Keystone Column 90 – Small Firms Can Win Big Legal Tenders

Keystone Column 90 – Small Firms Can Win Big Legal Tenders

This week, we focus on the legal services sector and how some small legal firms are competing effectively and successfully against the large law firms to win legal tenders. There is no single path to doing so. One route involves differentiation but this can present risks and be a pro-cyclical strategy for firms that over specialise. Another route involves collaborative bidding so the sum of the parts amount to more than the whole – allowing the collective to shape up competitively against the large firms. These are just two approaches (of many potential ones). Not enough law firms are looking at how they can win big legal tenders. We outline our thoughts below.

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The time has never been better for legal firms to start look at winning public sector work. In conversations we have had with legal firms over the past several years, there is a strong perception that the corporate law firms win everything. This is a fundamental misread of the situation on the ground. To demonstrate that this perception is inaccurate for all the major cities, let alone the counties without a major city, examine the data and then consider what these firms are doing right.

In the second half of 2016, the following law firms won legal tenders for Dublin City Council:

  • Denis O’Driscoll (Q3 511k & Q4 701k))
  • Thomas Meehan (Q3 115k)
  • Paul Beausang (Q4 64k)
  • Owen O’Sullivan (Q4 23 k)
  • Eamonn Keane (Q4 21k)
  • Beauchamps (Q3 35k & Q4 65k)

The table above shows that only one corporate firm in a recent 6 month period won work with the country’s largest local authority. This data is widely available and is published to varying degrees by each local authority. We excluded house/site transactions from the table above.

So what is it that these firms are doing well?

  • They have a plan: Many of these firms win regularly and across the public sector system. They are known by the decision makers in their local authority and are trusted by them to do an effective, competent job at rates the “glass box” firms cannot match.
  • They are bidding where they know they can win: They often have particular strengths and are aware of the needs of their locale and their local authority clients. They understand the people working in the local authority in question and the specific challenges they face. They can meet them as part of a planned approach under market engagement and share relevant insights and knowledge with them.
  • They have specialisms: Firms like O’Driscolls who are very small and based in West Cork are winning large contracts with Dublin City Council. They are deep specialists in construction law and have tailored their firms services to fit the public sector market.

One can see from the fees collected above that the potential fees available from legal tenders are quite significant. Data is only published if it goes over €20,000 on the same purchase order in a given quarter so firms could win on different assignments under this threshold and have very healthy accounts with councils over a year.

Tools like Tenderscout help legal firms to identify opportunities based on current and historic opportunities and then build an intelligent pipeline that supports them as they work towards a first (or larger) win on a particular account. Small firms that are strategically astute are winning large legal tenders with public bodies. They will continue to do so in isolation if other firms do not up their game and work to compete with them more vigorously.

For firms that want to get there faster, there are few inside tracks that are as efficient as Tenderscout to start building competitive advantage and a beachhead into public contracts.

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This post was originally written for TenderScout.com – the leading public sector tenders prospecting and sales pipeline management platform. 

Finding Public tenders

Over 100 tenders issue every week in Ireland, we have been tracking these tenders for nearly two years now and know that almost all industries and sectors have opportunities. Opportunities present in almost every conceivable category of good or service.

Keystone recommends:

www.etenders.ie – register to obtain the latest tenders from State bodies

www.supplygov.ie – the latest lower value tenders for trades / supplies from local authorities

www.tenderscout.com – a tender engine highlighting opportunities in Ireland and overseas