CI Collaboration

A recent article regarding law firms struggling to meet competitive intelligence needs stirred up discussion among some law firm CI gurus. I’m not going to go into a discussion of the article and its findings, as that will be a group discussion on the PLLIP CIBlawg in the near future. That and I haven’t had the time to thoroughly dissect the article and its findings.

But it made me think about CI is handled in law firms, a subject that I’ve touched on before. There’s competitive intelligence, which is used more frequently for strategic purposes. And there’s business development, which is a type of competitive intelligence, is used more frequently for client pitches. There has been an increase in the demand for CI/BD due, at least in part, to increased competition for clients.

So, who’s doing the research, and who’s using the research? The end user is almost always an attorney, the one who’s making the client pitch. But they are not always (almost never) the ones who are doing the research itself. The attorney requests the research, either from the library or from the marketing department. Marketing doesn’t do the research either. They, in turn, pass it on to the library/research department. Hopefully, it doesn’t end up like a game of “Telephone” where the final request bears no relation to the initial request.

Research groups should work closely with their marketing groups. While the researchers have (or should have) a working relationship with the attorneys, in a law firm, when an attorney needs something for a client presentation, they often turn to marketing first. Sometimes I think they assume that the marketing people have a fancy package already prepared.

Here’s how it really works. Attorney goes to Marketing and says “I’m making a pitch to XYZ Corp. Can you give me background on the company and information on the General Counsel?” Marketing says yes, and then sends the request to the research group. Researcher gathers the information, analyzes for the relevant material and makes a summary of the high points, and sends the information to Marketing. Marketing makes it pretty and sends it to the attorney.

As I mentioned in a previous post, there’s a difference of opinion on whether the Library should send the material in an un-alterable format, with the library logo prominently displayed, so that the Attorney knows who did the work. Here’s where collaboration and a good relationship with your Marketing department come into play. You can send it with the library logo, or you can rely on Marketing to give the researcher the credit for the work. Most attorneys are savvy enough to know that the Marketing folks don’t do research. And, really, most don’t care – as long as they get the information they need, they don’t worry who does the work.

By all means, we should remind the attorneys that we are here to help with research projects, including non-billable (business development) research. Remind them that you can research current AND potential clients, and give them actionable items for client meetings. But don’t ignore the Marketing department. Offer to help them as well. It’s more work for the Library/Research team, more hours for the researcher to report (by all means, account for the time spent on these requests), and a win for the firm.

The article mentioned at the beginning of this post mentioned that a couple of the CI hurdles for firms are resources and staffing. We can’t do much about the first (resources). But, even if you don’t have a dedicated CI person/group on staff, we can help with the second. Make time to help with CI/BD work. There’s going to come a time when you need something made “pretty” and then it’s time to ask Marketing to do something for the library.

About czluckie

Research Attorney at Jackson Walker LLP
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