To set a law firm apart from the competition, a good proposal will look less like a legal document and more like a magazine or an annual report.  “Design is the ‘suit’ that your proposal wears,” said Darling.  “You dress appropriately to meet with a client.  Your proposal should be well-dressed as well.  You want your proposal to ‘stand out’ from all the others.

“Despite what most lawyers think, the proposal process is neither logical nor rational,” said Darling.  “It is primarily emotional.  It is based on impressions and reactions to those impressions.  Design plays a critical role in making a first (and ongoing) impression on a potential client. The successful proposal will look professional, contemporary, clean and organized.”

A good proposal will take visual cues from the client’s own marketing materials.  If the client uses flow-charts in its own materials, use flow charts in your proposal.  If the client uses a certain style of photo, use similar photos.  When possible, take your own photos of your own people rather than relying on stock images.  If the client relies on infographics to explain concepts and processes, use the same tool in your proposal.

“Finally, law firms should refrain from the temptation to use form style or ‘legalese’ in a proposal,” said Darling, “even if the proposal will be read by other lawyers, such as general counsel.  Be organized, but informal.  Be expert, but relaxed and conversational.  Instead of using abstract language, tell concrete and interesting success stories.  Have your proposal reviewed and edited by a non-lawyer.”

This is part six of a seven-part article.  For the entire article:


RFPs:  To play or not to play, that is the question