Wednesday, August 22, 2007

ILTA Session Report, Day 3: Current Awareness: Critical Information Management Tools


Doug Hoover, Thompson West
Dennis Kennedy,
Meredith Williams, Director of Knowledge Management at Baker Donelson

The goal of this session was to get enough background to make an informed decision about current awareness technologies. The speakers were well informed and current and this was a useful session. The information about collaborative information technologies was far from comprehensive, however, and omitted discussions of wikis, blogs and tags.

Dennis Kennedy started. There used to be a sense that the cyberspace was separate and apart from us; now it feels more that we are part of the cyberspace.

We might have a surfeit of information generally, we don't necessarily have the information we need when we need it. We are overloaded, have to wade through too much spam, and generally have information overload.

We suffer from "continuous partial attention" (also defined as the look on a person's face the second time their Blackberry has vibrated (or beeped) while they are talking to you.)

How can we bring information to us in a way that lets us get to the stuff we actually want to take action on? Dennis proposed an evolution:

  • Search;
  • Email newsletters or alerts; then,
  • RSS feeds; then,
  • The "Daily Me"; then,
  • Actionable intelligence.
"News that comes to you." "Newsreaders let you triage and manage information and bring you information you can act upon."

Dennis introduced RSS as "Really Simple Syndication" and with the wikipedia definition; technically speaking, it is a format specified using xml. RSS separates the content from the manner it is displayed, so people can choose the way they want the information displayed. An RSS feed is consumed by an email application or by a reader. It is put out by a blog or news.

"Outgoing" RSS feeds allows people to push out content.

Google Reader, which I use, is now the classic or accepted way to start getting sets of RSS feeds. The default view within Google Reader is the most recent posts--called the "river of news." You can *star* entries and also set up a feed on sets of shared items. Techies can even import an "OPML" file to obtain sets of RSS feeds. A law firm could develop sets of feeds for its clients, or a vendor could develop sets of RSS feeds from different sets of internal training or support resources.

Feedreader gives you better control of views of the feeds, but doesn't automatically refresh. It lets you can download everything at one time so you can work off-line. It is more powerful, but costs $29.

Shared feeds give a social context to RSS. You can have documents such as a podcast fed into a feed.

Dennis believes that RSS can greatly enhance the quality of information that attorneys receive. RSS can bring you information in a form that you can use it right away.

Ready, Willing and Able; Client Awareness in US Law Firms
Doug Hoover, Thompson West

Doug's background is in business or competitive intelligence. While Dennis is very comfortable using feeds to triage information, attorneys don't want to do that themselves. They want to know what other firms, attorneys, and practice areas are doing. Most importantly, attorneys want to know what is happening with their key clients.

West's "Firm 360" product is one attempt to get this set of information ready for attorneys.

The typical business intelligence process is depicted as a "wheel" of information collection, starting with data collection, and moving on to information analysis, knowledge assessment, intelligence, decision, and finally, hopefully, results.

Usually primary data collection is done by the marketing department (as with client surveys) and the library (who accesses primary information). Finance and business management is outside this circle.

You can get attorneys' attention by delivering them timely significant information about their clients.

Who is responsible for client awareness and market intelligence? Thompson ran surveys, broken down by the size of the firm, that suggested that the responsibility does not lie in just one department (often split between marketing and the library). Some of the "mid-size" (150-500 attorneys) firms have some of the best competitive intelligence practices. Once a firm has a full time employee dedicated to this job, the demand increases sharply, and more than one employee is hired.

The most sophisticated firms or "reactive analyzers" are constantly proactively gathering information about clients and competitors. Does the firm know which are its most frequently contacted clients?

The most popular use of current awareness was helping attorneys prepare for client meetings. The next most popular was helping the firm prepare RFP responses.

Doug showed a map (not with his slides for proprietary reasons) that showed sources, identified responsible people, and analyzed a firm's collective intelligence processes, with particular output and recipients established. They calculated how long it would take to collect, digest, and analyze the necessary information for the necessary number of practice areas or attorneys. It did not escape this attendee's notice that this sort of process could easily be used to justify a certain level of current awareness or competitive intelligence staffing.

Meredith Williams then addressed competitive intelligence iniatives at her firm, Baker Donelson.

KM is involved in competitive information because their job is to make the attorneys more efficient. KM helps the bottom line by providing the key decision makers the information they need when they need it.

Meredith demonstrated BakerNet, their LawPort set of matter pages, containing financial information and so forth. It integrates information on the number of proposals sent a particular client.

The Firm 360 product pulls publicly available information from Westlaw. Graphs help attorneys identify if the type of work they do is increasing or decreasing. You can drill down to see who else is representing the client on what types of matters. It also links to case dockets. A client site also searches publication mention history, lawsuit filing.

Partners can subscribe to an RSS feed that will provide an email if the client site changes. No monitoring is required once set up. They can also set up "target client" sites.

Practice group sites have Lexis feeds of relevant news, practice guides, dockets, and so forth. Attorneys are relying on the information to serve their clients. They have another page on ediscovery with live feeds.

Lessons Learned:

  • Make everything seamless, with no passwords required.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Keep it low maintenance for your team.
  • Make it a part of their daily practice (as with pinging email.)

No comments: