Law departments deserve information from prospective law firms and service providers and have a right to ask them probing questions. Nevertheless, having reviewed several RFPs lately, I object to several questions. The following questions, modified only slightly, are blatantly intrusive and unfair. Even procurement managers should blush.
- Whom do you regard as your major competitors?
- How do you compare your firm or company against your major competitors?
- What are your key strengths relative to theirs?
- What is the contact information for one client that has ceased to do business with you within the last two years?
- What are the attrition rates over the past two years among your employees who would be working on our matters?
If you put yourself in the shoes of the respondents, you may feel these questions in an RFP are over-reaching and unfair (see my post of March 30, 2008: RFP with 22 references). But what's more relevant is that you will most likely receive responses (if any at all) that are evasive, platitudinous and will not help you.
While questions such as these are rude and invasive, they're not irrelevant -- they even transcend the Legal market and could be useful to know of all suppliers. The focus here should not be on the questions per se but rather the information desired. And this is where the relationship factor is paramount -- Jason Busch juxtaposed supplier and personal relationships in a post last Friday about "trust". We can probe this sort of information once a relationship is established, just not in the context of an RFP.