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What does CI have to do with the CIA?

Former CIA official finds similarities in LAC work

August 31, 2022

Home Blog What does CI have to do with the CIA?
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As a former CIA official, LAC Group’s Head of Intelligence Services Merrell Moorhead is very well versed on just how much intelligence can impact a business. But that’s not the thing most people are interested in learning more about when they find out about his past CIA life. Instead, he’ll get questions like, “What secrets can you uncover for me?”

In fact, there was a time he spoke with a prospect who actually wanted LAC to go undercover and pose as a potential buyer to find out a rival service provider’s pricing structure!

That never led anywhere because as Merrell puts it, “We collect open-source, public information — we don’t steal secrets.”

The process of collecting information that becomes intelligence is a lot different at LAC compared to his days at the CIA. It is worth noting though that there is a great deal of crossover between CI and the CIA in the process of analysis and information presentation.

CI meets CIA

It’s important that a company’s intelligence be flexible and customized to help leadership make decisions. “What keeps you up at night?” is a question that Merrell always asks prospects and clients. That question identifies what a company is most invested in — from their key opportunities to the things that could go wrong. Once that information is uncovered, the most valuable intelligence program can be designed.

For example, when the Chief Strategy Officer of an Am Law 50 requested LAC’s CI team to develop company profiles for the firm to use in pitches and manage clients, Merrell and his team examined the firm’s existing profile templates.  While the firm had an internal CI function and were concise in conveying some essential information, their profiles didn’t leave much room for analysis or answer the question, “What does this mean for us?”

So, what changed?

It’s the “so what?” factor.

Merrell transformed the original templates and enhanced it by adding elements such as:

  • An executive summary at the beginning of the profile to outline the most important details from the firm’s perspective
  • A table of legal services implications with detailed bullets for each relevant practice area
  • A SWOT analysis from the law firm’s standpoint to help engage their clients and add value to the company

In short, the company profile was written through the lens of the firm’s capabilities and customized for their leadership. The new and improved templates distilled the information down to what mattered most. Main points and takeaways were front and center — starting with the answer and putting it in terms that were relevant to the firm.

The Am Law 50 client provided positive feedback on the profile template revisions. Especially since it came at an opportune time when the firm was planning to use the profiles to take a more strategic approach with a company.

The pace of CI demand is not always fast. Sometimes, there is an overwhelming amount of information. Sometimes, there is hardly any information at all. Other times, the information available does not come from sources LAC would call reliable.

When asked if there was one thing he wished everyone knew about CI, Merrell pointed out managing expectations.

“People can have an unrealistic expectation of what might be available because they think everything is public. A misconception people also have is that there is an AI that can do all this work. AI takes a lot of training, effort, and resources. I haven’t met an AI yet that is able to take a different question every time and turn that into actual research.”

Where to start when it comes to CI

With CI being the backbone for strategic planning and solid decision making, it makes sense to get the right intelligence in place.

Whether you’re struggling to deal with a backlog of requests or seeking to up your game with more targeted profiles, LAC has the experience and expertise to help.

Utilize our CI expertise for detailed knowledge on your competitors, markets, prospects and those industries in which you work. We’ll help you unlock insights to win more competitive deals and protect your market position.

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