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January 11, 2017 Practice Points

What Are Your Professional Goals for 2017?

By Ashley Brathwaite

Many of us are working on practice and development plans for 2017. A highlight from 2016 that will play a role in my future planning was attending the ABA's Women in Products Liability Annual 2016 Regional CLE. The topics were timely, relevant, and helped shape some of my professional and practice-specific goals to carry forward into 2017.

One takeaway that has already impacted my practice is resisting the impulse to respond to every request for proposal I receive in 2017.
The preparation of the proposal will be time consuming, even if you already have your value proposition drafted and a process in place for creating the submission. Consider whether your team is able to do the pre-work necessary; whether there is a connection to help move the proposal through its review by in-house counsel; and whether your firm has a strategic advantage making responding to the proposal more worthwhile.

To that end, one area in which I will strive to gain an advantage is investing more time on alternative fee arrangements for litigation matters. While GCs in nearly every industry speak favorably about alternative fee arrangements, many requests for proposals still seek responses in terms of hours and rates. This is where finding a connection within the organization seeking proposals can also give your firm an advantage. A connection has the potential to give you a high level view of whether they are open to considering alternative fee arrangements and, if so, what the goals have been in those discussions.

Alternative fee structures can showcase your team's ability to engage in creative project management that appeals directly to the ultimate decision-makers. Moving toward proposals that highlight value and results can help you create a strategic advantage. Even if your proposal is not accepted, your firm has demonstrated its desire to consider alternative ways to meet the potential clients' needs and desired results.

A final point on proposals that I plan to better incorporate into my practice this year is to gather as much intelligence as I can on why proposals were not accepted. Once the decision is made to respond to a request for proposal, the investment made in responding to it can be recouped by either getting the work or learning why your proposal was not successful. Drafting proposals is a skill that requires feedback—both positive and negative.

Ashley Brathwaite is a litigation partner at Ellis & Winters LLP in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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