The Super-charged Firm Directory: Identifying the Right Combination of Experience and Skills

8 Jul

By Ramin Vosough, Vice President Product Sales & Marketing, Neudesic
Part I of a three-part series*

Many firms with 200+ attorneys have arrived at some method for identifying which lawyers have which experience and skills.  Some firms have developed an in-house directory or profile solution residing on the firm’s intranet, which combines public and internal information and links to a public bio. In a larger firm, the tool may include a search solution that crawls through the firm’s documents and matters or a manual database that captures expertise by practice and industry. Common across these approaches, however, is the reality that all too often someone within business development, marketing or KM must field email and phone requests to identify the best lawyers for a project. So, while many sophisticated tools exist, a human resource still needs to match the right resource to any given opportunity.

Firms tell us that identifying the right resource involves looking at a combination of factors, starting with a vision of what “right” means for the firm and being flexible enough to capture a magical combination. Firms often ask us, “How can I find the right attorney with a specific, substantiated skill and experience combination, who is based in a particular location, and available to work on a project within a given timeframe?” Next, they ask what that would even look like: Is it a profile, a custom search, or something else entirely? Where does the information come from and how is it populated? Perhaps the most important question is, “Can I trust the information when I find it?”

Attorney profile information resides in various systems of record throughout a firm. Bar associations, court affiliations, and employment history are just a few examples of the information firms have at hand. Firm systems also house valuable experience-related data in documents, emails, and other client-matter related records. But, some firms are starting to realize that much critical information may not exist in their systems yet – attorneys understand the unique combination of skills and experience they bring to bear on particular projects and that understanding typically is never identified, published, or presented in ways that can be searched and located effectively. This is especially true with laterally hired partners with no activity history on record to turn up in an experience search.

Identifying and communicating that level of information, not to mention keeping it current, may involve formal initiatives using questionnaires or interviews. But, this raises important considerations for KM professionals who must determine how to weave the optimal combination of certified and self-declared information into a real-time, dynamic profile. For example, by combining self-declaration with layers of validation, a firm could capture new information about skills and experience directly from employees, while also validating the information before it is published and becomes searchable within the firm.

Internal comprehensive skills and expertise provide great value. A flexible approach that includes self-declared, validated, and certified information allows a firm to dive more deeply into the skills, experience, or other profile criteria than what can be shared in public-facing bios or on social media channels like LinkedIn. This approach enables business development and marketing professionals to slice and dice the unique, multifaceted skills and experience of attorneys in real-time for different pitches.

Your firm has its own goals and objectives. So, how your firm uses its lawyer directory should reflect those goals and objectives. But, all firms taking on this type of initiative need to do it right, with “right” meaning making it worthwhile, making it valuable, and making it useful.

*Look for part II on Surfacing and Validating Real Expertise in an upcoming post.

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