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BanyanRFP is a cloud-based platform that simplifies the time-consuming Request for Proposal (RFP) process and enables corporate legal departments to make better decisions while selecting outside council. In this interview, Kathy Heafey, the president of BanyanRFP shares some insights about her organization’s humble beginning, its full-service approach, its unique value proposition, and its roadmap for the future.
How it all Began:
Dave Sampsell, the founder of BanyanRFP, was once an in-house lawyer for a telecom equipment manufacturer. Shortly after the turn of the century, that industry went through what can only be described as a severe depression.
Like most in-house lawyers, Dave was placed under intense pressure to reduce outside legal spend. He turned to RFPs. Although his manual RFPs yielded savings on legal fee rates, running them was tricky, and firms didn’t always follow instructions. Getting an apples-to-apples comparison was difficult and analyzing the proposals was challenging. If he wanted firms to improve their offers, there was no easy way to have a second round of bidding.
Frustrated with the inefficiency of the manual RFP process, Dave knew there had to be a better way. He looked for online solutions, but nothing existed that was geared exclusively toward the purchase of legal services. When his employer’s company was sold to a competitor, Dave decided it was time. He created BanyanRFP to provide an easier, more efficient, and effective way to run RFPs for legal services.
Challenges and Solutions to Address them:
Legal departments have historically escaped budget scrutiny, but are now being asked to “mind the store” and to be more cost-conscious in their hiring of law firms. BanyanRFP is well-positioned to support the CIO, the GC, and the CFO in the mission of making sure that the best-fit firms are being hired at the best pricing.
One of the biggest challenges in running a manual RFP is that the law firm proposals are hard to analyze and compare.
Detailed reporting options help the client truly understand the cost drivers of each proposal, and illuminate differences in each firm’s approach
With BanyanRFP, RFPs are written to guarantee apples-to-apples comparisons of the proposal data.
BanyanRFP has templates for a wide range of legal matters. Each template can be edited, added, or deleted based on the specifics of each client’s requirements. An important feature of BanyanRFP is the dashboard of key proposal metrics. The dashboard allows clients to quickly compare offers and hone-in on finalists. Additionally, all law firm proposals are formatted exactly the same, which is also a huge time saver when clients review the law firm responses. Detailed reporting options help the client truly understand the cost drivers of each proposal and illuminate differences in each firm’s approach. These insights arm the clients with key data that enables meaningful conversations with the finalist firms about each of their approach and helps in further negotiations.
It is fairly typical that clients don’t have a clear understanding about where the rates they are paying compare to the going market rates. By running an RFP, great insights can be uncovered about both rates and current law firm offerings (e.g. expertise, technology, value-added services, etc.)
In this instance, the client was running an RFP in regard to its immigration work and had not checked the marketplace in approximately eight years. They invited to participate, including the incumbent, with whom they were happy. In keeping with the times; two of the Big Four accounting firms that now offer legal services were also invited. The RFP estimated the client’s annual immigration work by geography and by VISA type. Much to the client’s surprise, the results of the RFP were dramatic. The spread on average rates was 57 percent, and its incumbent’s proposal was among the most expensive. The spread on total fees from the average offer to the most expensive proposition was 41 percent. The benefits of each global network of offices and well-oiled processes became clear and our platform empowered our clients with the clarity to select the firm that was a right fit for them.
Differentiating Factors that Steer you ahead of Competitors:
At BanyanRFP, we are all about continuous improvement. We are in a constant state of making mini-upgrades to the platform. In 2018, we’ve begun working on Banyan 2.0 which will enhance the user experience and upgrade the reporting capabilities of the platform. We look forward to rolling out the improvements in 2019.
The Road ahead:
As you know, the market is moving to the increased use of RFPs for hiring legal services. We can see that an increasing number of in-house legal teams embrace RFPs as an approach to hiring outside counsel. As a result, we are building the capacity of both the platform and our team. Additionally, we are excited that Banyan2.0 has a close eye on data security and data management, both of which are increasingly important to our clients.