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Competitive intelligence has long been a standard practice in industry and in consulting firms, but has only recently begun to come to the fore in private law firms. A variety of business drivers have led numerous law firms to create dedicated competitive intelligence (CI) job positions over the past couple of years. Law firms’ ways of doing business are changing and are becoming more like a corporation’s. Increased competition for high-end work, consolidation among firms, clients’ reductions of their legal panels and the cost-reduction initiatives of general counsel-such as moving legal business in-house-are all driving the growing need for competitive and market intelligence. Firms are also increasingly focusing on client retention, cross-selling opportunities and growth via lateral hires and acquisition opportunities, all of which require business and market intelligence. Additionally, clients are demanding more from their outside counsel. They want to work with firms that display an understanding of their business issues and those of the industry in which they operate. Client pitches can no longer focus solely on how qualified a firm is in a specific aspect of law, but must also prove how knowledgeable and experienced the firm is in the client’s business. Firms’ marketing and business-development departments have also increased significantly in size over the past few years, with many firms hiring their first chief marketing officer and/or director of sales. With the growing focus on business development, attorneys are attending formal sales training sessions conducted by the WJF Institute, www.wjfinstitute.com. This sales training is commonly referred to as Flannery training, for the institute’s president, William J. Flannery, and centers around developing a client-focused business-development strategy. Client pitches, request-for-proposal responses, and event sponsorship and attendance are all increasingly coordinated and conducted in a strategic manner. The emphasis on strategically approaching client and business development has also generated an increased need for competitive and market intelligence. This increased need for this type of actionable information has resulted in a strong spike in the number of marketing and business development-related research requests to firms’ libraries. In November 2005, Janet Peros, a reference librarian at a major law firm in New York, conducted a survey of law firm librarians on the amount of research they conduct for their business-development departments. See Janet Peros, “Blurring the Lines: Law firm libraries and business development departments share more duties, sometimes share credit,” AALL Spectrum, April 2006, www.aallnet.org/ products/pub_sp0604/pub_sp0604_Blurring.pdf. Peros found that 71% of respondents reported an increase in the number of research requests they receive from marketing and business-development departments during the past year. Sixty-seven percent of respondents also reported that their firms had increased their marketing staff. Peros’ survey asked whether respondents had anyone in their library dedicated solely to marketing and business development-related research. Sixty-six percent of respondents reported that they did not, although several indicated that they planned to hire a dedicated business-intelligence researcher in the near future. Peros plans to conduct another survey next year to see how this staffing has changed. While it is still common for firms not to have a dedicated CI research position in place, those firms planning to hire in the near future are on the cutting edge of a movement that is quickly gaining momentum. A flurry of hiring In the past two years, many firms, such as Nixon Peabody; Duane Morris of Philadelphia; Goodwin Procter of Boston; White & Case; and Minneapolis firms Lindquist & Vennum and Leonard, Street and Deinard, have created competitive-intelligence or business-intelligence positions within their library function or within a marketing department. This past March, Nina Platt, director of information resources at Faegre & Benson, conducted a survey relating to CI research in law firms. Platt posted a query to the American Association of Law Libraries’ Private Law Libraries section listserv, asking members if they had a CI librarian and staff, what the position title or titles were, how long those positions had been in place and to whom those positions report. Of the 18 firms that responded, nine had a person dedicated solely to that function. Seven of those nine positions reported to the library/information resources department. One firm was in the process of hiring a dedicated CI person and the remaining eight firms all performed this type of research, but had no position formally dedicated to it. Of those with a dedicated CI position, only two had had that position for three to five years. The other positions had existed for only a few months. The question of where these types of positions should reside within a firm and what qualifications the person hired should have is still up in the air. Last April in Chicago, Ark Group, a business consulting firm, held the first-ever roundtable discussion to explore this issue. Participants were evenly divided among law firm library directors, law firm marketing/business development directors and researchers housed within marketing departments. Roundtable participant Mark Gediman, director of library services at Best Best & Krieger of Riverside, Calif., said that he hired a competitive-intelligence librarian in January in response to the increased need within his firm for a person dedicated solely to business-related research. It was important to Gediman that the person hired for the position not only have law firm experience, but also have corporate and competitive-intelligence experience. He discovered that these qualifications were difficult to find, proving again the newness of CI to law firms. For Gediman, it was important that the person hired have a good understanding of the way law firms operate as well as solid experience in researching, analyzing and synthesizing business information into practical intelligence. The person he hired had both the law firm and corporate background he desired. Reading through the qualifications specified in law firms’ CI-related job postings shows that the experience and degree requirements vary considerably. Most firms require a master’s in library science and/or an MBA. Some firms, however, state that a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience is preferred, not required. Most firms also require a minimum of three to five years’ research experience in a law firm or corporate setting, with several asking specifically for either law firm or professional services firm experience. Doug Hoover, director of strategic marketing at Thomson West and one of the roundtable leaders, observed that the qualifications listed for those job descriptions that fell under the marketing department were those of librarians, even down to the resources with which the person hired was expected to be familiar. Another roundtable participant, Karin Donahue, Gardner Carton & Douglas’ director of library and information services, described how at her Chicago-based firm all of the research librarians conduct CI research and are members of various teams under the auspices of the business-development committee. The librarians attend practice group and business-development committee meetings. Donahue is a member of the business-development committee and pursues research for larger strategic initiatives. Donahue said she has experienced a definite increase in CI-related requests in the past five years, with almost 50% relating to client development or to identifying lateral hires or potential acquisition opportunities. Thus, while Gardner Carton & Douglas does not have a stand-alone CI job position, the function has been formalized into practice and is housed within the library. Donahue was an innovator when she implemented this model nearly 20 years ago. Joint efforts work best The best-practice consensus resulting from the Ark Group roundtable was that CI positions within firms should reside under the library/information resources umbrella, since that is where most of the resources utilized are vetted and purchased. The person should have a dotted-line reporting relationship to marketing/business development and be solely dedicated to marketing-related research. It is vital that the marketing/ business development and library/information resources departments work together in CI, and if the person hired falls under the marketing umbrella, that person should have a dotted-line reporting relationship to the library. This joint structure is successfully being used in some firms and creates a win-win for both departments, as well as for the firms involved. With this structure, each department is allowed to concentrate on its core strengths and a solid alliance is created between the departments. The firm benefits when both areas are working in tandem to ensure the best possible support for the firm’s business development and strategic-planning initiatives. In reality, however, it is very common for firms’ library and marketing functions not to work together, which ultimately reduces efficiency through duplication of effort, duplication of resources and other factors. When marketing hires a business-intelligence researcher, it is common for the department not to include the library director in the interview and selection process. When these new hires are then in place, it becomes obvious quickly to the library department where this person’s deficiencies lie, because frequently the person is not skilled or trained in research and has little or no knowledge of common electronic information resources. Some common pitfalls in these situations include marketing researchers relying solely on what can be obtained from client or target clients’ Web sites, relying solely on free information off the Internet without realizing what pieces are missing, and running up large online research bills through unfamiliarity with information resources and inefficient searching. Since competitive intelligence and marketing and business development-related research is nonbillable and time-consuming, some law firm libraries are reluctant to perform it or have flat out refused to do it. This is sometimes due to pressure by the firm’s administration to be as chargeable as possible, thus creating the misperception within the library that this research is less important than client-billable research or negatively affects the library’s bottom line through the utilization of resources with no recoup of costs. Peros’ survey showed that these types of research requests are only going to increase and gain in importance. If the library is unwilling or unable to provide this type of service, the firm will likely hire someone in marketing who will. Libraries need to realize that providing this intelligence to their firms makes them active participants in building their firm’s business and contributing to the firm’s bottom line. It also increases the library’s visibility in the firm, connects the library with important strategic initiatives and integrates the library deeply into the firm’s daily operations. It takes a librarian It is in the firm’s interest that CI research is performed well by skilled people. The importance a firm has assigned to this function is evidenced in the way the firm staffs this function. The Ark Group roundtable participants concurred that the librarian skill set is the one most commonly desired for a CI position within a law firm. Firms that rely on secretaries or lower-level marketing personnel to conduct CI research are those with ineffective CI programs and that are not realizing the most return on their intelligence or investment. Altman Weil’s 2005 Survey of Major Law Firm Management Techniques found that 76.2% of the respondents were using, or were planning to use, competitive intelligence. Of the firms responding, half indicated a successful to very successful experience with competitive intelligence. See www.altmanweil.com/ dir_images/upload/resource/LFMT-CompetitiveIntell.pdf. In the past two years, at least 13 new CI-related positions have been created in private law firms in the United States, and new job postings continue to appear. Competitive intelligence is becoming an important factor in the way law firms do business. Firms should ensure that in creating a formal CI position, they place it within the proper department within their organization and staff the role with the appropriate skill set. Among those law firms that have already implemented a CI program, the most successful outcomes have been achieved when they created a position that ensured strong ties between the firm’s marketing and business development departments and the firm’s library and information resources department. Jan Rivers is competitive-intelligence liaison in the Minneapolis office of Dorsey & Whitney. She was a co-leader of the Ark Group roundtable discussed in this article. In 2003, Dorsey became one of the first firms to create a competitive-intelligence position. Rivers can be reached at [email protected].

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