In response to my post about business intelligence software, one of my large law firm readers provided interesting comments about large law firm business development. This helps illustrate that some CIOs have an opportunity to be change agents in their firm. 

First, here is the comment from a lawyer in a large firm:

“I spent a number of years in-house with a large financial institution. The focus on market analysis there was huge, analyzing customer segments, determining customer profitability, setting profitability targets, defining strategies for dealing with customers who didn’t meet those targets, etc.
One thing that continues to amaze me about my large law firm (and I suspect that it is not a lot different elsewhere) is the seeming disregard for all sorts of basic business development approaches. It’s as if the lawyers say, “Well, BD means either (1) take the client to a sports event, (2) host an internal CLE event, or (3) speak at some conference, and there is nothing else that I could possibly do to develop business.”
They don’t start with the basic cross-selling of their own capabilities to their colleagues, they don’t focus on providing real value to their clients (because a lot of it would involve the investment of non-billable time that the firm doesn’t recognize, even if it pays off exponentially later), and they don’t analyze what they do right (and what the they do wrong!) to determine what things to emphasize (or ditch). And yet these are all intelligent people.
It continues to mystify me (although I believe that the emphasis on the billable hour works to discourage any such activities).”

I believe the situation is not quite so bleak in many large firms, but certainly there are many where this is still true. I also know many CIOs who see the need for their firms to adapt better business approaches, whether in law practice, marketing, or back-office processes. Often, technology is just a small part of the change, really just a “supporting role” in a bigger drama.

I think that because CIOs inherently must deal with change (think of just all the operating system upgrades in the last decade), they are more comfortable with new ways of working than are many of their lawyer colleagues. Of course, being a change agent is hard work and can be job-damaging or -ending. But forward thinking CIOs who have basic infrastructure under control do not lack for opportunities to help their firms adopt better ways of working. Evaluating and introducing BI tools is just one example.