competitive intelligence

Over the past month I have given about a dozen talks in large conference settings with hundred of people, or at smaller intimate partner/ counsel lunches, or for people spanning the globe via webinar. The discussions have ranged in content and theme but all were legal industry favourites including:

  • the state of the legal industry 10 years out from the great recession of 2018;
  • the seat change from Baby Boomers to Millennials in firms, and what that means for the way work is done, how people are motivated and what success looks like;
  • competitive intelligence – what is means in and for the legal industry right now;
  • personal branding for lawyers and non lawyers and why it matters; and
  • emerging legal technology tools, adoption techniques, use cases and efficiency plays;

Continue Reading You Spin Me Right Round…

On this episode of The Geek In Review, Marlene (@gebauerm) and Greg (@glambert) talk with long time friend and colleague Emily Rushing, Competitive Intelligence Director at Haynes and Boone in Dallas, Texas. In Emily’s decade at Haynes and Boone, she has implemented a stellar competitive intelligence process and has found a method of encouraging partners to share information and to build trust among throughout the firm. In addition to traditional CI tools, Emily has leveraged her firm’s CRM tool in ways that would make most of us in other firms envious.

Once again, Marlene and Greg get to record this week’s podcast together while Marlene is visiting Texas. Greg also “triple-dog dared” Marlene to reach out to one of their podcasting heroes, “Make Me Smart’sMolly Wood while Marlene was in Austin. Continue Reading Podcast Episode 8 – Emily Rushing on CI, CRM, and Collaboration

Since leaving the law firm back in June, I find myself in a really unique position to be able to provide CI consulting services and advice to law firms, law students and legal departments of all shapes and sizes. It is really amazing to me how legal CI has morphed and changed over the years, and now much more dependent law firms and legal departments have become on this scientifically artistic mash up of strategy and information.  As we move toward 2018, with Bitcoin, AI and Emerging Legal Tech in the spotlight, I encourage anyone who is thinking about law firm libraries, marketing, client service or operations to consider attending the CI Foundations course put on by AALL.  In a world that is rapidly changing, sometimes, it is the skills and abilities we already have in our firms that can benefit the most from a renewed purpose and injection of competitive advantage.
Here are the details on the course as promoted by AALL….
Competitive Intelligence competence has now moved to the list of “need to have” expertise. Legal information professionals and law librarians are uniquely equipped to help their firms maintain a competitive edge. AALL is stepping up to the call to prepare librarians with a new course designed to bridge the skill gap and move librarians into strategic service delivery.  Learn to establish and maintain a strategic competitive intelligence (CI) function in a law firm–from development to implementation–at AALL’s inaugural CI course. Those looking to make an impact and expand library services and professionals interested in being key contributors in a changing and complex legal market need to attend. 3 Geeks very own Zena Applebaum will be facilitating the course. More information can be found below and on AALL’s website. The program is open and the deadline is October 18.
CI Foundations
  • Friday, October 27 / 9:00 a.m. (CDT)
  • Sidley Austin LLP / Chicago
  • Members $450 / Nonmembers $675
  • Register today
  • Limited to 40 participants
  • Competitive Intelligence Concepts and Methodology
  • Establishing and Organizing a Competitive Intelligence Function
  • Leveraging Information for Action
  • Competitive Intelligence Analysis Process and Frameworks   
  • The Law Firm Difference: How is Competitive Intelligence Different for Law Firms?  
  • Implementing a Competitive Analysis Intelligence Program 
  • Integrating Competitive Intelligence into Strategic Practice and Firm Goals 

Perhaps I’m one of the lucky few that has always had a good relationship with the Marketing Department. Although I am the incoming President of the American Association of Law Libraries, I am also a member of the Legal Marketing Association, and I find value in both. I have leveraged the relationships built by the Marketing teams to advance my own ideas and projects, and have partnered with Marketing when they need resources and research to advance their own processes and projects. It just makes sense, and there is a mutual benefit for all when there is a trust and partnership between the two groups. After all, we are on the same team, and we can do more together than we can individually.

This is why I am amazed when I see dysfunction between these two departments. And when I have run across firms where the relationships between the two groups exist, it usually comes from the following issues:

  1. Money
  2. Credit
  3. People
When I was still a newbie in the law firm environment, I made an effort to determine how the individual components of a large law firm administration functioned. I saw the power of interaction with the Partners that the Marketing team had versus the Library’s operation which tended to be more service oriented and low-keyed. Both serve important functions, but the “attitude” of each group was different. Although Marketing had influence and the ear of the partners, the Library held the power of the purse strings, products, and relationships with the vendors that provide those products. Marketing had their MBAs, and the Library had their JDs/MLIS’. Marketing was a three-year revolving door of talent, and the Library had members that did orientation when the Managing Partner was a first-year Associate. The two departments have their different structures, but again, played for the same team.
Where I’ve seen the divisions between the two come to a head when it comes to money, is typically the Marketing Department needs a resource, and wants the Library to pay for it. In a good environment, this means that the two heads of the departments meet and work out a plan to evaluate, test, and determine what the correct product is that solves the problems faced by the Marketing team (and by proxy, the firm.) In a bad situation, the Library determines that they will not work with Marketing because the library staff will not be the ones using the product. Or, Marketing goes out and buys the product without working with the Library, and then sends the Library the invoice. These two latter situations are more common than they should be, and completely unnecessary if there is a good relationship between the groups. When it comes to money, I have a very over-simplistic approach that I take. First – It’s not my money, it’s the partnership’s. As long as the powers-that-be approve this, it’s fine. It doesn’t affect the money I take home at the end or the month, it affects the money that the partners take home at the end of the month. Second, I make sure that these types of increases to my budget are made apparent to those that monitor my budget, and I show where it was approved by those powers-that-be. If the money hawks are concerned…  I point them to those that approved it, but also point out that the expense was something that will help leverage our firm for the future and (hopefully) bring in new clients and revenue. We’re all on the same team, so don’t throw your team-mate under the bus.
When it comes to credit, this is where feelings tend to get hurt, and power trumps cooperation. The typical story is that the Library conducts research and analysis for a Marketing Business Development or Client Development project. The work is compiled and sent to Marketing, and then it is restructured (sometimes) and sent to the Partner for action. When the project is successful, Marketing gets the credit, and the library gets ignored. Again, when the two groups work cooperatively, this happens less. However, I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that when it comes to credit, the last person to handle it, tends to get the credit. This happens when reports are turned over to Accounting to add in “the numbers,” or IT to add in the tech specifications, and with Marketing when it comes to analysis and action items. The best way to solve this situation is to have a conversation with the other department to make sure that the value your team put in is made clear to the other department, and when appropriate, to the partners that use the final product. It is also important to have a thick skin and sometimes understand that, while what you did was very important, credit doesn’t always come back as you would like. It’s okay. Put it down for your “wins” list in your annual evaluation and take credit for it then. If you’re running Marketing, make an effort to credit the Library when appropriate. 
This brings me to the people part of the process. Leaders that deem their value by the size of their departments are not leaders at all. (Insert [in]appropriate joke here.) 
Librarians are visionaries. We tend to see trends before others and position ourselves to handle those trends. I’ve written many posts before where I argued that giving the “Information” title to the computer networking department was probably the biggest defeat in the Library world. We were the leaders when it came to information technology, we were the leaders when it came to knowledge management, we were the leaders when it came to competitive intelligence. We’ve been in the forefront of artificial intelligence and analytics. Unfortunately, we also tend to start these programs, and watch them be pulled out of our departments and sent to others, or spun off and created in a different department altogether. I am perfectly okay with that (well… mostly okay with that.) What I don’t appreciate is when the Library creates a successful group, typically these days, a Competitive or Business Intelligence group, and then the Marketing department comes along and snags it away from us with the perception that this should have never been in the Library in the first place, and that it belongs in Marketing. If that is true, then why did it have to originate in the Library to begin with? Why didn’t it begin in Marketing? The biggest reason is that the Library has the external relationships with the vendors and industry to build these departments. If there comes a time when it makes sense to spin them off and move them, then it’s a blessing for the department that takes it over. Unfortunately, it tends to become a turf war where the acquiring department somehow belittles the Library for taking this on in the first place. That is such a silly concept an doesn’t have to happen when there is a good relationship between the departments. I mentioned earlier that Librarians should not throw their team-mates under the bus. That also goes for other department leaders that leverage the Library’s work to make themselves look better, or increase the size of their departments. Quite frankly, if you grab a group from within the Library to make your own, you should increase the Library Director’s bonus to include a recruitment stipend.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again:

If you work for the same law firm, you are on the same team. You don’t have to like each other, but you cannot be successful as a firm if you are undermining each other, or you are so sensitive that you think other leaders are out to get you. Administrative departments of law firms are the grease that makes the organization run smoothly. Find ways to talk to one another. Understand the strategic goals of the firm. Fix problems that the firm is facing (the firm’s problems, not your department’s problems.) And, realize that when you look good, we all look good. We are all allies here. Let’s act like it.

Is Legal CI Sales Enablement

I’ve posted here before about CI as the new Client Intelligence and I still believe that. Clients more than ever – still – want to work with lawyers and law firms who understand their business, and that comes from, among other things, CI. But in giving a presentation recently to some new and interested parties at the firm it occurred to me that CI in law firms is turning out to be sale enablement or engagement. CI in law firms builds a pipeline, creates leads and informs winning RFP responses. At least the way I have being doing it…which made me think about all the conversations and discussions that have happened on this blog and elsewhere in the legal management world about sales people in law firms.  Are they a necessity? Maybe.  Can firms do well without them? Sure, though always better to have them. But what about CI people? 
I have seen a marked increase in CI people at firms – at all levels – from analyst to specialist, manager to director over the course of my dozen plus years of doing CI in law firms. Not only has the number of roles increased, but so too have the depth of those roles, the publications, continuing education opportunities, technology platforms and consultants in the space.  There has been a quiet building of the practice behind the scenes, not at the forefront as has been the case with pricing people or sales people.  These roles are seen as truly disruptive and borrowed from other disciplines. But CI people have kind of just evolved out of BD, KM, Library and other roles to fill a growing need in law firms.  That also means that CI people are often the bridges between these departments as well. 

I have been trying to articulate why it might be that CI professionals in firms are an accepted and growing domain. All I can come reasonably come up with, is that culture eats strategy for breakfast or whatever Peter Drucker really said.  If lawyers not administrators or law firm management types are talking to clients, then lawyers are de facto sales people and CI people, not actual sales people, become sales enablement folk – tasked with helping lawyers make one kind of sale or another. Most CI people in law firms started in Marketing, Business Development, the Library or research services and somewhere along the way learned about CI. Some people started doing CI and were then trained in the discipline, as was my path. Others, were thrust into the CI role and have been learning by doing along the way.  Regardless, many of CI people in law firms that I know, have been at their firms for a while, or at the very least, the people who created and established the CI function have been at the firms for a while. Generally speaking, the longer someone or some role exists at a firm, the more deeply entrenched in the firm culture and the firm DNA a person or role becomes. It follows then, that an evolved CI person or a newly hired one by an evolved other kind of manager, understands a firm’s unique selling points or differentiators. Good CI people understand their firm’s culture and how to find new clients, fill a pipeline or help grow existing client accounts in a way that is culturally relevant to the sales –non-sales-people, aka the lawyers.  Strategy such as that which would be brought to be bare by external consultants, or sales people may not jive as well with firm cultures.  Strategic plans on paper may be the ultimate in best practices but only when executed with institutional knowledge, cultural sensitivity and know-how, are these plans destined for success. Law firms are cultural places, you only have to look at the AmLaw 100 or 200 to see that. What other industry boasts a top 200 of its kind?  The accounting firms have managed to get it down to the Big 4, even the biggest sports franchises in the world with all of expansion teams don’t start the season with a top 200. The big differentiator for firms is often culture and culture can only be defined and sold on the grounds of intimate understanding. CI people, steeped in a firm’s culture can connect the internal and external dots to create a sales pipeline in a way that others may not be able to because of the inherit objectivity and collaborative nature of CI in law firms. 

The experience of CI professionals gives them a unique perspective on the attorneys client base, including insights into their training and thought processes.  This allows them to provide analysis that works to the strengths of the attorneys as problem solvers rather sales professionals.  In turn, this allows the attorneys to sell their services in a targeted manner by addressing client needs and how they are best suited to solving them rather than with a general sales pitch.  I think this approach allows firms to capitalize on what differentiates them from others in acquiring new business.  And may also speak to the large number of successful firms.  Law firms are not a fungible commodity and CI enables them to emphasize this.

It is only too bad sales doesn’t start with a C or I would have a new set of CI initials to expound.  Is CI legal sales enablement?  




I recently participated in the LMA/ Bloomberg Law Survey (you can participate here before March 7th) on trends in legal marketing, business development, pricing, competitive intelligence and knowledge management.  I know, quite the range of topics. MarkGediman and I blogged a fair bit last year about the Bloomberg Law survey results, and I don’t doubt that the same will happen this year too.  In fact, I am already blogging about it.  The survey questions lead the participant through a series of questions with ranges on how much has changed within marketing and BD departments in the last three years.  Items like competitive intelligence, knowledge management, pricing and process improvement are lumped into the same survey as more traditional marketing efforts such as content marketing (rebranded client updates if you will), and public relations.  Are all of those things being delivered by Marketing and Business Development Departments?  Does that make sense?  Perhaps we should make kitchen sinks while we are at, or be both the umpires and the hotdog vendors…For many years, I have suggested that a key to a firm’s competitive advantage is better collaboration amongst its administrative teams, from BD to Marketing, KM to CI and Accounting, all of whom seem to play a role in this year’s Bloomberg Law Survey. Perhaps the silos are breaking themselves down as market forces are creating the imperative to share while the technology keeps getting better, making it easier to share and work towards a common goal of increased efficiency and smarter client service. 

The survey also attempts to determine changes in headcount and budgets for Marketing and Business Development Departments over the past 24 and coming 24 months, as individual line items and as part of the firm collective headcounts and budgets. Very interesting. I would like to think and will post eventually about the CI’s role (and others) in shifting from a cost centre to lead generator and sales pipeline for firms.  I am hopeful that the survey results will reflect this position as well.  The results will be shared at this year’s annual LMA conference April 11-13th 2026, in Austin TX.

Stay tuned, I expect there will be much more here to blog about soon! 
Image [cc] highways england

This is one of those posts where I start writing down my thoughts, not really sure where I’m going to end. However, that never stopped me before, so why let it stop me now?

When I was at a Westlaw lunch today discussing the AALL conference in Philadelphia, I had a germ of an idea that started burrowing its way into my brain. We were discussing things like Project Management, KM, lateral hires, and new client/matter opening processes. That’s when it hit me that it seems like there is some role for the library and knowledge services groups to play in delivering some value added information into the opening process. Then I just kept thinking, “but what is that?”

When a new client is brought into the firm, there are certain administrative functions that kick in, primarily in the Conflicts group, and Records. Specifically, these groups investigate any potential issues that may cause the firm not to be able to represent the client due to some previous work, or other problems that legally or ethically prevent the firm from handling the work. Obviously, that’s Conflicts. The other is more of a logistical process of creating a working folder system, assigned to a specific client number, and matter number, for the attorneys to manage the communications and electronic work flow of the client’s specific legal matter. Typically, this is through a Records process assisted by the IT department.

There are other administrative functions that kick in as well. Accounting uses the client/matter number to create a billing process that assigns billing rates, and possibly a matter management process for those firms that use project management on the matter level. Marketing may ask for updates to the client relationship management tool, and if there are deals or significant news worthy issues, help draft a press release announcing the firm is handling the legal matter.

But what processes automatically kick in when a new client, or a new matter is opened within the library? I’ve been pondering that for a few hours now, and really haven’t come up with anything specific that we do. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are doing anything wrong, but I’m wondering if we’re missing an opportunity by not having something kick in, at a minimum when a new client is brought into the firm.

So let me bounce a few ideas off of you on what we could do through automated processes that bring value to the attorneys representing the new client:

  • Prior legal history
  • A report that shows what legal matters the client had, what jurisdictions, judges, law firm representation. 
  • Most likely this could be easily created using resources like Monitor Suite, atVantage, CourtLink, Bloomberg, etc.
  • Company Report
    • Overview of the company, key players, any existing client/firm relationships, and key competitors
    • These can be compiled through the firm’s CRM, and external products like Capital IQ, Hoovers, etc.
  • Current Awareness Reports
    • News reports or industry trade information
    • Lexis news, or news aggregators like Manzama, InfoNgen, Ozmosys, or legal industry news providers like Law360.
  • Prior Deals (M&A, IP, Real Estate)
    • A report that shows prior M&A or other deals.
    • Deal Monitor, MergerMarket, CapIQ, Lex Machina
    I’ll stop there, but you get the idea. What is it that we could bring, automatically, or at least with very little human input, that would push information out to the attorney representing a new client? Is there value in producing this information in a proactive manner, rather than waiting to be asked by the Partner representing the client? Can it be pushed into a client portal, or into the client folders in iManage, or some other place where the attorneys can see it?
    I heard the saying lately that “it’s better to give the attorney something to edit, than to ask them to create something.” Applying this concept to what we could do whenever a new client is brought in, then it would be better to present the attorneys with the information, and let them decide what is valuable or not valuable to them after seeing it. Listen to what the attorneys have to say about the information, and adapt to their needs. 
    There’s definitely an opportunity for each time we have a new client. Let’s be proactive. Push something out and give the attorneys something to edit.

    There has been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere and twitter this week about the Bloomberg Law article “Law Firm Librarians Feel Underused and Underpaid” and the accompanying survey. First off, I want to thank Bloomberg BNA for conducting this survey, sharing the results with the law librarian community and David Perla, President, Bloomberg BNA Legal Division and Bloomberg Law, for discussing these results with me.

    I think this title was a bit misleading. Librarians were expressing their frustration that firms weren’t fully utilizing their talents. I think that leaner staffing and more recognition of Librarians as an excellent low cost resource have kept them extremely busy and useful. As David said, “Research is in its lowest cost place today. Research is being pushed down to the lowest cost research, the library.”

    My discussion with him about this survey was interesting. Their motivation for conducting this research was as a vendor of Business Development (BD) tools, they wanted to get a sense of the scope of the involvement of law librarians in BD. The overwhelming response of librarians answering “yes” to the question of could they be better utilized took them by surprise (95% of the respondents to Question #6). This is something I’ve been talking about for years (Here’s an example) and I’m pleased to see that this is becoming a universal point of view.
    He also noted that law firm librarians see themselves as a resource for the acquisition of work for the firm. This is borne out by the following survey responses:
    Q1: 81% cite pushing relevant information on client intel directly to individual stakeholders as demonstration of their value
    Q2: 72% see BD and CI as areas currently handled has part of their job
    Q3: 66% see BD and CI as logical areas for someone with a law firm librarian skillset to add value

    The numbers clearly demonstrate a recognition by the law librarian community of the fact that this is a major contribution they can make to the success of the firm. However, only 18% say their law firm is currently using them in this capacity (Question 5). When taken into account with the previously discussed results, it appears that librarians are not being acknowledged for the BD and CI contributions they are making now. The reasons for this could be that these contributions are funneled through other departments, not recognized as BD or CI, or simply done on an ad hoc basis.

    One possible cause for this was identified by David in our discussion. He noted that firm BD initiatives lack consistency from one firm to the next. As result, the quality of the underlying research and analysis is not consistent. Using librarians in this capacity is an easy way for firms to utilize an existing resource to create a consistent high quality basis for strategic business decisions.
    The most interesting post for me was from fellow Geek Zena Applebaum. Zena used the survey to point out a path to address the concerns that were expressed by the respondents. David agreed with Zena’s assessment that Librarians are natural sleuths and are good at figuring out the client’s needs early and identifying strategic areas for the firm to target. Let’s face it, the days of “they know what I can do and they know where to find me if they need me to do it” are long gone.   Her post should inspire each of us to take charge of our destiny. Pick up that phone and ask your Marketing counterpart to lunch. Meet with your practice group leaders and show them how you help them achieve their strategic goals. Now is the time for action!

    I just returned from the AALL annual meeting in Philadelphia and had an interesting discussion with a colleague about Google.  First, let me set the scene: I was on a panel with Zena Applebaum and we had just answered a question about our favorite CI resources.  A member of the audience then asked why neither of us had included Google in our lists. As I began to answer, Zena wisely tweeted:

    There is a debate going on, both within our institutions and in the research community.  Is Google a tool or a resource?  I feel that Google is just a tool, an excellent one that allows us to access a universe of information.  Unfortunately, the quality of the information is always in doubt.  Information from a fake website or a misleading post could be included in the search results, maybe even at the top of the list. The same reasons you don’t rely on Wikipedia apply even more to Google.  Google has never laid claim to delivering only quality, vetted information.  In fact, they have taken great pains to do the opposite.  Look at the disclaimer at the bottom of the page here and listen to the conversation Richard Leiter and Company had with Google Scholar’s Chief Engineer here.

    As a researcher, I know the importance of confirming anything I find on Google and noting if the information is suspect and cannot be verified.  In CI as in law, it is important to have a high degree of confidence in the information that your analysis and recommendations are based on.  Google alone does not instill that confidence. 

    There is a reason we pay for services like Lexis Advance and WestlawNext.  These services ensure that their subscribers have access to current and vetted content, often with editorial review.  I’m not saying Google isn’t useful.  I am on Google several hours each day.  However, it is for these reasons I don’t conduct legal research on Google when I have these services and others like them at my fingertips.  Just like any tool, a thorough understanding of its limitations is necessary to get the most out of it.

    When I started in law firm competitive intelligence (CI),
    there were few of us doing it and making any headway at the time.  Over time, lots of people have tried to do
    legal CI, Librarians, marketing folks, even seasoned CI professionals from
    other industries have tried their hand at it, but eventually walked away.  There are certain nuances to working in a law
    firm outside of the practice of law, which I won’t get into here, but which
    extend to the practice of CI in law firms as well.  Over the years, I have been asked what works,
    how can law firm CI be a success, and I have written or spoken about various
    aspects. I’ve explained as many other before me did, that CI is not only about
    monitoring competitors, but about the competitive landscape (Blue Ocean
    strategy anyone?) and the markets in which law firms operate.  We’ve talk about changing the C in CI from
    competitive to collaborative, and encouraging a breaking down of the various
    silos that exist in law firm administration in order to successfully manage a
    CI program. And I still believe that collaboration is fundamental to CI
    success. But there is more. 

    We’ve also seen CI in law firms morph into or cross the
    line into BI and MI, I think my title actually changed to market intelligence
    or marketing intelligence once too for a brief while to prove the point.  But whether the title is CI, BI, or MI, the
    end result is the same. Intelligence is about cutting through the vast amounts
    of clutter or data to produce insights and analytics to drive business. Whether
    we are talking about structured (quantitative) or unstructured (qualitative)
    data, the role of the intelligence practitioner is to help the firm avoid
    surprises, make actionable recommendations and inform decision making.  But still, I would argue there is more. There
    has always been something more to legal CI. Something that sets legal CI apart,
    something that may well be a part of other industry CI functions, but from what
    I have seen, read and experienced of late, should be the cornerstone of legal
    CI, something that I have been unknowingly practicing for years but have only
    recently begun to articulate. Legal CI is client
    , or CRM plus. 
    Since the economic collapse in 2008, and the subsequent
    recovery, the legal industry has changed and clients are largely driving that
    change.  Law firms know this and have thus
    turned to keeping better tabs on their clients. Last week, I sat through the
    launch of the Acritas Canadian Brand
    Index and while the results were interesting, more interesting to me was the
    increased expectation of clients, that firms know their business.  Clients want to work with firms who know their
    business. What does knowing a business mean? 
    I think it means understanding the client’s market, their business
    issues, their liabilities, their risks and their successes. Knowing the client
    is about having a grasp on the client’s business that goes beyond the most
    recent press release issued or its website home page. Knowing a client is about
    making the client feel like you work at their place of business every day.
    “Business Savvy” is a 25% driver of law firm recommendations from
    General Counsels interviewed by Acritas. Furthermore, when GCs were asked about what additional skills
    they would like to see the lawyers they work with on a day to day basis have
    additional training or development in –the top answer was ‘understanding the
    client’s business’.  That, to me, is
    where CI comes into play (client intelligence, that is). The role of CI in law
    firms is to help lawyers understand their clients business so that the lawyers
    and firm as a whole can serve to their clients in a proactive and advisory manner.  Knowing the client’s business – the
    successes, the failures and everything in between will be a reflection on the
    lawyer’s business savvy and will then have a snowball effect that will impact a
    firm’s own position and ability to be and stay competitive. 

    So while I may not be changing my business cards anytime
    soon I have started to think of the C in my title as Client rather than
    Competitive.  It seems to be the
    most compelling and competitive way forward.