Someone asked me recently why I think more and more law firms are creating CI roles or increasing their CI capacity, encouraging their BD and Library staff to work more closely so forth. I didn’t really have a good answer on the spot, “cause it makes good business sense, or because market competition and consolidation is increasing” seemed all to obvious and do not address this specific moment in the evolution of the modern law firm. Last month, I participated in a webinar presented by Ann Lee Gibson, long time law firm CI consultant as a part of the IntelCollab webinar series and unknowingly, Ann Lee answered the question in part. Her presentation was titled How Competitive Intelligence Helps Professional Services Firms Succeed, and you can view the entire presentation here. The focus wasn’t specifically on law firms, but by not focusing, certain things became clear. To begin the various US based professional services firms are compared by revenue, number of employees and number of professionals. According to the data, law firms had the highest revenue in 2013, but also the greatest number of employees (costs) but NOT the highest growth rate, nor does the profession represent the largest number of businesses in the professional services. Furthermore, when compared to Accounting firms, the 2013 data points out that 75% of revenue in law firms comes from 53 firms, whereas in the Accounting sector that same percentage of revenue is drawn from four firms. So putting on the CI analyst hat here, what do the numbers tell you? Not surprisingly, especially if you follow any of Toby’s posts, law firms are running inefficient organizations, with leverage issues as a result of the many many owners. I am not the economist so won’t get into the numbers except to say that law firms are increasing CI as way to minimize the impact of the figures. But even forgetting the economics for a second, you can see from the literature, the blog posts and the new titles that are popping up all across law firms that something is happening.
There is no denying that the legal industry is changing. The speed of the change depends on where you sit, what you see, and where you want to go, but no one can deny that as the legal industry ship is steering in a different direction, and firms are realizing the power of CI as the compass to help navigate the waters.