist legal procurement team who currently deal with all of the issues outlined above, offering advice to legal departments on managing their own RFP processes or, alternatively, running the complete front to back RFP process on their behalf in what is a complex and niche area of procurement. This is an area where we expect to see continual growth in the coming years. With advancements such as automation, and potentially leveraging AI,on the horizon, legal procurement is sure to be an exciting area to work in.