With my move to LAC Group this year, I spend more time thinking about visual intelligence. LAC provides competitive intelligence and business research. We think about how to present findings to tap visual intelligence in a way that engages the audience. Engagement is key so the audience understands data and issues and makes the best decisions possible.

I find the need for better visual intelligence so compelling that it will feature in two of my upcoming conference sessions:

  • Competitive Intelligence in the Modern Law Firm, presented by Ark Group, takes place in NYC on September 25th.. I will chair the conference and moderate a panel discussion Capturing the Attention of Decision Makers. One question I will ask the panelists: should the results of competitive intelligence be more visual.
  • The Futures Conference, presented by the College of Law Practice Management, is on October 24-25 in Nashville. I will lead a short session, Visual Intelligence. More on that below.

My interest in visual intelligence began in my first job after college. I was an econometrician (statistical economist) and financial analyst. My work involved figuring out how to tell the story behind large datasets. And that required creating charts. This was well before the age of PowerPoint or, if truth be known, PCs. It was all done on mainframes. 

I paused my quest for better visual intelligence during law school. Back in the 1980s, the idea of legal data analytics, well, even legal data, barely existed. I saw no place for visuals in law school.

I picked up again when, after earning my JD, I joined Bain & Company as a management consultant. Bain at the time never wrote reports. Did I say never? Consultants delivered strategy findings using slides, many with carefully designed visuals.

After Bain, I started in the legal market in practice management, legal tech, and knowledge management. Within that first year, I read three books by Edward Tufte, whom I, and many, consider a leading thinker on how to present information. That is, on visual intelligence. The lawyers at my firm used illustrations to help explain concepts to juries and transactions to clients.  I even co-authored an article called Practicing Law with Pictures with examples from my firm. (If anyone has pre 1993 hard copy of Law Tech News – I would love to find this article. I don’t have hardcopy and it does not exist digitally.)

More recently, but still 16 years ago, I wrote about visual displays in e-discovery, in this blog post (featuring a product called Attenex). Even in the early days of e-discovery, it was clear to me that visualizing large document collections was important.

In our current age of information abundance and overload, gaining the attention of an audience has become even harder than it was years ago. So presenting information in a compelling way has become even more important. 

We need to think carefully about how we present information, about tapping visual intelligence. We can choose many approaches beyond a text report. One way is to have just a few bullets and a couple of visuals. Another is with an infographic. And to really engage an audience, we may need to tell a story or simulate a game show (more on that in a moment).

Last May, I proposed a short session on visual intelligence for the Futures Conference. My vision was that three people would share visual intelligence examples. I sent an email to all Fellows (over 200) soliciting examples.

I received far more samples than I anticipated. What follows are three of them. Each has some short text written by the person who provided the sample that explains the purpose of the visual and context. 

After the conference, I will publish another post with additional samples and a report on my session. It’s only 15 minutes long, so each visual will get about 4 minutes max during that session. The samples here are not necessarily the ones that will feature at the conference. But all contributors agreed to my publishing their samples.

Keep in mind that the blog format does not do justice to some display types, especially infographics. And the blog format does not allow me to share the game show approach to presenting information, which Brad Blickstein kindly shared with me interactively via screen share and a conversation. He uses it to present the results of an annual survey of legal operations that he conducts. (Brad said he’d be happy to talk to anyone interested in his gameshow approach – email, website, LinkedIn.)

So keep in mind that the samples here are just that – meant to spur your thinking and imagination. Many types of visuals displays are possible and engaging audiences can go well beyond visuals to be highly interactive, like a game show, but that I cannot easily illustrate here.

For GCs, Prioritizing Concerns Grows Ever More Challenging 

By Patrick Fuller, VP Legal, ALM Intelligence

Purpose: Share with General Counsels industry-wide top concerns.

Narrative: Looking across the five major issue areas: Privacy & Data Security, Risk & Crisis Management, Litigation, Intellectual Property, and Regulations & Enforcement, we identified the top challenges cited most frequently by GCs.

Illustrate the Mix of Law Firm Matter Type by Complexity 

By Dr. George Beaton, Executive Chairman, beaton

Purpose: To show how clients of large corporate law firms view the complexity of the work they buy and the implications for the firms’ business models. 

Narrative: It’s some 25 years since David Maister published Managing the Professional Service Firm. Recently I dipped into it and was reminded of the depth of David’s prescience on how meeting the range of clients’ needs profitably requires different business models. 

David originally conceived of three major types of work: At one end of the spectrum was ‘Brains’ (diagnosis-intensive, highly customized, high client risk, few qualified vendors and high fees); at the other end ‘Procedure’ (execution intensive, programmatic, low client risk, many vendors and high fee sensitivity); and in between ‘Grey Hair’. He later changed the labels to Expertise, Efficiency and Experience. 

My research colleagues and I have empirically validated the 3Es. The chart shows how the work type mix – as perceived by their clients – of 17 large corporate Australian firms clearly differentiates one firm from another. For example, firms A, D, J and M are generally agreed by observers to be in the same strategic group, yet there’s considerable variation in their clients’ perceptions of work type mix.

Different work types require different business models to be optimally profitable. This includes how work is won (marketing and BD), how work is delivered (staffing, sourcing, processes, role of technology), how work is priced, and how productivity and profitability are measured and rewarded. These differences mean different cultures and leadership styles are required to align strategy, structure, systems and people with clients and their needs. Finally, the optimum ownership, capital structure and governance requirements of Complex and Routine work providers differ substantially.   

A Mind Map for Resolving Disputes More Effectively

By Stewart Levine, ResolutionWorks

Purpose: Explain an approach to resolving conflicts.

Narrative: The Cycle of Resolution graphic reduces my business bestseller “Getting to Resolution: Turning Conflict Into Collaboration” from 266 pages down to this picture. The book presents a conversational model for resolving conflict. It includes the mindset (Attitude of Resolution,) the conversational steps pictured in the central triangle, the elements of what the new agreement will be and the critical principal of “Getting Current and Complete” which is a way to make sure all the emotion is on the table. I think that the power of the graphic lies in the presentation of a reasonably simple depiction of a very complex phenomenon. The book in the background allows an observer to drill down into what’s important to the user and get a fuller explication. It also provides a mind map / reference for a user to understand where they are in the process such that they can remain a competent steward of the process. 

Keep an eye our for part two of this post in a couple of months,