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Credit: Bruce MacPherson

In 2013, executives and in-house leaders at 3M decided they needed to drastically reduce the number of law firms on the Minnesota-based manufacturing company’s preferred network panel. The list of 300 firms would ultimately be cut to about 80. The carving knife? A request for proposal that featured more than 50 questions.

Including all those questions seemed like a good idea at the time. But when the RFP responses began flowing in they were hundreds of pages long. Many were filled with marketing literature that was readily available on a firm’s website and of little interest to the company’s decision-makers, says Maureen Harms, associate general counsel and managing counsel at 3M’s corporate headquarters in St. Paul.

“There were binders and binders of pages,” she remembers—and not fondly.

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