Archive for July 20th, 2009

The 10 Minute Competitive Intelligence Report is an Oxymoron

Recently a panel of competitive intelligence (CI) experts held a webinar to discuss case studies and the successful collaboration of the library, CI, and marketing in a tough economic environment. Attendees shared their questions and comments throughout the event, in chat and via twitter hashtag #AALLCI, and the participants have responded with the following follow-up discussion.

1. Asking for a CI Report to be finished in 10 minutes is like asking a court for a continuance and declaring your case finished.

The phrase “10-minute CI Report” is an oxymoron. You simply cannot have both 10 minutes AND CI – it’s not possible. You can provide research and data in 10 minutes, and if you’re fast like lightning you might provide a note or two of your “analysis.” But CI is both the process and the product, and focusing solely on an output (a report, download, document, etc.) is not CI. It’s not even much in the way of research, really, as any harried law librarian/researcher will tell you. Producing documents on demand without providing insight or a summary or even conducting a reference interview is called “reporting” and should not be mistaken with an intelligence function.

2. Canned reports from vendor products (atVantage, West Monitor, etc.) are great, but are only ‘facts’ that contain no analysis.

Not only do they not contain any analysis, even general, but the facts presented in canned reports (no matter whether Thomson, Lexis, Bloomberg, etc.) are frequently incomplete or just plain wrong. Good intelligence starts with good data and good data requires good research. And it all takes time! Also, any analysis provided in a canned report is general and not at all tailored to your intelligence client’s (the decision-maker) specific question(s) as related to your firm’s strategic position. Simply because a statement is generally true does not mean that it applies to your specific firm, or that it true in all circumstances. To identify the correct answer for your firm, in your circumstance, requires custom analysis and coordinated effort with firm leaders.

Canned reports do provide some high-level analysis (i.e., break-outs of litigation by firm, causes of action) but do so without the context that someone familiar with the practice group’s focus and the firm’s strategic direction can provide. True CI is when the information/data is processed, filtered and analyzed through this prism, giving the end result high value to the requestor.

3. Your ‘clients’ (whether Lawyers, C-Levels, Marketing, etc.) need to be trained to engage the CI team early in the process.

CI Teams need to be proactive with their clients and find opportunities to engage in long-range planning by knowing what their clients are doing. There are a number of ways to engage with CI clients within the firm. It is good to attend practice group meetings, monitor new matter openings and closing, watch conflicts report, periodically audit client and matter data, and generally make a nuisance of yourself. This is the best way to keep a finger on the pulse of your firm.

We cannot emphasize enough the value of being at the table before the request comes in. By attending practice meetings, you are showing an ongoing interest in the operation of the practice group. This makes it much more likely that you will be approached when the need for CI arises. Monitoring the RFP and new client lists will allow you to prepare “quick & dirty” analyses proactively for the group which will show you are willing to help them succeed. Another great way to get the word out on your services is to prepare a 15 minute presentation with examples of your work and ask to get on the agenda for the next practice group meeting or retreat.

4. CI clients must learn the differences between a quick request and a full-blown CI analysis.

Like a presentation on the different CI services available, it is very helpful for CI clients to understand the different products and how each requires a different process, varying resources, additional time, etc.

It all comes down to managing expectations. The degree of comprehensiveness of each CI work product needs to be discussed upfront. Samples can help promote this discussion by giving CI clients a roadmap, or “menu” to assist in the early stages of shaping a CI request.

5. It is important to understand that 10 Minute CI requests are always going to be requested. Like a ready reference question in the library, CI clients will always make these very limited, “quick and dirty” CI requests. It helps to streamline the process, explain the limitations of the report, and inform your CI client of what could be accomplished if given more time. This manages the client’s expectations in the immediate and hopefully opens the door for more thoroughly-thought out CI requests in the future.

These “CI” requests are arguably not “CI” at all, but regardless of what you call them, we will always have “ready-reference” work and there will always be limits to what can be provided in minimal time. It is key to manage expectations and automate as much as possible. Also, empowering and educating users as to resources that they themselves may use for quick research can help to relieve some of this burden on your research and intelligence staff.

10 minute CI is possible (quick news scans, Google searches, etc.) but cannot be considered comprehensive or exhaustive. It is important to communicate to CI clients that things may be missed and the end result may not be as easy to assimilate when responding to this type of request.


The above answers were written and compiled by Greg Lambert, Laura A. Walter, Mark Gediman, and Emily Rushing. For information on the recent webinar, please see this Spectrum post. We are already looking forward to “part 2” of this presentation, details coming soon!

Greg Lambert, Library & Records Manager, King & Spalding LLP, twitter: @glambert, email:

Laura Walters, Director of Practice Group Management, Foster Pepper PLLC, twitter: @LauraAWalters, email:

Mark Gediman, Director of Information Services, Best, Best & Krieger LLP, twitter: @mgediman, email:

Emily Rushing, Competitive Intelligence Specialist, Haynes and Boone, twitter: @emily_rushing, email:

Book Review: The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips & Checklists

Haserot, Phyllis Weiss.  The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips and Checklists.  Eagan, MN.  Thomson West, 2008.  221 pages.

In today’s economy, marketing your business is essential to the success of your venture.  Ms. Haserot, the President of Practice Development Counsel where she counsels firms and individuals on business development strategies, has created a handbook for marketers filled with tips and checklists that can be used by seasoned law firm professionals or sole practitioners to market their law firm. 


The Table of Contents of The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips and Checklists, is divided into seven topics, which in and of itself is a marketing plan from start to finish.   The book starts with a chapter on planning your marketing strategy and concludes with strategies to use when hiring a marketing professional to work with you.  In between, Ms. Haserot provides information on communicating with clients, business development techniques, selling your services, providing quality services to your clients, and managing a law firm.  Each checklist is clearly titled so that the reader knows the subject matter of the checklist, making it easy to decide whether the list is applicable to your project or situation.  Another helpful strategy used by the author are the do’s and don’ts lists she provides.   Furthermore, the list the author provides are very detailed and account for all contingencies.   


Ms. Haserot is obviously very knowledgeable on the subject.   This book would be ideal for any law firm library or marketing department.  It would also be useful for academic law libraries and every graduate from law school considering the start of their own firm should own a copy.


Christine Hepler is associate law library director at the University of Maine Donald L. Garbrecht Law Library in Portland.

July 2009

Share this blog


All ads appearing on the AALL Spectrum Blog are generated by WordPress.