Law firms increasingly use business intelligence techniques to improve profits. You can also apply similar techniques to understand the overall business environment. 

Competitive intelligence (CI) is now its own discipline. For example, West offers its Monitor Suite: “Litigation and Deal Monitor provide unique analysis of the marketplace that will inform your business development process.”

BI and CI focuses on what has been. It’s also possible to try forecasting what will be. Business Week (April 10, 2006) in Is That A Lawsuit Blowing In? describes work by Risk Management Solutions and Rand to forecast class action law suits. They will analyze court and insurance records with techniques used to forecast natural disasters.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers are likely to be the first to read the results. BigLaw, which defends both corporations and insurers, should keep up with this research as well. How does this relate to CIOs? I find that when a topic involves lots of math or technology, lawyers often mistakenly assume they can safely delegate it to the CFO or CIO. Many CIOs have a broader window onto to the world than the partners for whom they work. Whether sharing this type of news with partners who should care is a way to win friends is another story.