John Barker (@contentbarker), the VP of Strategy & Competitive Intelligence for Wolters Kluwer, blogged this morning on the increasing need for current awareness in the business of law.

Both law firms and in-house legal departments have obvious business development needs.

  • Law firms want to maintain and/or increase revenues from existing clients by delivering more value as well as find new clients.
  • Corporate legal departments must engage in business development by showing greater return on investment from the department’s budget, and  increase awareness about the importance of engaging legal department earlier in the product development process.

How are they doing they going to meet these business development needs? Conversations with law firms and corporate legal departments around the world lead Barker to believe current awareness is a big key.

  • Practice of law current awareness, specifically, knowing about the latest cases, legislation, regulations, etc., needs to focus on the impact on the client’s business. Law firms representing pharmaceutical companies and the corporate legal departments within them, need to understanding tax, labor, privacy, antitrust, securities, corporate law, etc., in the context of the pharmaceutical industry, not only from the perspective of a particular area of law.
  • Current awareness needs to shift from an area-of-law focus to a focus on the intersection of multiple areas of law in the context of a particular client’s industry or product line. Think of the legal team working on complex cross-border mergers & acquisitions. A single case, regulation or statute could have consequences for tax, labor, securities and corporate law. The intersection of each of these practice areas can affect the speed and goals of a transaction. Current awareness thus needs to explain its relevance to all of those practice areas and how it can impact a transaction.

There can multiple ways for lawyers to maintain current awareness but blogging has to be near the top of the list.  From me, as opposed to Barker:

  • The most important aspect of blogging is listening to influential sources on the law and industry as well as to key words and key phrases relevant to the industry.
  • Listening via an RSS reader or Twitter, the lifeblood of bloggers, gets lawyers outside the law and listening to industry sources and experts around the world.
  • Blogging is more of conversation than writing content. By listening to influential legal and industry sources and engaging them via blogging, a lawyer is learning in a collaborative fashion, much like attending leading industry and legal conferences.
  • Blogging puts lawyers front and center for having current awareness. Being one of the handful of ‘go to’ lawyers on niches established, or enhanced, through blogging is worth its weight in business development gold.
  • Blogging requires learning through multiple senses – reading from those you are following, digesting mentally, keying things up, reviewing your thoughts on the screen, reviewing feedback from others, digesting that feedback, and responding to that feedback. How many other learning channels does a lawyer use that are as powerful for building current awareness?
  • Blogging, along with ancillary social media, demonstrates what you are listening to and learning in an open and transparent way. Other lawyers may be listening and reading, but how is that demonstrated to to their audience?
  • In-house legal does not blog much, but may want to, especially on a private blog alerting corporate members of potential legal issues. A blog could share items they are finding via RSS feeds and Twitter.

I have talked with John on multiple occasions on the changing landscape in large law and the role that large companies such as Wolters Kluwer may play world-wide. We have not talked of current awareness, specifically, for business development before.

I cannot think of a better way to demonstrate current awareness than blogging.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Daniela Kantorova