Explore Effective Resources for Making Current Awareness Information Available
In this four-part “DIY competitive intelligence” series, the Competitive/Market Intelligence Shared Interest Group hopes readers will learn the ways in which legal marketers can incorporate competitive intelligence (CI) practices into their business development workflows without incurring major costs. The first installment covered research tools, and the second covered company research. In this third post, we explore effective resources and methods for making current awareness information available to law firm decision-makers.
What Is Current Awareness?
Apart from company research profiles and prospective people profiles — two staples of law firm CI — many CI professionals in law firms spend a great deal of time on “current awareness.” Current awareness is the collection and dissemination of recent news regarding firm clients, practice areas, industries and special topics of interest. Firm professionals can then use current awareness information to stay apprised of clients’ recent litigation and M&A activity, follow trends in practice areas and look for emerging opportunities within target industries.
A current awareness workflow — combining alerts and newsletters and distributing them to firm decision-makers — should be a part of the day-to-day job of CI professionals. In turn, firm leaders should use current awareness information on clients and practice area trends in their daily business development and cross-selling efforts, and should stay informed about competitors and industry news to assist in firm growth strategy.
Research Tools Needed for Current Awareness in Law Firms
There are a variety of free and subscription tools available to build a current awareness program within a firm. Google Alerts and various RSS aggregators (e.g., Feedly, Bloglovin’) are free, simple ways to begin a current awareness workflow. In Google Alerts, subscribers receive an email when results for a topic appear in a Google search. CI professionals can set these alerts for individual attorneys’ names, for the firm as a whole or for a particular client. It is useful for attorneys to receive these alerts directly to stay up-to-date on firm and client news.
RSS aggregators are also useful for general legal, practice area and industry news. CI professionals can use RSS aggregators to follow legal and industry blogs and publications and can forward relevant articles in a weekly newsletter to firm decision-makers. Publications like Above the Law, ALM Media, The New York Times, The Economist, Attorney at Work, Adam Smith, Esq. and Bloomberg Big Law Business are sources one can take advantage of to stay current on legal industry trends. Additionally, most publications, from ALM, to local business journals, to the Wall Street Journal, offer free newsletters to keep law firm professionals current on legal and general news. Finally, if the firm has a subscription, Law360 is another excellent resource that has alert and daily newsletter features.
Using the firm’s subscription to Lexis or Westlaw can also be a useful tool in creating a current awareness workflow. Lexis and Westlaw both have news alert features that can be set for a particular topic and emailed daily or weekly to interested attorneys. Many firms’ Lexis subscriptions include access to the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones News and ALM publications, among other local, national and international publications. Setting up alerts on top clients or firm practice areas can keep attorneys apprised as to material changes in a client’s position.
Further, both Lexis and Westlaw have docket alert services (i.e., Courtlink for Lexis, and Dockets for Westlaw). Setting up docket alerts for top clients mean that attorneys can call clients as soon as they receive an alert that a new complaint has been filed.
Finally, there are several proprietary current awareness research tools that make the collection and distribution of current awareness news much easier. Newsdesk (LexisNexis) and Manzama are two top choices. Both services allow the user to create alerts on clients, individuals, law firm competitors, practice areas and industries. These alerts can be sent to groups of attorneys on a daily or weekly basis. Manzama and Newsdesk also have publishing features where CI professionals can create weekly newsletters with curated articles and branded headings to send to groups of attorneys or even clients outside of the firm.
How to Use Current Awareness
The role of CI professionals in current awareness is to keep firm decision-makers up-to-date on client news and trends in the legal profession. Google Alerts, RSS aggregators, publication newsletters and Lexis or Westlaw alerts are all good sources for free or firm-sponsored alerts and newsletters. To create more exact searches and streamline delivery of current awareness, subscription platforms like Newsdesk and Manzama can deliver current awareness information to interested parties in a visually pleasing format. Decision-makers who receive these alerts and newsletters can then use this information to contact current or potential clients regarding business development and cross-selling needs, stay apprised of legal industry trends and competitor law firm activity, and track the firm’s own press. A current awareness workflow is easy to implement, adds value to a firm’s CI initiative and should be a part of every firm’s business development strategy.
Virginia Ryan is the competitive intelligence senior analyst for Butler Snow LLP and is serving as the 2017 Competitive/Market Intel Shared Interest Group co-chair. Virginia is a licensed attorney and lives in Nashville, Tennessee.