Is It Legal To See Your Competitor’s Proposals?

I love to see competitors’ proposals. Proposals are competitions, make no mistake about it. Professional sports teams scout their competition to see what plays and tactics they use.

So it makes sense for AEC firms to do the same. If you can look at your competitors’ proposals, do so…with one caveat. Make sure it’s legal.

Don’t take any of this as legal advice, just common sense suggestions.

I had in front of me an opportunity to get my hands on proposals for all the firms I consider our primary competition. It would be a complete apples-to-apples comparison. I was salivating.

All I had to do was order them under a state’s sunshine law. I was ready to strike and it was going to be early Christmas.

But as I was about to order them, I came across a clause in the state’s law. Essentially, it said that you could not use any information obtained from the state for commercial advantage. And to do so would be a $250 fine or a year in prison.

Now what are the chances that. 1.) a cash-strapped state government would have the resources to go after me for this and 2.) that they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I used the information to commercial advantage? Very unlikely in my mind.

Then I considered this: how likely would it be for me to be passed around from violent offender to violent offender for a measly pack of cigarettes while serving my one year sentence in the state prison?

And how likely would it be that I would be forced to wear a prison-made shade of lipstick that wouldn’t look good with my eyes? By my calculations, very likely.

Therefore, I made the executive decision to not order these proposals. Is it worth $250 to see your competitors proposals? You bet!

Is it worth breaking the law? Not in my mind.

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