October 23, 2012

Pointers for Building a Law Firm Proposal Center

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Pointers for Building a Law Firm Proposal Center

By Ann Lee Gibson

If you’re not familiar with the concept of a proposal center, here’s the quick version. Proposal centers are typically database-enabled applications (think software or browser-enabled applications) in which a law firm stores content that is frequently included in its marketing collateral and proposals. That content can range from lawyer bios and practice descriptions, to deals handled and suits experience, to generic information about the firm and much, much more. Firms create systems like this when the hassle and stress of trying to find the latest, most current version of relevant information in a Word or PowerPoint document becomes so burdensome (or impossible) that the firm is compelled to move to a more organized way of locating, storing, maintaining and generating proposal and other marketing collateral content.

If you’re wondering whether it’s time your firm built a proposal center to help automate the production of proposals and collateral materials, here are key considerations.

  1. First, consider how you can improve your firm’s proposal process before you automate an old, broken process.
  2. If the time is right to build a proposal center, build the one you need, not one you’ve fantasized about. Take time to understand the real problems you’re trying to solve and how much those problems are costing you. Then spec out the simplest proposal center that will solve those problems.
  3. If you buy an off-the-shelf solution, and many firms do, realize that no law firm software is plug-and-play. The simplest centers must work seamlessly with your firm’s document management system. More complex proposal centers are highly integrated with CRM applications and other databases maintained by HR, accounting, conflicts and knowledge management personnel.
  4. Don't force someone with a full-time job to also manage the development of your proposal center. Do tap someone with project management experience for this role and give that person the time and support needed to do it well.
  5. Avoid any impulse to create fancy PowerPoint presentations with glitzy proposal software screen shots before the proposal center is even in beta mode. And don’t launch v.1.0 of the program on every desktop in the firm. Quiet and steady is the route to all infrastructure development success in law firms.