Experience at AALL’s Course: Competitive Intelligence Strategies & Analysis

By Allison C. Reeve Davis, Senior Library Manager, Littler Mendelson, P.C. and Caren Luckie, Research Attorney, Jackson Walker LLP

Allison and Caren were both awardees of the PLLIP-SIS grant to attend the course and in this post share their experiences and “a-ha” moments.

On May 16-17, 2022, several legal information professionals gathered in Chicago for an immersive course on Competitive Intelligence (CI) in law firms. The small group of 11 comprised individuals from law firms of various size and included librarians and CI researchers alike. Facilitators Ben Brighoff (Foley & Lardner, L.L.P.) and Lynne Kilgore (Baker Botts, L.L.P.), along with additional speaker Nathalie Noel (Jenner & Block), led the group through several CI strategies, team development, stakeholder buy-in, working collaboratively with other departments, and other considerations. Attendees took away ideas and made connections with each other creating a larger network of colleagues working in this space. We have already seen members of the group reaching out with questions and sharing ideas.

Organizers of the course kept the attendee list intentionally small. This created an open environment in which all were encouraged to share their experiences, expertise, and ask questions in a welcoming environment. Learning that individuals came from various levels of experience or diverse groups of research settings lessened any intimidation of being in a room with only high-level experts. Quickly, the group felt comfortable asking questions and sharing their goals for further CI development on their home teams. We learned that many of us face the same problems, and that we were all searching for the right (or better) resources to help us provide enhanced competitive intelligence to our firms.

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The Great Resignation: Obstacle or Opportunity?

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 26, Number 5 (May/June 2022), pgs 20-22.

By John DiGilio, Firmwide Director of Library Services, Sidley Austin LLP and Courtney Toiaivao, Director of Research Services, Holland & Knight LLP

What the Great Resignation can teach us about desirable workplace culture and happiness.

Much has been made of the Great Resignation, the buzzy labor market phenomenon that has seen millions of Americans leave their jobs since spring 2021. The question on so many minds right now is simple: Why? Why are people suddenly hitting the bricks in such large numbers? While it is easy to blame the ongoing pandemic, the answers—and they are multiple—go much deeper and are far more complex. Take for instance the fact that U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that over two-thirds of people who left their jobs in 2021 did so voluntarily. Roughly 69 million Americans quit their jobs since 2021, which means that 47.8 million made up their own minds that it was time to go. (View the data at bit.ly/MJ22laborstats.) The numbers have staggered employers as they try to come up with ways to retain the talent they have, as well as replace the workers who have left. At the same time, a new world of considerations and opportunities has opened for those contemplating making a change.

What Is Causing the Great Resignation?

In many ways, the timing of the Great Resignation is a direct by-product of the pandemic. Parents (often women) left jobs to manage childcare needs; employees left the labor market due to COVID concerns; older employees retired early thanks to extra savings from being in quarantine or perhaps thanks to skyrocketing housing prices that enabled some to sell at profit; and across industries, countless employees left the workforce from a deep sense of burnout and dissatisfaction. This last reason is most distressing to employers and may embolden those pondering a dash for the door.

After anxious, stressful pandemic years, often with increased hours and blurred start and end times, employees saw the boundaries of home and work blend together. Beyond trying to keep children, partners, and pets from popping into Zoom windows, employees routinely found themselves working past the hours where they would have left for home. Time that was once dedicated to the commute was now being spent working. In short, productivity got a boost, but happiness did not. In a time of great work turmoil and with many employees working remotely for the first time, Americans found themselves questioning what they truly wanted from their lives and their work.

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Taking on Data Analytics

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 26, Number 2 (November/December 2021), pgs 46-48.

By Miram Childs, Director, Law Library of Louisiana Supreme Court; Andre Davison, Research & Information Operations Implementation Manager, Orrick LLP and Scott Vanderlin, Student Services Librarian, University of Chicago D’Angelo Law Library

Data is everywhere. Many law librarians’ job responsibilities increasingly require them to understand and handle data. What advice, recommendations, or tips do you have to help legal information professionals improve their data skills?

ANDRE: Fifteen-plus years ago, mathematician Clive Humby made headlines when he declared that “data is the new oil.” His metaphor explained that “just like oil, in its rawest form, data is almost useless. But when it is refined, it can be turned into something much more valuable.” Firm law librarians have the unique skills and tools to refine and transform data to perform analytics to support the practice and business of law. Data can seem intimidating, but I will offer recommendations that helped me become more acclimated to using and understanding data analytics. 

VOLUNTEER FOR PROJECTS

At my previous firm, our new CIO created a project to revise our budget reporting process. We were previously utilizing an Excel spreadsheet to track our annual budget. He asked me to lead a project where our goal was to transform the invoice data we were collecting into insights we could use in our budget report. In this project, I learned to utilize tools such as Microsoft SharePoint and Power BI to transform a considerable amount of data into a digestible format for our finance committee. I was able to take some courses to help familiarize myself with the products. My willingness to volunteer to lead that project helped me learn new methods and processes to transform large amounts of data into actionable insights.

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How Data Analytics Can Change the Way Law Firms Do Business

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 26, Number 2 (November/December 2021), pgs 16-19.

The latest issue of AALL Spectrum, published by the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), focuses on the increasing use of data analytics in the legal world, and the role information professionals play in making data accessible and beneficial.  Information professionals’ current roles involve helping people gain insight from the data available via various internal and external sources by integrating the data and presenting it in digestible and meaningful formats.  The Spectrum issue examines the use of analytics from different perspectives, including how to employ a DIY approach to analytics; how analytics can help firms innovate, and how best to implement analytics to help ensure adoption and continued use.

By Lisa Mayo, Director of Data Analytics, Ballard Spahr LLP

A recent Law.com article by Dan Clark highlighted a startling finding: “General counsel are increasingly looking for law firms that can collect and deliver data so corporations can improve their decision-making about risks and spending. But they are often frustrated when outside counsel can’t meet these expectations, according to in-house sources.” (Read the article at bit.ly/ND21law.) The article made the dire prediction that if law firms cannot offer digitized data to their clients, they “will likely lose out to their more cutting-edge competition.” Legal service providers are not alone in their need to employ data analytics. Every business, regardless of industry, requires a framework and methodology to quickly interpret data from
multiple sources in order to make sound business decisions.

At Ballard Spahr LLP, data and analytics are on the forefront of much of our modern technology offerings. Unlike many firms, our data and analytics function sits inside our Client Value and Innovation department, where we have some latitude with a research and development budget and the directive to “fail fast” if we determine a proof-of-concept did not meet our needs. Our data management mission statement says in part that we “contribute to the firm’s strategic goals by using innovative technologies, a variety of flexible and adaptive data sources, artificial intelligence/machine learning, and ongoing data literacy education to help redefine the Firm’s internal performance objectives and accountability drivers and transform how the Firm delivers legal services to its clients.” Just 48 words but loaded with meaning and purpose, both for now and in the foreseeable future.

The following are some of the ways Ballard Spahr is using data analytics to better serve its clients:

  • INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGIES– We are using best-in-class data and analytics tools for data preparation, security, dashboard technology, and automation. We are also leveraging big data tools for data analysis and transformation.
  • A VARIETY OF FLEXIBLE AND ADAPTIVE DATA SOURCES– Each evening, our automated processes look for new litigation, updates to federal campaign contributions, new federal, state, and local legislation, and municipality data sources. We can also modify our big data analyses to exclude or include client data based on the business need.
  • ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE/ MACHINE LEARNING (AI/ML) – Tied closely to our data literacy initiative, we are using AI/ML to translate pages of financial data into meaningful text with observations and actionable recommendations; we can also train ML models to find patterns, trends, and make predictions in any variety of datasets.
  • ONGOING DATA LITERACY EDUCATION – Global research and advisory company Gartner classifies data literacy as a “core competency” that entails being able to “read, write, and communicate data ‘in context’ including . . . the ability to describe the use case application and resulting value.” Our data literacy initiative involves training our users to understand the impact of effective-dated information versus period in time data; using filters to exclude anomalous data; and understanding the key financial drivers related to profitability. As Gartner’s recent 2021 Data Analytics Summit mentioned, “Data literacy is the ‘How’ of a data-driven organization; it is the most important skill for the twenty-first century—period!”
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