The gathering and analysis of competitive intelligence — about companies, other law firms and individuals — helps lawyers and law firms make important decisions.  This article, written by Janet Ellen Raasch, summarizes a presentation by Wanda McDavid and Judy Goater of Access Information, a Denver-based firm that provides competitive intelligence for law firms across the country.  This is part four of a four-part article.  For the complete article, see link below.

Sometimes you need information about an individual rather than a company.  This person could be a client, a prospective client, a competitor, opposing counsel, a potential hire or a potential merger partner.  When you know something about the person you are meeting with, you can plan appropriately.


Sometimes, you need other kinds of information about people.  For example, you might need to track down a former employee or a potential witness.  “When such a person has gone ‘off the grid’ electronically, you might not have much to go on,” said Goater.  “This is where creativity comes into play.


“In one such case, a former executive had been gone from a company for five years,” said Goater.  “He had a common name, which made the search even more difficult.  Someone recalled him saying that he wanted to take over his family’s farm.  By using the farm subsidy database and narrowing the search by general geographic area and the man’s age, we were able to locate him for our client.”


Another reason to search for people is to acquire their contact information for use in a marketing database.  Good sources of contact information include telephone directories, professional directories and professional licensing agencies (if you know a person’s profession).  Online sources include a search on Yahoo! People.


Many of the commercial and general resources mentioned in the “companies” research section in this article work just as well for people.


“We often use a site called Jigsaw, owned by Salesforce” said Goater.  “It is a business-to-business contract database populated by marketers and salespeople around the country.  By contributing their contacts, users gain access to the database.  It includes 30 million contacts.  It is an especially good source for the contact information of individuals below the usual c-level executives that show up in most directories.”


If you know a person’s location, you can search local and regional media for mentions of their names and activities.  Social media – like Martindale Hubbell, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and YouTube — are also good resources.  So are blog searches.  Social media include contact information, but they also broaden your research with less formal “chat” about people, their activities and the companies they work for.


“In gathering information about people,” said Goater, “you want to use a wide variety of sources – and you want to be very careful to validate any information you find before you act on it.  There is a lot of faulty information out there.  There are also privacy concerns.”


Today, information about companies and individuals is widely available. In fact, you could easily drown in all the data.  The trick is to focus your search in light of your business goals.  With this information in hand, you are well-positioned to make good decisions about the future of your law firm – and its work.


Competitive intelligence an essential component of better law firm decision-making