Practical Competitive Intelligence: Taking on CI in the Virtual World

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 25, Number 3 (January/February 2021), pgs. 44-45.

By Kevin Miles, Manager of Library Services at Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP

Your reference librarian recently transferred to a competitive intelligence (CI) professional role. How does he or she get and keep a seat at the firm’s virtual (remote) business development table during this pandemic? Even though we are not currently working together in an office, collecting, analyzing, and acting on information from CI efforts is more important than ever. The financial markets are increasingly volatile, more attorneys and support staff are changing firms, and some practice groups are underutilized. A physical table has size limitations, but a virtual table is infinitely large. In other words, there is room for more seats and voices at the virtual business development table.

Changes and Challenges

As we all know, the pandemic has challenged how we conduct business. For many law firms, employees work well from home. Yet working from home sets new expectations, such as 24/7 availability. What are the boundaries between home and work during the pandemic? Having a working knowledge of communication via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, WebEx, or similar tools is now critical for sharing ideas. But because we also know that law librarians are very adaptable, such challenges can be readily met and overcome.

Ask for a Seat at the (Remote) Table

One way to gain a seat at the virtual table is to reach out to the partner who is setting the agenda and request permission to attend the next meeting. Ask the partner, “What’s the most important thing you are facing?” Your purpose at the first meeting is to address the issue in five minutes and propose a CI-based solution with documentation. Then, ask for more issues that you can help resolve. The table below outlines some strengths and opportunities that you can build on using CI to help your firm.

Use Special Purpose CI Reports

The article “Special Purpose CI Reports” from the March/April 2020 issue of AALL Spectrum discussed special purpose CI reports that you can modify for the first meeting:

  • For the firm’s patent litigation practice group, show the number of law firms representing a particular client, and the judges who make the decisions.
  • For the firm’s corporate practice group, show a corporation’s subsidiaries, but include the names and contact information of the General Counsel.
  • For the firm’s trademark practice group, present a survey of royalty rates for a target company.

CI Leadership in a Virtual Environment

While you can’t quite knock on a partner’s door these days, librarians can nevertheless proactively create CI reports and send them to partners to demonstrate the value of CI in a virtual environment. A virtual environment creates new opportunities—“When one door closes, another door opens.” Besides the limitless number of seats at virtual tables, there are also limitless virtual doors to knock on.

Remember to keep tabs on the CI needs of your attorneys in order to provide them with high-quality data and insightful information. Remember: Each new client or new matter from CI-based research, strategy, outreach, and cross-selling will build and enhance your reputation—and that of your firm’s.

Market StrategyPresent an overview of shrinking and expanding markets. Describe what is causing each one in your market. How do we get from here to there?
Business ResearchWhat new activities are happening in your immediate market? You can monitor resources to discover who is moving into your market. Graph the statistics that suggest new trends. Develop a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis on an existing client.
Cross-SellingWhere is the pandemic hitting your firm? HIPAA, OSHA, insurance, data breaches, and supply chain issues are affecting many clients. Other areas include food security or food technology, fintech and IT services. You can help the firm craft a plan to cross-sell new services to existing clients.
Article WritingYour skills at writing can place firm stories in the legal press. Mapping regulation tables, writing client alerts, and writing great proposals are some of the documents you can create.

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