You’re new at the company and have been tasked with implementing Legal Ops solutions. Or, your department has had the same software for years, it’s dated, and you know there are better options available. Worse yet, your vendor is sunsetting your current software and charging you an exorbitant fee to upgrade. Whatever your motivation for searching, finding and implementing new or replacement software can be a daunting task. Starting your search with a strong RFP is a smart, tactical way to sift through vendors, cutting through the sales narrative and narrowing down your options to only the select few who most closely meet your requirements.

But how do you make sure your RFP returns enough accurate information and detail to make your selection, without becoming overly cumbersome? (Trust me, we’ve all seen those.)

First, recognize that most Legal Ops software vendors offer variations on the same features – eBilling, Matter Management, automated workflows, etc. Save those obvious questions for the demo. There you’ll be able to determine ease of use, flexibility, and aesthetics. The demo is also the time to ask very specific questions, for example: “show us your budget module in detail,” or, “show us how to ____” (and then observe how easy/difficult it is to navigate that feature.)

At this stage, what you really want to know is “What distinguishes your software from your competitors?” Seems an obvious inquiry to include, but many RFPs omit this question and then rely on the procurement officer to weed through all the responses to discover the differences on their own.

Ideally, your RFP should focus on the following[1]

  • Security – deal with this up front. If you have specific security requirements (ie. Multi-factor authentication, HIPPA, NIST, firewalls, SaaS v. on-site) identify those now and make sure the vendors can accommodate
  • Implementation – how long does it take for an implementation like yours; what is the vendor’s approach to implementation; what is expected of your company during the implementation
  • Customization – is customization of the software an option for you and how does that impact other issues addressed in the RFP
  • Service and Support – how do you get upgrades; is there any regularly scheduled downtime; how are issues addressed; what type of long-term support does the vendor offer; if you’re eBilling, how are your firms supported
  • Integrations – how many integrations has the vendor engaged in and with what other software; are there limits to the number of integrations or data transfers a client can have; what impact do the integration design and testing have on implementation; can the vendor also integrate with a home-grown system
  • Conversions – if you’re replacing a current system, find out if the vendor has done other conversions from your current platform. Ask for those references or case studies; how does the vendor handles historic data conversions; is converted data searchable and reportable; is there a limit on the size
  • Innovation/R&D – find out what is on the vendor’s roadmap; does the vendor have a customer advisory panel; can you suggest new features
  • Deal-breakers – if there’s a feature or condition that is an absolute-must-have, include it here and identify it as such

[1] You’ll have a few industry-specific questions, as well – “can you handle international currency?”, “how does your software manage complex litigation/mass tort?”, or, “what experience does your company have in the X industry?

Finally, in your RFP and accompanying materials, be willing to share information about your legal department, its size, number of users, matters, and invoices, and if possible, the projected volume upon which vendors can base their pricing proposals.  It’s often difficult for a software provider to gauge the size of the deal just by your company’s size; and the last thing anyone wants is to progress through the RFP, demonstration, and pricing discussions only to discover after months of attention that the deal is too large, too small, or too costly for either party.

Armed with these tools, you’ll get the data you need to make an informed decision and continue your search with confidence.

If you are ready to start your search, book a demo with Acuity!

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