For many years working in the realm of law firms I have been described as a Non – a non lawyer. It is a rather strange predicament to define yourself and your skills based on what you are not, rather than what you are. I remember when my husband first graduated from university and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life, he took a series of jobs to try things out only to come to the conclusion a year later that he learned what he didn’t want to do. So he went back to school, twice, in pursuit of being a something. I on the other hand, graduated from grad school and shortly thereafter started on my almost two decade journey of being a Non.
All too often in law firms when we talk about marketing failures or look for new marketing successes, we look to see how “other industries” are doing it. We look at the marketing spend of consumer goods companies which make our budgets look like a small child’s allowance. We bemoan not having enough money to really make a difference or we lament the time and energy spent on directory submissions for minimal tangible ROI, yet we still participate in these things marketing activities since we are bound by the street rules of the legal marketing game. When we think about legal marketing, I think we would all agree, that despite the smaller budgets that our B2C counter parts, we have evolved beyond pricey tickets to sporting events, and are focused on content or account marketing. Yet, despite the laser focus on true client development we still struggle.
On that same panel at AALL, I was asked where CI should report, my reaction drew a chuckle and was rapidly tweeted and retweeted. It was something to the effect of “I am tired of having this debate”. And I am, for a variety of reasons. Where any of the research types or “information and analysis brokers” – Library, CI, KM, Research etc. – report is in my opinion, irrelevant and but an administrative imperative. How and where we add value to the firm and most importantly its bottom line/top line is what matters. I tweeted yesterday that information, intelligence, analysis when used effectively and systemically by firms could be the next disruptive factor, akin to the AFA. Research, and the information professionals who undertake these tasks are embracing technology and are “to be congratulated for navigating really difficult times in the industry” according to Aric Press. Big Law Is Here to Stay, and if its information professionals are going to continue to step up their game in this rapidly changing industry, they need proper tools, a collaborative environment and a checking of the proverbial egos (and related reporting structures) at the doors.
Its pie in the sky, but that’s where dreams live, right? Here’s a use case. A proposed change in legislation relating to construction zoning in a particular jurisdiction is announced. You – Research Warrior/Maven/Guru access the details of the proposed changes, and are able to fire it off to the relevant attorneys for an opinion, a LinkedIn Post, or a Client Update, while at the same time researching the number of public (and private, it’s a dream database, right?) companies in the jurisdiction who will be affected. You can also access which of those companies are your clients, your competitor clients, or prospects, and you can analyze the text of the proposed change to determine what the percentage of prior proposals with similar language were accepted, or rejected. With this data in hand, you can do a historiographic or timeline analysis to determine the likelihood of the proposal becoming law and using the same magic portal you can determine which other jurisdictions may adopt similar changes based on a cursory review of relevant local media and social media reactions and commentary. And let’s not stop there, with a few clicks, you can output all the data into neatly branded reports complete with charts and graphs – a data visualization panacea. At that point, who really cares where you report? You just saved lawyers time, developed new leads, created an opportunity to demonstrate the firm’s value and demonstrated the information professional’s propensity for serial innovation. Not bad in a day’s work!
Yes, there will be those that suggest it can’t be done, or those who won’t trust the data in a single platform even if it is pulling from multiple (triangulated and vetted) sources. And course there will be a myriad of UX considerations, search/browse convergence discussions, taxonomy whoas and other finicky things to figure out. But it would stop the where should we report and should we use Google debates….
On December 23rd, Arun
Jethmalani, Founder & Managing Director at ValueNotes Database Pvt. Ltd. in India, published an article to LinkedIn
Debates about Competitive Intelligence that will never be resolved. The article essentially lays out five of the
canonical questions that are a constant dialogue in the CI community. I won’t
share his insights, you’ll have to read the article for that, but the five
questions he puts forward are:
Should CI be strategic or tactical?
Where should CI reside?
Insight versus information?
How to calculate RoI on competitive intelligence?
What exactly is competitive intelligence?
I would add two questions, that may be a bit more controversial:
Is CI a profession or a set of competencies?
And does it even matter?
There are several comments on the article, including one from
me where I suggest that the answers to all the questions are blowing in the corporate
culture. For law firms especially, I
think the existential question of what CI is or should be – a library function,
a marketing role, a KM/BD hybrid is fun to think about in your spare time, but
analysis paralysis (hat tip to Fleisher
and Bensoussan) gets you nowhere. As
we usher in 2015, I think the article and its underlying questions is a great reminder
to know your clients, know your audience and anticipate their needs – be they
intel – or otherwise. The ability to
deliver answers, insights, and whatever else is needed on time, just in time,
and in advance, is the ultimate factor for CI success and happiness. However you define it.