Competitive Intelligence in Academic Law Libraries

Competitive intelligence (CI) is decidedly in the law firm setting. Law firms use CI to:
  • gather and analyze information about a competitors’ activities and general business trends to further their goals;
  • gather, analyze, and manage external information that can affect a firm's plans, decisions, and operations;
  • monitor competitors within a specific marketplace; and
  • collect information pieces that have been filtered, distilled, and analyzed and turned into something that can be acted upon.

While it is natural for law firm libraries to create a CI cycle and process within their firms, it can be more difficult to see how CI affects academic law libraries. But academic law libraries certainly have a part to play in teaching CI techniques to prospective lawyers. 

One of the key components of CI is that the information can ultimately be acted upon. And the prospective lawyers will, at some point, be the ones acting upon the information. So it follows that prospective lawyers would do well to understand CI and the underlying information gathering processes. 

In a legal research course with a CI component, the law librarian could help lead the students to CI data for a hypothetical firm and pose action questions to the students based on the information found. This would allow the students to understand the greater workings of the legal economy and be more informed about the market at play.

Data collection and analysis is our future. While law generally lags behind other sectors in terms of technological advances, this is one area where firms who invest in a CI function will be improved beyond current measure. And we want our students to understand the importance of CI as they become the next generation of law firm leaders.

For more information on CI, consider attending AALL's course on Competitive Intelligence Foundations in Chicago on October 27, 2017. Registration ends on October 2. 


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