When we last left our intrepid band at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church interviewing law firms for advice on the church’s vacant, crying-out-for-development, corner lot (here’s the original column), we had just finished meeting with firms.  Since then we sent out a very brief RFP and we’ve now heard back from all candidates.

Each of the three firms received the same one-page “Scope of Work” from us, which asked for a memorandum addressing these questions (I summarize and condense):

  1. What square footage is buildable as of right on the church’s property?
  2. What variances or permits could increase that figure?
  3. What’s the cost, timing, and odds of success of each potential variance or permit?

I’d like to be able to say the firms’ report cards have improved, but I can’t. Perhaps you can; I’ll let you be the judge.

Firm A’s response thanked us for considering them “for your land use matter” (nothing succeeds like the personal touch) and then listed, or trumpeted, their credentials:

  • One of the largest practices in New York in real estate
  • Did they mention they focus a lot on real estate?
  • With very high quality clients
  • And went into some detail on the background of the partner who heads up the land use practice group, although that individual’s degree of involvement on our matter was left somewhat murky.

After that, it was straight to the rate card, with a 15% discount off standard “rack rates” offered right off the bat.

Firm B’s response was quite similar, focusing on their credentials and reputation, and then the rate card.

Neither firm even alluded to alternative fees.

You may be asking yourself—perhaps you’ve done it yourself—what’s wrong with focusing on one’s credentials and the size of the practice group?  What am I objecting to?  Even more pointedly, what should I have expected?

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