By Andrea K. Guldalian, Library Resources Manager at Duane Morris LLP, in Philadelphia, PA
The Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals’ Special Interest Section offered a few great webinars this winter, and we wanted to highlight some of what was covered for non-PLLIP members, or for PLLIP members who missed them….
On January 31st, Eve Searls, a PLLIP member and a Research Attorney with Jackson Walker LLP, San Antonio, TX, led a panel of PLLIP members in a discussion of how competitive intelligence reports are handled at their respective firms. “You Ask, We Tell – Your CI Report Formatting Questions Answered” not only covered formats and templates used for competitive intelligence reports, but also addressed the content typically covered within a report, and the sources used.
- Stefanie Frame, Research Services Manager, Foley & Lardner LLP, Los Angeles, CA
- Juli Hughes, Director, Library and Research Services, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young LLP, Philadelphia, PA
- Liz Whittington, Legal & Business Research Analyst, K&L Gates LLP, Pittsburgh, PA
Formatting of CI Reports
According to Stefanie, the primary aim of their CI reports is to help requesters “get smart quickly.” They want to provide key information and knowledge in an easily digestible format, so they present information in bulleted and graphical form and utilize a template with branding and color elements. Creation of the report typically starts with a conversation with the requester, as to the requester’s focus, information needs, and priorities, so there’s a clear understanding of what the deliverable will be.
At K&L, Liz says the company report is their “bread & butter report” and is concise and presented in an outline format with standardized headings. Content can include tables, abstracts, and articles with highlighted text. Substantial time is spent formatting the reports in Word, and the final version is then converted to a PDF document so it can’t be altered. A report database is maintained to allow for freshening of a report at a later date. Liz mentioned the analysts creating the reports also keep copyright concerns in mind, particularly if a report will be sent to a client.
Juli said her reports are divided into two parts. The first part provides the basic rundown of a company and can help requesters check their assumptions and re-frame who they think they’re working with if there are any misconceptions. The second part of the report digs deeper and delves into company culture, corporate output, and what makes a company tick.
Working with Templates
Stefanie said they employ a Word template, utilizing tables and other graphical features as needed. Their team creates slick-looking, branded reports with standardized colors and carefully selected fonts. The Word version of the report is stored in their document management system with a created/updated date.
The clean template, which shows the list of resources used, ensures that anyone on the team can pull out the template and determine what information is needed. This allows for standardization, although reports can be customized to specific needs
For K&L, their template was initially created about seven years ago. The firm chair provided a list of information he wanted included, and the team combined that required information with report headings based on interviews with firm stakeholders. The current report features a cover page with branding and also includes analyst name, date of creation, table of contents information, and a copyright notice. Requesters can fill out an information request form and check what information they want included, and they can request specific additional information as needed. There is a catch-all heading at the end of the report for additional information.
Juli finds that using a template is key since the template is a reminder of what information needs to be included. It also assures the patron that if something is missing it’s because info was not available, not because it was left out. The standardization also helps since requesters are familiar with the format and can quickly get to the information they need.
Even if they’re short on time, Stefanie said the subject areas are standards for them—company description, location, public/private, executive information, litigation and transaction trends five years back, key developments/news, etc. If timing doesn’t allow, sometimes they will go to a resource that has a pre-formatted company report and then hit on the report highlights in their e-mail to the requester. The conversation with the requester is particularly important when time is limited, so that research and deliverable are based on what the requester needs.
Liz and her team have a standard 24-hour turnaround time, so they can include the standard report elements—company description/financials, chairman’s letter to shareholders if available, officers and directors, particular personnel, previous law firm representation, litigation/transaction trends, risk factors from 10-Ks, list of competitors, recent news/press releases, additional information (patent/patent litigation; outstanding company debt for restructuring attorney, etc). These reports typically take 1-4 hours for report creation. They will negotiate with the requester if a quicker report is needed or will substitute canned reports if a true time crunch.
Juli created a color-coded template which shows what information will be provided based on the turnaround time. A quick report (20-30 minutes) will provide background information such as company location, description, and SIC/NAICS codes; brief financials, and management information, while a 3-4 day turnaround allows for company structure information, market data, litigation/transaction history, and more detailed information on company personnel. A 7-10 day turnaround report can include detailed industry information, such as key associations and SWOT analysis. Juli said most requesters don’t want the industry info, but she likes to expose people to it once or twice so they know what’s available.
Citing to Sources
Stefanie stated that they provide a general statement at end of report regarding sources used, and particular report sections or screenshots will include source information. Copies of sources are only provided in certain situations, depending on the requester and his or her needs. The sources are saved in a folder on shared drive.
Liz agreed that the analysts pride themselves on being curators of the information, so they don’t provide reams of sources. The idea is to provide something that can be read in the back of a cab. Cites will be provided to a website or database generally, and sometimes a 10-K or transcript of a shareholder call will be included if they have pertinent information that the requester may need to reference.
Juli also aims to provide a condensed, polished product, not unfettered attachments. She does cite to article names, publication, and date, and includes hyperlinks in a bibliography section. She will incorporate table snips/screenshots, and will only send a full article if it provides needed context. The Stradley Ronon DMS has a folder for CI reports broken out by folders for companies and then folders for articles/documents.