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In Part 1 of this two-part series, we got to know Marcie Borgal Shunk, CEO of The Tilt Institute and learn more about law firm Competitive Intelligence (CI) professionals along with the benefits they bring to law firms. Jenny Schwope of Calibrate continues the conversation with Marcie to learn more about key considerations when hiring your next CI professional.

Marcie Borgal Shunk is President & Founder of The Tilt Institute, specializing in helping law firms create data-driven change for competitive advantage. Marcie works with leaders to develop effective go-to-market plans and motivate action. She is a frequent speaker on competitive intelligence, client relationship dynamics and the future of law, is an ALM Legal Intelligence fellow, and is regularly featured in leading publications including The American Lawyer, Law360, Bloomberg Law and The Legal Intelligencer.

Marcie Borgal Shunk
Q: What are the top 3 things that are most misunderstood about CI professionals or groups?

A: Hmm…this is an interesting question. There is a saying that exists: our biggest competitor is bad research. Law firms have seen their share of bad CI over the years – compiled, well-formatted tomes with little useful insight or summary and zero analysis. This, unfortunately, is probably the greatest misunderstanding when law firms broach the subject of CI – not understanding the difference between gathering information and using analysis to learn something new and make informed recommendations about next steps.

Relatedly, perhaps another misconception, is equating CI with library services. CI, by definition, involves analysis. The study we did with Acritas demonstrated the most effective CI groups include an analyst, someone trained in CI or data analysis who can take all the pieces of the puzzle, analyze them in a meaningful way and communicate the message succinctly and with relevance to the target audience.

The final misunderstanding takes us back to where we started – the confusion between competitive intelligence, market intelligence and business intelligence. It’s hard to know where one definition ends and another begins. In some ways, I’m not sure it matters as long as we know all of these types of intelligence involve analysis and help us make better, more informed decisions.

Q: Generally speaking, where do CI professionals typically “live” in a law firm and what might a typical reporting structure look like?

A: In most law firms today, the CI function sits in the marketing and BD department. Second most common would be the library. In rare instances, when a firm has a strategy group, it sits there, under a Director or Chief Strategy Officer.

Reporting structures vary and often align with the objective of the CI function. Those who want to use CI to support routine BD efforts tend to employ researchers rather than analysts. Those with a more strategic, proactive stance seek out analysts and more senior professionals.

The majority of CI teams have a Senior Analyst or Manager level at the head who reports to a Director within the BD group or library. Occasionally, we will see a firm that has elevated the function to include a Director level. Typically, this person would have additional responsibilities such as management of business intelligence – a term often used for internal data – as well as CI, competitive intelligence, or a focus on incorporating technology tools and predictive analytics into CI.

Q: What are the top 3 competencies that make a CI professional successful?

A: 1) Curiosity; 2) An uncanny ability to weave disparate pieces of information into a unifying message (more commonly known by legal marketers as “connecting the dots”); and 3) “Business-savvy” mindset.

Q: When law firms are looking to add CI professionals or capabilities, what is the number one consideration they should take into account?

A: You’re looking for a right brain/left brain combination – it is a rare find. Take the time and put in the extra effort to find a true analyst who possesses strong communication skills and can mind the details without losing sight of the big picture.

Q: Based on your experience, what is the greatest benefit from having a formalized CI function in a law firm? In addition, is CI something all firms (small, mid-size, or large) should consider implementing?

A: I guess the greatest benefit is subjective – some firms are motivated by money and there certainly are financial rewards to having a well-honed CI function that helps the firm to make smarter investments. There are also psychological benefits. Spending time, money and effort on well-researched areas with a greater likelihood of success creates a virtuous cycle

Let’s connect!

Is your law firm ready to take the next step in hiring their next CI professional? We’re here to help. Calibrate (in collaboration with The Tilt Institute) can take your firm to the next level by working with you to identify the strategic and innovative CI talent you need.


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