In their quest to gain a competitive edge, law firms increasingly expect Marketing Departments — including their Business Development (BD) Teams — and Research Services (RS) Departments (aka Knowledge Services and Library Departments) to collaborate effectively. To build effective collaboration, departmental leaders must address issues related to organizational culture, process synchronization, and data management. This requires sophisticated leadership and change management skills. It also requires investment by the firm in technology that will help BD and RS teams leverage their data and knowledge resources more efficiently.
Improved collaboration and greater efficiency in producing higher-value intelligence products will convey a major competitive advantage. When BD and RS teams plan and coordinate their activities like a well-trained sailboat racing crew, they will be able to
- spot more and better opportunities, before competitors can,
- develop a better understanding of what clients need,
- determine relationships and synergies with a company more quickly,
- craft stronger value propositions, and
- develop stronger client relationships and cross-sell more services.
ADDRESSING COLLABORATION CHALLENGES LEADERSHIP AND CULTURE
To provide proactive and relevant BD intelligence support, BD and RS professionals need to sustain a deep shared understanding of the context surrounding a partner’s goals and BD efforts. To get people to share information and knowledge, directors need to create a culture where collaboration and knowledge sharing are routine and expected parts of the BD and RS business processes. Without sufficient understanding of the context of BD efforts, research analysts shift into a reactive mode, and this must change. “Partners expect BD people to be highly proactive, and now it is time for Research teams to be in practice meetings, and become just as proactive in offering intelligence solutions,” says Scott Bailey, the new Director of Research Services at Eversheds Sutherland.
Gina Lynch, the Director of Knowledge Services at Paul Weiss, advocates for a process whereby the BD team members routinely provide the context around a request. She notes, “This context will direct how this request is archived for future research projects and the scope of the product created. By requiring these criteria as part of a BD request, BD team members would receive a more mature product, and the context of their request would continue to enrich and expand the knowledge base of the firm.”
Information sharing and collaboration take time, and time is in short supply for Marketing team members. Luke Ferrandino, CMO at Paul, Weiss, says, “Today, it is a prerequisite in many firms that BD professionals will not only execute the day-to-day operational needs of an effective marketing and BD strategy, but they will also proactively source opportunities and identify potential roadblocks to client growth.”
In large firms, BD professionals are typically assigned to specific practice groups. Only the CMO and Director of BD work with all practices and have a birds-eye view regarding how the firm’s capabilities across practice areas may align with client need. Similarly, various teams (e.g., marketing and knowledge management) are tracking internal information on the firm’s capabilities and experience for precedent and are often managing external research collection and distribution across the firm. Collectively, they are therefore well positioned to “connect the dots” on these opportunities across individual lawyers within the firm, offices, and practice areas.
According to Lynch, “each storyline weaves more texture into information professionals’ own personal knowledge base that will inform all future work. This feedback loop continues to enrich and guide team behavior, whether it is complementing a future research request, informing professional development efforts, or influencing the purchasing of new research products.”
LAY THE FOUNDATION FOR STRATEGIC PROCESS ALIGNMENT
Marketing and RS Directors and their teams need to jointly develop playbooks which define the BD activities and expected intelligence requirements for each phase of the BD process, for each practice group, type of client opportunity or thematic BD initiative area. They need to explain their business processes to each other, and while doing so, discuss ways to deliver more value. The joint team should craft research plans for all relevant opportunities, set up systems for the monitoring and analysis of these indicators. If needed, they should provide training on tools and methods and briefings on the capabilities of each group in the firm involved in BD.
“The more that BD teams can work collaboratively with KM teams that have a level of fluency in the drivers of business and the competitive landscape at the individual and practice area levels, the more effective the firm’s BD and lead generation strategies will be,” says Ferrandino.
DATA MANAGEMENT AND AI-POWERED BD INTELLIGENCE
A major challenge to producing BD intelligence for attorneys and making informed marketing strategy decisions is the inability to access high-quality data from disparate systems in one place so it can be efficiently analyzed. Marketing teams need answers to queries like “Identify all attorneys who are veterans, speak Spanish, and have experience with Pharma M&A transactions over $1B.” The current, highly manual process of sifting through large bodies of data in a variety of information systems is unsustainable. With the right data licenses, data integration solutions, and workflow tools, law firms can automatically generate basic company profiles and semi-automatically generate more complex business background reports.
Marketing and RS teams need a live view of all information known and desired about a company in one place and integrated communication tools so users can share expertise, coordinate BD activities, and share situational awareness about upcoming BD activities. Such a system will help users apply best practices in BD and RS and become more proactive by suggesting the next BD and RS actions. Capturing institutional knowledge and best practices from savvy BD and Research professionals is important. Todd Corham, CIO at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, points out that, “Increasingly, business acumen has to be second nature to knowledge services, yet RS personnel frequently do not have the day-to-day exposure to business strategy that we see in the Business Development staff. Close collaboration between these two groups truly creates a situation in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts: BD staff can provide business context and the KM and RS teams can provide mechanisms and data strategies.”
Over the coming years, we expect increased competition in the market for legal services to drive rapid evolutionary change. Law firm leaders will expect ever-higher levels of BD and RS process efficiency, enabled by effective interdepartmental collaboration and advanced software systems. The next generation of BD managers and research analysts will be digital natives who grew up with real-time collaboration software apps. They will be at the vanguard of transforming legacy processes and systems into a more effective symbiosis of people and machines, one that contributes immensely to the firm’s revenue growth and profitability.
David Kamien is the CEO of Mind-Alliance Systems, LLC (mind-alliance.com). David helps leading law firms innovate and grow revenue by supporting BD with AI-powered research services and KM solutions. David has supported leading clients such as Eversheds-Sutherland, Squire Patton Boggs, Ogletree Deakins, Sidley Austin, Shearman & Sterling, and Saul Ewing. He is the inventor of a patented method for improving organizational information sharing and collaboration. For several years, he served as a U.S. delegate to a NATO team researching how to build effective collaboration. David holds a law degree from the Academic College of Law and a BA from Hebrew University.