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.

The conversation on bridging gaps between CI and other departments especially intrigued Allison. On one hand this portion, led by Noel, highlighted that although CI functions may sit within marketing or knowledge departments, or be their own groups outside of others, there is always opportunity for collaboration. Communication between CI, libraries, business development, recruiting and alumni, finance, and others allows professionals to glean more insight than if working in a silo. Allison’s “a-ha” moment is to reach out to unique groups her team may not yet be working with for a CI function. These connections may lead to identification of competitive strengths at the firm and opportunities in emerging areas of practice.

Caren was most interested to learn about the resources that are used by CI professionals and others performing CI functions. While many firm librarians perform CI research at a basic level – think about those Business Development reports we put together for attorneys who have a lunch meeting with a potential client – there are resources that offer a deeper dive into corporate information. Many of these are paid resources, but there are quite a few that are available at no cost. Many of the free, and possibly some paid, resources are available through the local public library. Her “a-ha” moment came with the discovery of how much of the firm internal data might be incorporated into a report. Reaching out to other internal firm departments will also create and improve collaboration within the firm.

It was fascinating to learn how the library and marketing departments are so often working together, with CI professionals most often being seated in one of those groups. We all agreed that quite a bit of our research requests came from marketing to either the library or the CI group. And the marketing department often has the data both for and from client pitches; data that can be incorporated into other CI reports.

Finally, thank you to the PLLIP-SIS Grants Committee for providing the opportunity to attend this fantastic learning experience. We highly recommend that you participate in future AALL CI courses and apply for the grants that support your career development.

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