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It's hard to read a law industry blog, magazine, conference agenda or other publication without running across references to Big Data, and why it's so critical to law firm operations, management, marketing and sales. Firms are now able to mine, analyze and integrate many types of data sources to understand demand and cost, uncover operational efficiencies and bases for differentiation, and so forth.

I'm not an expert on Big Data or law firm management, so I'll defer to those better informed. However, for most lawyers, whether in BigLaw or SmallLaw, but especially the latter, the whole BigData thing is an abstraction whose relevance to their daily practice is marginal or nonexistent. For them, Small Data is of far greater importance.

By Small Data, I mean the intelligence gained from keeping yourself informed about developments in the industry you're focused on (you are industry focused, right?) and interacting with individuals or groups in that market.

  • What issues, challenges and opportunities shape or dominate the industry conversation?
  • What business problems logically will emerge from those?
  • What impacts are likely, i.e., strategic, operational, economic, personal?
  • What legal services will they require as part of their overall response or solution?
  • What's the economic value of those services relative to the economic impact of the problems?
  • How does all this relate to your current practice?
  • What changes to your practice are probably going to be necessary as a result of these issues?
  • How must your conversations with your industry contacts change to assure your continued relevance?

No single person can inform you completely. You have to engage as many people as possible to form a useful picture of your strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats associated with the projected changes and developments. You have to motivate each person you speak with to introduce you to others who can offer informed opinion. 

The idea is to crowd-source your intelligence-gathering, i.e., learn a little bit from many sources as possible, as often as is practical. And you have to sustain that process, every day, make it the equivalent of professional hygiene. If you do, six months from now your industry network will be many multiples of its current size, as will your standing and credibility in it.

Mike O'Horo

Expanding Your Network From Your Desk is an interactive simulation from RainmakerVT that teaches you a detailed process for how to gather this intelligence and create sales opportunities.