We Need Intel!: Recap of AALL’s Competitive Intelligence Foundations Training

By Theresa Greco, Advisory and Managed Services Manager, HBR Consulting

I recently had the privilege of attending the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) 2021 Virtual Competitive Intelligence Foundations training.  Special thanks to the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) Grants Committee for sponsoring my attendance to this informative event. 

The two-day training educated attendees on the skills needed to effectively establish a competitive intelligence (CI) function in their firm.  Presenters also shared practical tips and tricks for leveraging competitive analysis for enhanced marketing, client management, and other firm strategic initiatives.

Facilitator Patricia Ellard kicked off day one with a healthy dose of enthusiasm and motivation.  “Confidence is key!” were her words of encouragement to new and experienced CI professionals gathered on Zoom to learn all they could about the ever-evolving Competitive Intelligence function within a law firm.

The importance of “value adding” was a key theme throughout the event.  A panel discussion with Business Development (BD) and CI specialists Barbara Malin, Emily Rushing, and Samantha Callahan reinforced that CI is not an “information collection” activity and that “data on its own is never intelligence”.  What turns a “data dump” into CI is “connecting the dots” and pointing out both the risks and the opportunities for the client.

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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.

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Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals Group Releases New Resource Guides

Below is a re-post with permission of the same article by Jean O’Grady on her Dewey Be Strategic blog.

The Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals – Special Interest Section (PLLIP) of AALL released two new resource guides on strategic planning and intranets. They also re-issued a major revision of a previously published guide on internet research.The Guides are free and available to law librarians and legal information professionals as well as law firm administrators who are interested in learning about best practices for managing information services. These guides are “slick” professional publications which combine high quality content with a visually polished presentation. Steve Lastres, Chair of the PLLIP Communications Committee, Natalie Lira, Communications Committee Member and Chair of the Resource Guides subcommittee and Cheryl Niemeier, Chair of PLLIP deserve special credit for shepherding these guides from concept through publication.

Strategic Planning for Law Firm Libraries.” was written by PLLIP members Anna Irvin, Natalie M. Lira, Saskia Mehlhorn and Lindsay Carpino. Since 2007 the law firm market has been in a continuous state of reinvention. Firms are facing competition from alternative service provides, increased pressure from clients to control costs and offer alternative billing arrangements. Firms are exploring off-shoring, on-shoring, outsourcing and new types of partnership structures. It is more important than ever for information professionals to reassess their mission, goals, structure, and services to maintain alignment with the strategic goals of their organization. The resource guide highlights some of the non-traditional initiatives which information professionals are undertaking to improve strategic alignment including centralization, collaboration with other departments, embedding practice specialists, competitive intelligence, knowledge management, practice portal development, risk management and non-traditional outreach.

The strategic planning guide provides a step-by-step outline for the strategic planning process which can be used as a tutorial for newer managers and a checklist for more experienced professionals.

Law Firm Library Intranets was written by PLLIP members Julia Berry, Emily R. Florio, Catherine Monte and Nola M. Vanhoy. Law firm intranets have become important knowledge sharing platforms which provide access to key firm, client, administrative and staff data. As law libraries are going digital, intranets provide links to full-text treatise libraries, online databases, knowledge repositories, and educational platforms. The resource guide addresses key issues facing information professionals who want to develop the firm’s first intranet or enhance an existing intranet, Topics include: selection and design, collaboration, project justification, content creation, Sharepoint tools, alternatives to intranets, extranets and suggestions for continuous improvement.

The Internet as  a Legal Research Tool was revised by PLLIP members Andrea Guldalian and Cheryl Niemeier. According to an ABA study 50.8% of lawyers begin their legal research using free internet resources. Information professionals are uniquely qualified to assess the risks of free legal research resources. They are often the only professionals at the firm engaged in training lawyers on internet “hygiene” and creating resources and intranets which direct lawyers to the most cost-effective and reliable internet resources. The guide includes an important discussion on authority and guidelines for assessing reliability of resources. There is guidance on best practices for legal research on the internet as well as using mobile apps for legal research.

Earlier guides cover how to hire a law librarian, new roles for law librarians, competitive intelligence, collection re-balancing, negotiations and space planning.

Law Firm Marketing and Law Librarians Join Forces to Provide Sophisticated Business and Competitive Intelligence

By MaryAnnWacker, Reference Librarian and Josie Morgan, Manager, Business Development at Bracewell & Giuliani

At Bracewell & Giuliani, the Library has developed a collaborative relationship with our Business Development & Marketing Department. We provide them with sophisticated business intelligence (BI) and competitive intelligence (CI) on a daily basis. While this work is primarily nonbillable, it is some of the most rewarding and satisfying research the librarians undertake. Most importantly, the firm recognizes the impact that our research has in identifying and bringing in new clients to the firm and staying abreast of the competitive legal landscape. Here at Bracewell, we have three reference librarians for a firm of almost 500 attorneys. Our Marketing group is organized by practice with managers for energy, banking/finance, trial/technology, etc.

A valuable service the Library provides to our litigation section and the Manager of the Trial and Technology group is a daily court alert that provides newly filed patent/copyright cases from Courtlink. This feed generates requests from our attorneys for copies of new complaints.

From a due diligence perspective, we are called upon for information on prospective clients and for upcoming pitches. We refer these types of requests as “you ring, we fling” requests given the fast turnaround that is demanded. We use tools such as Lexis AtVantage, Bloomberg litigation reports,Hoover’s, D&B, and news sources to complete these requests. In order to work more efficiently with Marketing on these requests, we copy the manager for that attorney’s section with the search results.  This helps the managers stay in the loop and keep up-to-date on all happenings within their groups.

Recently we added social media to our arsenal of resources we search to obtain background information on individuals. Our biography package now consists of information from our standard news sources, as well as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and photographs from Google images. With this information in hand, our lawyers are well prepared for any meeting.

To support the growing needs of the Marketing department, we work with the firm’s Communications Manager and monitor all mentions of our firm in the press and social media outlets. The Library uses Lexis Publisher and Google news alerts to send out a daily e-mail to all firm employees which includes every mention of Bracewell’s name in the press.

From a competitive intelligence perspective, the Library provides league tables to the Marketing Manager who supports finance and banking. Some of the resources we use include Thomson Financial, DealLogic, Bloomberg, and MergerMarket.

Marketing and the Library have also taken the time to get to know each other on a personal level through casual lunches. This has benefited both groups by knowing what is happening in each other’s department, plus it creates a dynamic where you aren’t just employees at the same firm but you care about what is keeping each other busy at work and after (movies, travel, DSW!). It also helps each department understand what the workload is like on the other side and that your requests may not be the only ones flooding respective inboxes.

A direct benefit to the Library of our collaborative relationship is that the librarians gain access to databases purchased by Marketing such as Energy Acuity and PitchBook. We are really grateful to have access to these (pricey) resources.

In addition to the services we provide, the Library plays a professional development role by training all new Marketing staff members when they arrive at the firm. This provides a great opportunity to start off on the right foot. The new employees then become ambassadors for the Library, sharing capabilities and sending attorneys to us for their research projects and requests.

The Library’s romance with Marketing began several years ago when we took on the task of compiling a weekly newsletter which included energy-related news in the Caspian region. We sent it out to clients for a while with just an e-mail. When Marketing heard about our efforts, they offered help with newsletter software to make The Caspian News look more professional and increased the distribution list using InterAction. This got the notice of important partners at the firm and it turned into a very high profile endeavor. I knew our efforts were appreciated when the entire Marketing Department showed up in the Library and surprised us with cupcakes to celebrate the newsletter’s 100th issue!

Marketing knows they can always depend on our quick response and valiant efforts. When they know we are responding immediately to their requests, they can get information to the attorneys in a timely manner which makes everyone look good. Our attorneys are then able to impress the firm’s clients, as well as prospective clients, because of our efforts as a unified team – not as two separate departments.

Our secret to creating a fun and rewarding working relationship with the Marketing Department is keeping lines of communication open – try asking someone to lunch, stopping by their office, or chatting with them over coffee at Starbucks.