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The Legal Competitive Intelligence Function

Home The Legal Competitive Intelligence Function

The Legal Competitive Intelligence Function

By Steven Medley, Business Intelligence Analyst, LAC Group

SM_HeadshotCompetitive Intelligence is the process of obtaining actionable insights about your clients, potential clients, your client’s business, the industry in which they operate, and your competitors.

CI should not simply be an exercise in gathering information. Significant efforts are required to analyze and convert data into intelligence that can be acted on. This frequently involves manual processes, analysis and inputs to relay intelligence to the firm’s decision-makers.

CI is not a “Pie in the Sky” exercise of research for research’s sake – it can and should be aligned with the business goals of the firm and provide measurable impacts to the bottom line. If firm managers eyes glaze over when you mention CI, start talking about specific examples which impact the revenue – i.e. “Let’s put some processes in place which will allow our firm to quickly respond to new litigation filed against one of our clients.”

CI efforts should support strategic decision-making around the processes of:

  • Identifying and securing clients
  • Pricing engagements (setting rates and pricing for Alternative Fee Arrangements)
  • Recruiting and retaining talent
  • Cross-selling additional work to existing clients
  • Entering or exiting practice areas (designing the firm’s product offering)
  • Writing articles, newsletters & thought leadership
  • Planning events, client roundtables
  • Identifying and avoiding risks

To be effective, the CI function should support the firm’s existing workflow and needs, and follow these 5 steps:

  1. Planning – The process of defining the goals for the CI program – what do we need, and when do we need it? Define roles, metrics, templates, etc. What sources will be needed?
  2. Research – The process of gathering the data and information.
  3. Analysis & Formatting – Distilling the information into a report format with conclusions and supporting facts.
  4. Distribution – Conveying the intelligence to the decision makers – may be via report, in-person meetings, an explanatory call, etc.
  5. Action – Using the intelligence to inform decision-making.

Commonly Implemented CI Initiatives

Although the CI function should be customized to the needs of each firm, there are a number of initiatives which are commonly implemented and where firms are seeing a tremendous value.

Listed below are some of the commonly implemented programs for CI:

  • Monitoring
  • Company & Background Research
  • People Research
  • Industry Research
  • Legal Representation
  • Peer Firm Benchmarking & Rates
  • Events & Thought Leadership

Structuring and Staffing the CI Function

The CI function requires a unique skill-set that consists of deep corporate & people research experience, legal acumen, “big-picture” mindset, synthesis and writing ability and strong presentation skills.

Due to the requirement for research experience and access to a wide variety of electronic resources required to perform the work, many firms house this function in the their law library.  However, some skills required for a CI Analyst lie outside those of a “traditional” legal librarian. Because of this, and the time commitment required to do serious CI research, many firms have created separate position(s) to focus solely on CI. Developing and training current staff from either the Library or Marketing/BD is also a commonly followed approach.

Therefore, the CI function is normally positioned in the firm’s library, Marketing/Business Development Group, or as an independent position/group with “dotted-line” reporting to the Library/Knowledge Management, BD, and/or other key firm stakeholders.

Many firms also find outsourcing the function to be an attractive option. Smaller firms who have an occasional need can get access to highly skilled researchers at a much lower cost this way, than if they had an in-house position. Larger firms are using outsourcing for designing services, overflow work, and benchmarking against their peers. LAC Group offers a number of options to satisfy CI needs at law firms and other companies, from staffing services to complete outsourcing of the function and an-demand research through R2S – Rapid Research Solutions.

Contact us today to learn more about our CI solutions.