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99: You Can’t Win if You Don’t Play with John de Forte

Legal Tender Strategy

Our guest on podcast episode 99, John de Forte has been advising law firms and other professional services organizations around proposals for over 30 years. He authored ‘Winning Proposals the Essential Guide for Law Firms and Legal Service Providers’ in 2017.

Legal Purchasing

We begin our conversation talking about the growth and influence of professional purchasing within in-house legal.  Not yet the final decision makers these professionals are influencing the process and are focused on getting value for money spent while creating a more objective buying process.


In today’s environment, legal providers should be focused on presenting themselves in the most objective way possible connecting work product to value.  Clients are looking for assistance in the management of legal resources and overall legal spend, gone are the days that the role of the law firm is solely technical relative to the law.

Outcomes and Continuous Improvement

In-house legal is also looking at outcomes and what each partner has achieved specific to outcomes and the benefits of the result. Purchasing and in-house legal are looking for continuous improvement; and an increase in quantifiable value over time. Law firm partners are tasked with providing the data and cost breakdown to assist in evaluating value.


Retendering efforts for the next contract cycle should start the day after the initial contract takes effects.  Start with tracking achievements and implementing an independent review two years in advance of a contract renewal to access client satisfaction, and to surface issues to be corrected. This will be helpful in reiterating the positive things that have happened within an account over the life of the contract. Planning early is the best way to make the most of the natural advantages of having a current contract.


The general feeling among professional services organizations specific to bidding is opportunistic. Implementing a qualification process and being more selective increases win rates and reduces opportunity cost.  Successful deal qualification should include positive responses in four areas:

Strategically, is this a sector we have a focus on and are committed to. Can we be successful?

Tactically, is there an existing relationship and do we have access to decisions makers during the tender. Without access or a relationship, your ability to develop a relationship is greatly reduced.

Logistically, do you have the resources to complete the tender well and would there be an opportunity cost specific to other tenders?

Commercially, would this be a profitable business?   Is there an opportunity cost of doing the tender that will jeopardize other more qualified deals.

Bid Strategy

First, develop as detailed an understanding as you can about the organization and the key players in the organization. Your tender is only as good as the evidence in support of the client’s specific requirements. It’s important to understand how the reviewer will be ‘seeing’ your submission.

Second, you need access to intelligence, having a relationship or the ability to develop a relationship during the bid process is important to understanding priorities which are not clear from the tender document.

Third, avoid the trap of looking at a tender as an exercise in compliance. It’s not about filling it out the questions and going through the exercise before a deadline, it’s about getting ahead of the competition. What is the client trying to achieve and how can we assist them. It’s not about capabilities alone.


The primary purpose of oral presentations is to establish rapport. Don’t make the mistake of using a script instead change your mindset and think structure.  Know what you want to convey and what will be effective.  Strip away any barrier that could exist between you and your audience by showing them you’re in charge of the subject, that you have authority.


Whether in a tender or an oral presentation it’s important to present information that can be supported by evidence.  Often tender documents contain phrases that are not verifiable. Put yourself in the position of the evaluator who has to pass a value judgment, don’t say anything you can’t prove or verify. Verify your position or the point has no value.


John de Forte has been advising law firms and other professional services organizations for over 30 years. He is the author of two books that highlight his experience with proposals. One he authored during 2017. ‘Winning Proposals the Essential Guide for Law Firms and Legal Service providers’. John de Forte Bio