Analyze This: The Evolution of Competitive Intelligence Products for the Legal Profession

Donna F. Cavallini is principal, InfoFirst LLC, a research, competitive intelligence and marketing consulting firm serving professional service firms, industry organizations, and companies, both public and private. Ms. Cavallini has over twenty years' experience in the legal information profession in a wide variety of settings, including academic, government, and both large and small law firm. She is a regular contributor to information professional listservs and newsletters, has been a speaker for professional groups both large and small, and co-authored with Genie Tyburski, Introduction to Online Legal, Regulatory, and Intellectual Property Research, published last year. Ms. Cavallini received a B.A. in Classics from Washington University and a J.D. from St. Louis University. She is a member of the American Association of Law Libraries, Special Libraries Association (Legal and Competitive Intelligence Divisions) and the Association of Independent Information Professionals. Donna's other articles on LLRX.com.
Legal information professionals have long had a number of resources - including legal dockets, NALP forms, news databases - from which to obtain the raw data necessary to meet the competitive intelligence needs of their firms. But data collection is only the initial phase of the competitive intelligence cycle; the ultimate goal is, of course, to make information actionable, and that requires analysis.

In the past year, the legal marketplace has seen the launch of several products designed to assist information professionals in the analysis process - LexisNexis' MarketIntelligence (see LLRX review), Thomson's Firm360 (see LLRX review), and American Lawyer Media's ALM Research. Although all provide law firm benchmarking data, ALM Research is unique among these in that it is the primary source for actual law firm financial data for all of the major U.S. and international law firms, including the Am Law 100, the Am Law 200, the NLJ 250 and the Global 100, and the release of its annual lists and rankings are eagerly awaited by the legal community.

ALM Lists and Rankings



ALM Research knows the needs of its target audience of marketing directors, managing partners, business development professionals, consultants, and vendors. Its parent, American Lawyer Media, has been conducting law firm surveys and publishing the results in legal industry rankings for decades, and legal professionals have come to trust and rely upon their authoritative guidance. Now, with ALM Research, legal professionals can take that longitudinal data to the next level by searching, sorting and analyzing key industry data in a few simple keystrokes, and exporting results to Excel, producing polished PDF reports, or creating reports in MS Word, to facilitate data selection for inclusion in user-formatted reports and presentations.

ALM Research Online Home



ALM Research Online offers several different research options. Doing due diligence on another law firm and want to get reliable financial data? The Law Firm Profiles page links to in-depth reports providing detailed financial and business information for more than 300 law firms (all data is available for the top 300 law firms, and additional selected data is available if a firm not in the top 300 was included in an ALM survey). These reports, covering one, three, and five year time spans (see samples - one year, three years, five years), are compiled from the most recent information available in ALM databases and include financials, attorney compensation, billing rates, size, locations, diversity hiring, technology purchases and more. Of particular interest: the report section which accounts for lateral partner moves both to and from other firms, and, in the three-year and five-year reports, the bar graph analyses of quantitative financial data, which facilitates trend spotting.

ALM Research Online Law Firm Search by Name



Graphical Analysis From 5 Year Report



ALM also provides search interfaces for more than a hundred different key search criteria, from firm name, location, rank, revenue, number of attorneys, and clients, to dozens of different topical criteria, including demographics and financials (with very granular data options). Want to discover what other firms your clients are using? One of the few resources available for identifying transactional representation, ALM's client search interface lets searchers focus on a particular type of representation, from IPOs to patent prosecution

ALM Research Online Client Search



Search for clients by type of representation



For even more complex inquiries, ALM's advanced search interface allows users to set search parameters that combine criteria from two or more of the set of available key criteria. Interested in identifying law firms that are comparable to your own in terms of firm size, revenues, and geographic footprint? At the speed of a few keystrokes, benchmarking needs are met. ALM has plans for an even more intuitive and flexible search interface that will allow for additional specificity, dimensionality, and data manipulation.

ALM Research Online Advanced Search





In addition to Law Firm Profiles, ALM Lists and Rankings Related Articles and product documentation, the ALM Research Tool Box gives searchers a couple of free editorial extras, including the very well done ALM Research Blog and NewsLine e-Newsletter. And if all that weren't enough, ALM has gone one step further and partnered with Alacra to develop an outstanding free tool (registration is required, however) for competitive intelligence purposes: an article search/web spider (see the ALM Research Tool Box on the site's home page) which searches by firm or keyword across both ALM news content (note that ALM articles retrieved are available for purchase) and the websites of approximately 1,000 of the largest law firms. FindLaw's Lawcrawler is apparently the only other search tool created specifically for the legal web, but it lacks the capability to focus searches exclusively on law firm websites, which is a critical need for competitive intelligence research purposes - for example, it enables a searcher to identify which firms are the key players in a particular practice area, such as "emerging growth companies," without having to wade through the web's myriad references to non-law firm use of the phrase. The data is very fresh - Alacra is spidering law firm sites (up to 10,000 pages per site) every 5 days - and the results returned are presented ranked by relevance. According to the site's project manager, the tool uses the same Web search syntax used at many other Internet sites; while not full Boolean, it does permit phrase searching and uses the minus sign to exclude terms, and supports a limited sort of proximity searching by treating two words entered consecutively as having an implicit ADJ5 connector between them.

Law firm search results for emerging growth



Several pricing options are available. A base subscription, for 1 user seat and covering the current year's worth of data, starts at $3,500; a 1-seat premium subscription, covering all data for all years (including some data as far back as 1978), starts at $8,500. Law firm reports and selected current-year survey data can also be purchased individually by nonsubscribers.

ALM Research Online delivers on its promise of simplifying analysis of legal business metrics and trends, making it a must-have tool for those working in or with the legal industry. With ALM data accessible on demand, information professionals can avoid the labor-intensive and cost-prohibitive work of manually compiling, analyzing and graphically rendering statistical and financial data and focus on the really interesting, high-powered work of figuring out how to leverage to firm competitive advantage the insights gained from the software. A tool that makes you look smart and gives you more time? No software required to analyze that.