The Rise of Business Intelligence in Law Firms

I recently attended the LMA Northeast Conference in Philadelphia, and the session on the Evolution of Law Firm Competitive Intelligence really resonated with me!  Not only were the speakers outstanding, but the content reinforced a trend we are seeing where law firms are suddenly very interested in adding Business Intelligence talent to their teams. Although some firms already have dedicated Research Analysts and Competitive Intelligence professionals on staff, we are seeing a significant uptick in new positions. Over the past two months alone, we have received requests from four Firms to find them talent in this area.

When looking at the job descriptions for these roles, what’s interesting is that Firms define their Business Intelligence needs differently. For example, some firms are looking for someone with a Masters in Library Science, while other firms want someone with an MBA. Although all BI roles have a strong research component, how the research will be used varies from firm to firm.  For example, one firm wants their BI professional to proactively identify new business opportunities for Partners, while another role is much more focused on supporting the BD team with strategic initiatives. A third role focuses on internal research and works closely with the finance department to identify where the most lucrative existing business is coming from!

For many years, the firm library performed research for Partners on clients and business trends.  The difference between these new roles and the library is that these BI professionals provide Partners with actionable intelligence, not just research. Unlike law librarians, CI professionals produce reports with recommendations as to how information can be applied to impact revenues.

You may be asking yourself, what is the goal of these new roles? The answers I hear most often are:

#1 to better understand the clients’ business and industry

#2 to understand who the firm’s competition is so they can differentiate themselves.

So, what if you don’t have a BI professional on your team? You can start by identifying someone on your team who has strong business research, writing and analytical skills and earmark them as the ‘go-to’ professional for performing business intelligence responsibilities.  Even if this person only spend one hour a day tracking news alerts on key clients and sending summaries to Partners, it will pay off because your lawyers will have information that will enable them to reach out to clients and make them feel better understood, dramatically increasing your chances of getting business from them!

If you need to make a business case for hiring a dedicated BI professional, you can start by showing how competitive intelligence research will allow your team to custom tailor pitches and proposals to address your clients’ specific business needs. A BI professional can also add value by proactively helping to spot new business opportunities for your Firm.  This means you will really be playing the BD-game as an offensive sport, not the defensive and reactive game most of us are used to!

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