Firms working to bulk up intelligence analysis functions

Law firms are creating formalized competitive intelligence positions and departments. And that has meant finding the rare person, or in most cases a group of people, who have the skills to gather, synthesize and analyze data with the ability to present in a way that distills the information and provides insights or suggested action plans.

“The most important thing from my perspective is to make our work actionable,” Mark Messing, Duane Morris chief marketing officer, said. “Before, there was a tendency by people, many who were ex-librarians, to be faithful compilers of telephone books.”

In an era where information is available by the terabyte, the real skill is in understanding what is important, what that information means and what to do with it.

“The deliverable here isn’t volume, it is insight,” Mr. Messing said. “A page full of bullets with conclusory insights is infinitely more valuable than Xeroxing a 10-K.”

Duane Morris’ formal competitive intelligence function is housed in its marketing systems unit and is led by a business intelligence analyst. That person’s job, Mr. Messing said, is to cull intelligence from secondary sources that the firm purchases or that are publicly available on certain industries, markets or clients.

“They are responsible for turning out products that actually move the ball forward,” he said. “They are not academic studies.”

At Fox Rothschild, there are five researchers in the firm’s library services team and five people within the business and competitive intelligence team. One of those people was recently elevated to the director of business and competitive intelligence and reports to Catherine Monte, the firm’s chief knowledge officer.

The 10 research analysts work with the firm in a variety of ways. And perhaps the return on investment couldn’t be more apparent than at Fox Rothschild, where in the last year the firm’s clients have actually hired the team to compile industry reports for the clients.

“This is a value add [the lawyers] can pitch to clients,” Ms. Monte said.

Internally, Ms. Monte’s team works with the business development team’s “Make Fox Rain” initiative, sitting in on those meetings to find research opportunities to help with business generation. They also work with management on more strategic initiatives, such as whether it makes sense to expand into a new market. They meet with office and practice group leadership to determine areas where the firm could expand its relationships with existing clients or industries. And in addition, the team works with the firm’s chief operating officer to benchmark itself and its relationships with clients.

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