CI & Law Firms: The Analysis Conundrum

Part 2 of the The Legal Intelligencer's ongoing series on Law Firm Competitive Intelligence came out on May 13th.  The author, Gina Passarelli, makes a few points that, well, let's just say I have a different perspective on. 

Let's start with the firms that were interviewed for this article.  They are AMLAW100 firms with resources and budgets (personnel and otherwise) not found in the vast majority of firms.  Their experiences and opinions are not the norm for the legal industry.  I have found the norm for most firms to be a collaborative process between Marketing and Research Services (aka the Library).  This allows for the use of staff in multiple capacities without incurring the additional personnel cost of a dedicated CI analyst.

This also allows the Marketing Department to take advantage of the unique skills and internal knowledge of the research professionals. These professionals are skilled at finding information efficiently, analyzing it to meet the attorneys needs and packaging it for their consumption.  Despite the implications of the gentleman quoted from Duane Morris,  researchers (aka librarians) are not as a rule "faithful compilers of phone books."  Merely handing off reams of information (otherwise known as Data Dumps) are not a work product that attorneys have the time or inclination to review in any context, be it legal research or CI.  This understanding of not only what attorneys need to see but how they want to see it adds to the value of the research professional in conducting CI.

It is no accident that many excellent CI professionals have a background and/or training as a librarian. I found it striking how uninformed the author appeared to be regarding the involvement of law librarians in the Competitive Intelligence analysis process.  The inclusion of sweeping stereotypical statements such as "[Librarians] gather the info and the marketing team makes it presentable" and the implications of a Chief Marketing Officer that the Library produces academic studies are not accurate depictions of how this works in the Legal Industry.

Here are three prominent examples of CI professionals missed by Ms. Passarelli:
  • Zena Applebaum, who was quoted prominently in the first article of this series, is not only the Director of Competitive Intelligence for Bennett Jones but is also the award-winning Chair-Elect of the Competitive Intelligence Division of the Special Libraries Association.  Not to mention the excellent post she wrote on CI on Thursday.
  • Jan Rivers, who wrote an article on CI for the National Law Journal, is the Director of Information Resource Services at Dorsey and Whitney LLP and is a well-known CI professional.  
  • Emily Cunningham Rushing, Competitive Intelligence Manager at Haynes and Boone, LLP, has her Masters in Library and Information Science and is also a well-known CI professional
The list above does not include the many other talented research professionals acting in the same capacity for their firm.  In my previous post on the first article of this series, I pointed out that there are over 300 librarians in law firms nationwide currently practicing the art of of CI.  This does not include the members of the CI Division of the Special Libraries Association or the law firm members of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals.  Full disclosure here:  I have been a law librarian for almost 25 years and have been practicing CI for 20 of those years. 

The information presented above shows the skills that librarians have in their toolbox .  Of course, this doesn't mean that every librarian will make a good CI professional or that only librarians can be CI professionals.  However, when looking for someone with the requisite skills for this type of task, the Library (or Research Services) is a good place to start.  By using these atypical examples and statements, Ms. Passarelli paints a misleading picture of how to operate a successful Competitive Intelligence operation.  I guess my question really is...why weren't mid-size firms that are more representative of the industry (and, yes, as a result rely more on librarians) consulted as part of this article?  They aren't hard to find.

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Anonymous said...

Excellent summary - Thank you for presenting how CI (really) works in most law firms. Bravo!


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