Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CI Pro Interview with Jan Rivers of Dorsey & Whitney

This is the second in a series of interviews I’m conducting with CI professionals who work in law firms. My goal is to understand better their backgrounds, skills, reporting structures, contributions, and outlooks.

Name: Jan Rivers
Title: Competitive Intelligence Liaison
Firm: Dorsey & Whitney LLP
Since: 2002
LinkedIn and Law Libraries Ning

Q: What’s your job description at Dorsey & Whitney?

A: I conduct competitive intelligence for the firm’s marketing and strategic initiatives.

Q: What’s your formal educational background?

A: My undergraduate degree was in mass communications, with other undergrad work in international relations. I also have a Master’s degree in Library Science.

Q: Who are your typical clients at the firm?

A: My typical clients are Marketing and Business Development, firm management and operational departments, and practice groups. I work with everyone from financial analysts to the management committee to recruiting personnel to practice heads to marketing directors to partners and associates. This is across all offices.

Q: How is the intelligence function organized at your firm and to whom do you report?

A: The CI function is part of the firm’s Information Resources Center, formerly known as the library. I report to the Director of Information Resources and have a dotted line relationship to the Marketing and Business Development department. I attend both groups’ meetings and both have input on my performance review, etc.

Q: What experience or training has prepared you most for the CI work you’re doing now?

A: I think my experience at Arthur Andersen prepared me the most for the CI work I do at Dorsey. I was with Andersen for six years before joining Dorsey, lastly as a manager in the Risk Management Services Group. Prior to that at Andersen I was part of the AskNetwork, a business unit within Knowledge Enterprises. We were a research, database development and information resource procurement group serving external, as well as internal, clients and were on the practice side of the business, not the support staff side. The corporate experience was invaluable not only from the research side, but from the operational side as well. We had to bid for work, estimate large research and database development project costs for clients, etc. I was a team leader and manager in the AskNetwork, thus was involved in the team’s operations, strategic planning and other initiatives. It was like being on the management team of a business, which has been great experience for understanding what drives business and strategy. I also have a communications/ journalism background, which has been helpful in knowing how to write and put together reports.

Q: Where do you look for professional inspiration and mentors?

A: For ongoing CI training and mentoring, I go to both the Special Libraries Association's Competitive Intelligence Division and to the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals. I also go to the American Association of Law Libraries' Competitive Intelligence Caucus (disclaimer: I'm a co-founder). Additionally, I network with a number of other law firm CI professionals.

Q: How would you describe the future of CI in the legal industry?

A: I think that CI will continue to gain momentum and will not be seen as a "nice-to-have" capability, but as a necessary one. This is already happening, but it will accelerate as more firms establish a CI function. CI will eventually become a distinct unit within law firms co-existing alongside Marketing/Business Development, Information Resources, and other departments. Some firms are closer to this than others, but as the function further develops and becomes a standard part of firm operations, it will move into a more formalized structure of its own.

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