Should law firms invest in more competitive intelligence? Asks Ron Friedmann. Um. Yes. Always yes. And not just law firms but every business should invest more in CI. Investing in knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know and knowing what the market knows – about you and otherwise – is an investment every business should make. In the above mentioned article, CI is described as “The deeper the insight, the better. Competitive intelligence serves that purpose. It helps win business and improve service delivery.” The article goes on to talk about the ways CI can help law firm business development and marketing efforts, this post was expertly timed to come out in advance of the Legal Marketing Associations annual conference being held in Atlanta this coming week. The revisiting a February 2019 survey and calling for more CI is a great start, CI can help with business development.
But positioning CI only as BD and Marketing support sells CI short. CI can and should drive business development efforts but CI is much more. CI should be embedded in practice planning, strategic firm growth discussions, lateral hire diligence, office or practice expansion proposals. To borrow and expand on the SCIP.org definition of CI, it is a systematic and ethical program for gathering, analyzing, and managing external and internal information that can affects your business. There are a few key elements to that definition that get lost when we think of CI as only competitive research to support BD and marketing efforts. Namely, the idea of CI being based on analysis, and a combination of internal and external information gathering. The aforementioned competitive research leaves out rigorous analysis and negates internal data, which firms are producing in mass quantities and not leveraging very well beyond pricing or resource planning. We need to bring the outside in. if we are going to truly do meaningful CI for our firms. CI needs to be systematic, it needs to be ongoing not only tied to a specific RFP or a moment in time, it should evolve with the firm and inform any business decision that requires both avoiding surprises (the fall of a competitor firm, the exit of an entire practice of lawyers from your firm to a competitor) and forecasting for the future (did we see e-sports coming as a burgeoning area of law?).