At Cl confab, ARK Group invites legal industry pros to riff on intelligent collaboration
By Bill Perry
Writers, pundits and vendors have opined about the importance of law firm competitive intelligence for a decade or more. What happens less frequently are open discussions by CI practitioners with their peers. On Sept. 27, 2018, in New York City at the Princeton Club, the ARK Group hosted the twelfth-annual edition of its CI conference. At the event, LAC Group’s Carl Lauro, a client engagement manager, moderated a 45-minute panel titled, “Intelligent Collaboration: How the Library, BD and Marketing All Play an Integrated Role in CI/BI at Large Law.”
Lauro’s panelists were Jodie Collins, chief marketing officer for Los Angeles-based Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP; Bernadette DeCelle, senior director of client development and marketing for Newark, N.J.-headquartered McCarter & English LLP; and Jeffrey Cohan, director of Libraries & Knowledge Management Services at New York-based intellectual property firm Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto.
Lauro kicked off the session by asking panelists how they collaborate intelligently about CI at their respective firms.
DeCelle said, “We collaborate all the time with librarians; they’re our research and knowledge management experts.”
Collins echoed the importance of collaboration between marketing and the library at Manatt where LAC Group overseas a library for 450 attorneys and consultants. Collins said making that business arrangement work stems from “a top-down willingness between the heads of our departments to partner together.” Collins says the arrangement has evolved from research to intelligence. “As our workload increases, we’re thinking more broadly about how we use LAC,” she remarked.
“I think as a researcher it is incumbent upon us to learn the scope of the duties business development and marketing take on,” said Cohan. “Research can’t necessarily help with something like branding, but there are BD tasks like responding to an RFP and monitoring current clients that we can help with.
“As a library professional,” Cohan added, “you can do the research to support marketing and emphasize your skills and say, ‘Here’s how I can help you.’”
Next Lauro asked if the firms had teams dedicated to specific areas of CI.
“I wish we did have dedicated teams, but we don’t,” added DeCelle. “My BD person for litigation has a strong research background and can dive into dockets; it works well, although we have only 400 lawyers to support.”
Collins said, “Some time ago, I learned that our consultants were doing healthcare related CI and was able to suggest that our library researchers support them. Sometimes we divide responsibilities based on time; if we have a CI request that’s a short turnaround, we use LAC.”
Lauro asked if there were obstacles to breaking down silos between the library, CI and BI.
There can be roadblocks said Cohan, especially “when folks don’t realize what one another are charged with.” He suggested breaking those barriers by offering analysis to the marketing team, looking at litigation related to potential clients and digging into whether, for example, the lawsuits affecting a company are all related to the same product and who’s currently representing them. “That kind of intelligence gives the marketing team a complete picture to carry out BD,” added Cohan.
DeCelle said, “At my prior firms, yes, we had obstacles. But today, I think most of the people who head up marketing and a library know that firm leadership wants efficiencies. So it is important to work together.”
According to DeCelle, her mantra is communicate, collaborate and congratulate.
“When we work on an RFP, we speak to the library first, and collaborate on the research. If we hear we won an RFP, I am quick to celebrate the credit with the library because they worked on the research,” said DeCelle. “I also think an occasional lunch together between departments, casually without an agenda, is a good way to foster collaboration.”
Lauro then asked the panelists if a lack of time was a challenge to collaboration.
According to Collins, if the firm’s lawyers ask for CI reports in the span of one or two weeks, then “that’s a manageable period of time for an in-depth report.” When preparing RFPs, she prefers to dive deeply into intelligence about the company, but the timelines for responding are often getting too short to do that.
DeCelle added, “Time is a factor, but we quantify in advance what kind of reports a lawyer wants.”
An audience member then asked, “When you’re pulling together data and making assumptions for attorneys, how do you make that available six months later for someone?”
Cohan responded, “You could make the data part of a CRM system, which you make searchable. Or you use a KM tool based around practice areas, or a third way would be using a traditional KM system based on legal taxonomies.”
Lauro next mentioned that some marketing departments had seen budgets for CI/BI tools increase by 20 to 40 percent last year. He asked the panelists what their experience has been with buying technology.
Cohan said the key to budgeting for research tools was “volumizing” purchases to the greatest extent possible. BD, marketing, and the library often need tools supplied by the same vendors. “Having all parties in concert to purchasing avoids waste and duplication of resources,” explained Cohan.
DeCelle added, “Our research tools go through our tech budget, and our library reports to our CIO. By communicating about tech decisions, you can give up some expensive seat licenses that aren’t effectively used.”
Lauro also asked the panelists what tools and technology their firm relied on for CI, news and trends.
DeCelle said her firm was building an Experience Database with the help of Content Pilot, a marketing strategy and technology provider that caters to law firms. She also mentioned using Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg Law and Monitor Suite.
“We also use Manzama to give us company and industry insight and information alerts, and we have had an Experience Database for many years,” said Collins.
As a follow-on question, Lauro asked, “How do you rate your firm on the use of technology?”
The panelists concurred that the basic metric for a rating was how often people use a tool. They saw their respective firms as in the middle of the pack with the use and adoption of technology.
Lauro put the final question to the audience: “How are you selling BI/CI services at your firm?”
Attendees mentioned the importance of use cases as critical for showing attorneys how the library’s CI work will help a practice area. Some said they target senior associates (who are on the cusp of making partner) with examples of how researchers and their tools can help attorneys win business and legal cases; they felt attorneys at this stage of their career were eager to employ whatever might give them an edge. Audience members also said librarians should show attorneys how they will protect the competitive and business intelligence they gather for attorneys and their clients.
DeCelle acknowledged that the legal industry is risk-averse. So when marketers and librarians go about their work, a certain degree of assurances fosters collaboration.