Rate Negotiations: 5 Winning Tactics for In-House Teams

We know annual rate negotiations are everyone’s favorite time of year. 😣

Keeping track of multiple rate agreements across tens of firms. Proposals dispersed over clunky spreadsheets and hundreds of emails. 

How can in-house teams take control of the process to control costs, save time, and even strengthen firm relationships?  

Cintia LeLann, Sanofi’s Global Purchasing Head of Legal + Ethics & Business Integrity and Compliance, recently joined us to share her team's best practices for managing annual rate increase requests and how she thinks PERSUIT’s new Rate Review Pro will give them a new edge in the rate negotiation process.

"What we want is to be able to use all this data to get valuable insights for the negotiation, which is not easy."

Here's how Cintia's team is managing the process today. 

Note: The webinar replay is available in PERSUIT’s resources area. You can watch the full video here.

5 Proven Rate Negotiation Tactics for In-House Teams 

1. Keep the focus on the partnership with your panel firms

As Cintia explains, her team keeps the bulk of negotiation efforts on the firms with whom they have the biggest spend and closest relationships, rather than negotiating the same with every single firm.  

"If the partnership exists, and it's genuine, firms will have more flexibility in negotiations, which leads to better outcomes for the long term."   


2. Align internal stakeholder objectives

Lawyers and legal ops teams often think that procurement is solely focused on cost, rather than ensuring the right outcomes and preserving long-standing relationships with firms. Conflicting cross-communications are a natural outgrowth of this mistrust. 

As Cintia explains:

"We want to make sure we have a very strong partnership between our procurement, legal operations, and the lawyers and make sure we work as a team and have a very clear role in the negotiation process. We have a very good internal alignment of what we want and have realistic targets."  

Giving stakeholders visibility and consideration in the process helps build trust and credibility and ultimately ensures a unified voice during negotiations. 


3. Consider rate negotiations a starting point rather than an endpoint 

Rates are just the starting point for understanding firms’ competitiveness on different aspects. 

Cintia’s team considers their negotiated rates as a max, while in some cases still negotiating rates lower at a matter level or utilizing alternative fee arrangements and other fixed fee pricing where it makes sense.


4. Use rate cards rather than negotiating by individual timekeeper

In-house teams are increasingly moving to negotiating rates by role and title, rather than individual timekeeper (our Legal Advisory team recently penned an excellent deep dive on why here). 

Cintia explains:

"For me it would not be very efficient on the day-to-day to discuss by timekeeper level. So we have a rate card by the role. We use the same with all of our firms."

Cintia’s team also looks at the evolution of spend and rate levels. Firms’ competitiveness and the overall level of rate increases influence where they spend their time at the timekeeper level.


5. Be prepared with the right benchmarking

Are your firm’s proposed rates reasonable? How do you know? 

Preparing the right internal and external benchmarking in advance brings credibility to the negotiation process and helps keep the dialogue constructive.

Cintia takes us through her team's preparation at the start of their six-month-long rate negotiation process.

"It's a long process. Several spreadsheets, exchanges of emails, exchanges of files on SharePoint, engagement from different people in the organization and the senior leadership team, research on the market, data gathering and storing, looking at historical information and benchmarking. Not a lot of companies would have the resources to have a dedicated person to do that." 


It's inarguably a long and complex process, but the preparation is worth it. It helps Cintia come to the table with the data insights she needs to negotiate from a position of power.

But could there be a better way? 😉 


Take the Pain Out of Rate Negotiations 

What are you leaving at the bargaining table with your firms for lack of the right data?

Most in-house teams simply don't have the resources to navigate mountains of pricing data spread across multiple stakeholders and dozens of firms. 

PERSUIT's new product Rate Review Pro changes all of that. 

Rate Review Pro helps in-house teams centralize the end-to-end rate negotiation process by easily comparing hundreds of firms and rate cards side-by-side. 

  • Store all of your rates and negotiating history in one place.
  • Easily calculate firms' weighted average increases and compare them to others.
  • Negotiate firm rates with precision.

All with Rate Review Pro.


Marie Sotelo

Content Marketing Manager, PERSUIT