While most law firms use competitive intelligence to track competitors, many remain unfamiliar with the term. Other firms actively apply CI without the full support of senior partners.

These are among the intriguing findings of a survey released today, Law Firms and Competitive Intelligence: Who Gets it and Who Doesn’t? (A PDF of the survey is availble here after completing a brief survey.) The survey was authored jointly by Leonard Fuld of Fuld & Co., a consulting firm specializing in competitive intelligence, and Mark Greene of the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers, and co-sponsored by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell, and the Legal Marketing Association.

The survey of 119 firms found that, while an increasing number of firms say they use CI to make better business decisions, most use it only in bits and pieces and inconsistently. Here is a representative excerpt:

“They may not call it CI, but they are using CI to support business development and strategy. More than 80% of the respondents use CI in business development. Nevertheless, CI tools are inconsistently employed, and they are not widely viewed as an integral part of doing business.

“For example, law firms commonly undertake new lines of business and practice areas for all the wrong reasons—such as a client asking the firm to open an office in Cincinnati; because a lawyer wants to retire in Aspen, Boca Raton, Palm Beach, etc.; or because everyone else seems to be opening offices in Moscow.

In effect, this is simple reactive information, not forward-looking intelligence. It’s a ‘fetch-it’ information mentality that will not advance a firm’s strategy and is not the hallmark of successful intelligence efforts in companies around the world outside the legal industry.”

The survey lays the blame for firms’ insufficient use of CI on their failure to budget for it adequately or to see the return on CI spending.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.