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Over the last few years, as information technology (IT) and marketing departments have played a more prominent role in law firms, IT departments have rolled out software programs to assist marketing with the capture of basic client relationship information for mailings, law alerts, programs and the like while at the same time working in tandem with libraries to upgrade their legal research tools. With the advent of solution-based client intelligence/relationship management products, a new method of delivering all of this information can now be aggregated in one interface. These products and services are specifically designed to provide better intelligence on how to add value to existing client and new business relationships. Picture a software system that provides information solutions to law firms based on how they need and use information rather than the one-size-fits-all approach currently employed by most information providers. Such a system would provide lawyers with client-oriented information specifically tailored to the way individual lawyers work; it would take the “flood” of available Web-based information and leverage these multisourced data. Most requests for existing client or new business information begin with the marketing department, whose assignment goes something like this: “We want to have an edge on getting to pitch for new business from client X. Client X will not think of us for this business unless we demonstrate that we have specialized knowledge about its business in this area, so gather all the information you can including who our competition will be.” The marketing department will likely begin the process of gathering the information using sources from the Internet. In addition, the customer relationship management (CRM) database may be in play to see who knows whom at client X and who will have the stronger connection to the client (it’s not always the relationship partner). Enter the library, whose role it is to provide more in-depth research on Client X. This multisourced gathering of intelligence is time-consuming and often does not produce the kind of results that enable a law firm to intelligently pitch for expansion of existing business or to successfully develop new business. Instead, firms can use client intelligence software with one-stop shopping for the gathering and delivery of this data. AN AMALGAMATED DEPARTMENT The first part of the process would involve the creation of an amalgamated department whose sole mission is providing, preparing and formatting this multisourced information in a manner that can be readily processed and delivered. This information can then be disseminated to the team pitching for either the expanded business or the new business in formats that can include raw data or an actual question/answer response to a request for proposal (RFP) presented in a clear, concise and informative manner. Back in the days before IT became as sophisticated as it is today, when a firm wanted to get on the inside of an existing client’s thinking or go after a new prospect, the only way to gather this type of intelligence was to hire an outside consultant. Armed with this type of intelligence, the lawyers in the group were able to have a comfort level with the formation of an expanded practice group in which there was real legal expertise and specialized knowledge of the relevant industry that could be successfully marketed. So what is the function of this amalgamated department that houses this type of software and consulting services? Among other things, the department can deliver real-time research and information, specifically related to each lawyer’s clients, directly to the lawyer’s desktop; eliminate the time it takes a lawyer to do research; significantly increase the number of researchable databases available; reduce the cost of research; and process and deliver information in a formal document (response to RFP) or an informal one (raw data) that can make attorneys better equipped to serve existing clients and new business prospects This next generation of law firm business development is no longer about brochures and seminars. It is about marketing that is value-added to both law firms and their clients. And it is certainly not just about having a CRM software tool. With big-ticket items like technology and marketing on the minds of owners, chief operating officers and chief financial officers, an interdisciplinary, multi-faceted department that can collect, manage and deliver information in a controlled and cost-effective environment would be the coming of age of marketing. A department that actually delivers usable information that can be translated into responses to RFPs, and that provides the sales team with talking points for existing clients and new business prospects can be powerful. The best words an attorney can hear from an existing client or a new business prospect is “You’ve done your homework on us.” This client intelligence can also be useful in establishing a conduit between attorney and client as they do business together. The sharing of intelligence can provide shortcuts to all types of engagements, including matters of staffing and budgetary concerns. This is more than people using research software; it is the next generation for providing sophisticated methods to expand and manage existing clients and to create new business opportunities. THREE-STAGE PROCESS The software solution described here is being beta-tested at several law firms in the United States. Stage one of this beta-testing is the actual rollout of the software to selected desktop users with appropriate training technicians. Stage two will be the interdisciplinary department education process. This will involve the creation of the client intelligence department (the amalgam of IT, marketing and library services) that houses the software and the consulting services. Stage three will be the creation of the in-house consulting side of the department whose function will be to work directly with the lawyers to take the software solutions and place them in real situations like the creation of practice groups and sales teams, responding to RFPs and the implementation of client-focused continuing legal education programs. This three-stage process will enable law firms to become smarter at understanding their clients and how they can service them more efficiently. On the new business development front, the process will provide law firms with something far better than an “intuitive” knowledge of the prospective client. They will be in a position to add and delete practice areas with a view to their bottom line. They will also be able to make informed decisions regarding business expansion. And, finally, firms that establish this type of multifaceted client intelligence department will be in a position to lead the charge on how information is provided to a professional services industry that traditionally has not been known for its innovative approach to data delivery. Elizabeth Anne Tursi is editor-in-chief of “Law Journal Newsletters: Marketing the Law Firm,” an American Lawyer Media publication. She is a private advisor to law firms in the areas of marketing, practice development architectures, client intelligence, client relationship management and new business development. She can be reached at [email protected]. To subscribe to the monthly newsletter “Marketing the Law Firm,” click here.

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