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When Carl Barton wanted to expand Holland & Hart’s practice in Salt Lake City, he knew it would take more than the traditional business development strategies of gut instincts, networking and the rumor mill to make it happen. Instead, Barton relied on so-called “competitive intelligence” to tap into the region’s robust real estate and intellectual property sectors. The plan worked. Denver-based Holland & Hart’s Utah location has grown from eight to 40 lawyers in the last three years, with expectations of adding as many as 10 more lawyers by the end of 2005. “And we’re making money,” Barton said. The concept of competitive intelligence may conjure up images of trench coats and wiretaps, but law firms are discovering that it is less about spying and more about smart decision-making than the name implies. It is a process of mining and analyzing information from public records, publications, the Internet, personal interviews and more to help firms win clients, set rate structures, hire laterals and expand into new markets. Some industries, especially heavily patented ones like pharmaceuticals and manufacturing, have used competitive intelligence for years. But some attorneys and marketing professionals say that law firms are just starting to discover how it can enhance business planning. KNOW YOUR MARKET “It’s about knowing your market and making intelligent decisions about where to invest your resources,” said Barton, administration partner for Holland & Hart’s Salt Lake City office. Some firms hire consultants to do the work, while others have their in-house marketing people trained to handle the tasks. And most professionals in the competitive-intelligence field vow that it is much more than the marketing catch-phrase du jour, especially in a legal market rapidly changing with law firm consolidation and expansion. “It’s not just going to a cocktail party. It’s not just collecting information from a database,” said Leonard Fuld, president of Fuld & Co., a law firm consultancy. Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory partner John Gamble is a believer. Last year, the Los Angeles-based firm hired as its chief marketing officer Suzanne Donnels, whose background as a consultant included competitive-intelligence work. Although the 200-attorney firm had just completed a long series of business strategy sessions without using competitive intelligence before Donnels joined the firm, Gamble said it now can test its ideas using her help. “We’ve discovered some initiatives that were well conceived and some that had too many market barriers,” Gamble said. One area where Allen Matkins has applied the strategy is in its hospitality practice, Gamble said. The firm has handled such projects as the sale of the Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix and golf course and hotel developments in California and Colorado. The firm wants to add to its client base and get more business from the hospitality clients it already has. Competitive intelligence will enable the firm to determine where its clients are looking to expand, possible community barriers to expansion, the resources of potential clients, the firm’s competition for those clients and more, Gamble said. SHEDDING A FIRM’S ‘SKIN’ In general, competitive intelligence focuses on the outside forces that can affect a firm’s business. It is an “eyes out” approach that seeks to determine where the firm fits among its competitors and its clients. “You’re trying to yank a firm out of its own skin,” Fuld said. Law firms are using competitive intelligence in several ways, including to bid for clients’ business, lure laterals and set billing rates. Law firm Web sites and the archives of trade magazines and other publications are important resources for competitive-intelligence professionals. Other sources include: � Court records to track client representation by competitors, their rates and the effectiveness of their services. � Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and other government agencies. � Web logs, or blogs, to track industry trends, employee morale and gossip. � Industry conference information to determine leaders and current issues. � Networking events, such as chamber of commerce meetings, in communities or business areas targeted for expansion. � Law firm want ads. � Personal interviews with people who have worked for competitors or for targeted clients. Should those who gather intelligence become overzealous in their endeavors, the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, which has about 1,500 members worldwide, publishes a code of ethics on its Web site that it wants its members to follow. Among other things, it requires competitive-intelligence professionals to identify themselves and for whom they work when collecting information, to avoid conflicts of interest and to provide honest conclusions from their work. In addition, SCIP warns its members to adhere to the Economic Espionage Act, a federal law passed in 1996 that makes it a crime to obtain trade secrets by fraud. Most law firms already perform some degree of competitive intelligence, said consultant Mark Greene, managing director of the Brand Research Co. in Washington. But the number of firms devoting concerted efforts to the practice is low, he said. INTELLIGENCE STUDY Earlier this year, Greene’s group released the results of a law firm survey pertaining to competitive intelligence in law firms. The study, sponsored by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell and the Legal Marketing Association, found that of law firms with an average of 250 attorneys, about 15 people per firm performed some form of competitive-intelligence work. Even so, only 44 percent of the firms reported that their leaders saw the value of investing in competitive intelligence. The study, which Greene said was the first of its kind, surveyed 119 firms, though only 8 percent responded. Philadelphia-based Cozen O’Connor has made big changes this year, and while it does not have a competitive-intelligence system in place, the firm’s chief executive office, Patrick O’Connor, said any strategic moves it makes involve some measure of competitive intelligence. In addition to changing its management structure last month by naming nine new managing attorneys for its regional offices, Cozen O’Connor also opened a New York location by adding 35 attorneys from Fischbein Badillo Wagner Harding. “We never go to a city and build the ballpark and hope they will come,” O’Connor said. A certain amount of marketing hype is attached to the concept of competitive intelligence, acknowledged Greene, the consultant, who said that to some extent the term is a “repackaging” of what some firms already do. But he also said that law firms would be wise to devote more resources to increasing such efforts. Indeed, some law firms provide competitive-intelligence work for their clients without having formalized systems in place at their own firms. But with law libraries “pretty much dead” because of online research, Greene said, managing partners may want to direct those professionals to do more investigative work for business development. A former law librarian who now trains law firms to do their own competitive-intelligence work is Cynthia Cheng Correia. She said that although law firms are becoming more adept at gathering intelligence for their business decisions, many still need someone who can analyze the information and present it in a cohesive manner. Also, law firms should recognize that using competitive intelligence is not a short-term commitment. Instead firms can use the information continually to monitor their place in the market, she said.

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