The past week I had the pleasure of presenting at the 13th Annual Ark Conference Competitive Intelligence in the Modern Law Firm.  I am totally blown away that this one day conference is in its 13th year and still going strong. The quality of the presentations was outstanding. There were new and different speakers and sponsors (thanks to Legal Monitor and LAC Group) and all around it was a fantastic day.  I am buoyed by the energy in the room, the passion for the profession and the commitment to the industry despite all of its many challenges.

Some of the key messages coming out of the conference (with my own commentary) were:

  1. Embrace data, data is everywhere and has transformative powers for competitive intelligence as well as for firms in general.
  2. Due Diligence and CI are similar, you can increase your awareness of both in the firm if you measure twice and cut once. Do the work once and share broadly across the firm about clients, and prospects for a variety of reasons, proactively and reactively.
  3. Inter-operability in this new data savvy world is critical.  Get your systems talking to one another, find a Platform.  Whether using AI, or data visualization getting Intel into the hands of decision makers is crucial to success. Capture attention, go on a charm offensive (HT to @CISteph for that great turn of phrase).

For my part, I cannot stress how much I truly believe now is the time for CI to shine in firms and push long standing conservative cultures forward.  I’ve been doing this for close to 20 years and I have never felt more like CI in firms has finally matured in process, structure and delivery.  CI as mix of art and science, data and HUMINT, and CI has the opportunity to sit at the centre of everything firms are doing in support of the practice and business of law as well as the culture shifts that are happening. CI can help firms plan and respond to all three of the major pressures in firms, from bottom up pressure of new associates with different priorities that the traditional law firm model, the top down client pricing pressures and technology assaulting firms from the sides, CI can ease the pressure by anticipating for the future, avoid surprises and providing a strategic way forward.  As firms strive to be more balanced, more focused on wellness and diversity, CI should the centralized function to collaborate on data, gather HUMINT and implement technology that makes organizations coordinated, efficient, balanced, motivated and competitive.  And course, CI can bring the human element to bear as Data Doesn’t Make Decisions.  CI can and should be part of the cultural changes in firms that is paving the way for the firm and the industry of the future.