Client Current Awareness in an Online World 5 years ago

Client Current Awareness in an Online World


Katie Albright, Herbert Smith Freehills
Caitlin Nevill, Allens
Dan Peake, Manzama


As the legal research landscape becomes more and more crowded, it is imperative that our legal practitioners in private practice have easy access to information on competitors and clients. This need brings new opportunities for library and information professionals to serve our clients – the lawyers – by delivering timely and relevant news on clients and competitors, in conjunction with more traditional library services, such as legal current awareness and media monitoring.

This opportunity further allows law librarians to engage with the strategic business development and client relationship functions of the firm, and to demonstrate the relevance and value of library and information services to a broader range of law firm staff including key decision makers in the firm.

This case study will explore how our two firms, Allens and Herbert Smith Freehills, embraced this opportunity through the implementation of Manzama. Manzama has emerged as a key player in the field of law firm intelligence, combining online media, industry, legal and government news that is tailored to the legal industry.


Strategic alliances

In this age of tightening budgets, library and information professionals in the corporate world must clearly demonstrate that their work supports the retaining of clients and the generation of new work.[1] Working with business development departments is one way to ensure that librarians are in line with firm strategy and supporting the financial stability of the organisation. Collaboration with business development is not a new concept, with American Law Librarians reporting a 71% increase in the number of requests to support business development between 2005 and 2006[2] and indeed some professional report directly to business development functions within law firms[3] but a combination of the increasing need to deliver content marketing[4], and provide up to the moment competitive intelligence has increased the need to deliver timely and relevant information to both business development and legal staff. Indeed it has been stated that, “seeing this change in the light of opportunity, the digital law firm library of the future can produce more integrated and responsive business development solutions.”[5] This collaboration can also increase law librarian’s understanding, of commerciality which will further develop our ability to generate work for our firms.[6]

Shifting sources

Similar to the ongoing discussions shifting hard copy collections to online resources, the traditional hard copy newspapers in Australia largely operate under the model where online content appears in the hard copy of the paper the following morning, and numerous other online only resources are increasingly becoming considered authoritative sources of business intelligence.

Giving up the tools

With increasing pressures comes the need to do more with less. As a result, using tools that empower users to create their own saved searches is key to ensuring that you have a sustainable approach to current awareness. There is an inherent risk with this approach however, that clients will file it in the “when I have time” basket and the tool while languish. Using on-boarding techniques that quickly get lawyers up and running by asking them to identify a few key clients practices and topics is the first step to ensuring they are starting to receive some content of use.

News aggregation vs Content Intelligence

News aggregation is not a new concept, aggregating various online sources and feeds into one location for easy viewing. But simply syndicating feeds into one location does not necessarily make this stream of information the most relevant for all users.

Content Intelligence is a combination of business intelligence and content management that helps companies leverage a vast amount of unstructured data. The main benefit being derived is that it delivers personalised information to each individual or team within an organisation based on their particular focuses and personal preferences. Many professionals within a firm may be interested in tracking the same company or topic but their viewpoint of what matters most in terms of relevancy can differ significantly based on their practice area or geographic location. Through the use of Intelligent profiling, conceptual searches and learning algorithms each stakeholder can obtain a unique and personalised stream of information based on their preferences.

Product Scalability and Usability to satisfy both Library/BD/Lawyers,

To improve efficiency and reduce requests to a central admin contact for all minor changes to current awareness updates (I.e. track a new company, topic or change alert delivery settings..etc) the platform needs to be user friendly and intuitive to all levels of technical ability for self service in order to free up the workload to focus on higher value tasks.

However, the platform also needs to satisfy all the complex and different use-cases required throughout the firm and meet the objectives on how they would like to disseminate and obtain intelligence. Manzama’s scalability model is loosely based around the different roles/personas and use-cases we commonly see within a firm.

  • Busy professionals can easily personalise the information they receive through the use of their dashboard, daily alert, mobile app and at the push of a button share content for thought leadership purposes.
  • Groups / Teams can achieve alignment through the use of group alert dissemination, collaborate on projects for competitive intelligence, spotting market or topic trends and generate content marketing material.
  • Information professionals can curate content for newsletters/reports/bulletins whilst also managing subscription license services or integrating content into other internal systems such as intranets/sharepoint or CRM.


Herbert Smith Freehills

In early 2014, the Knowledge and Research Centre (at the time just the Knowledge Centre, but that’s another paper) was attempting to address: an increase in the number of requests for updates from web based news sources, the need to implement a self service option for users with respect to alerts; and the ongoing requirement that the information services were supporting the strategic arms of the firm. We had made previous attempts to demonstrate how we could support the business development and strategy work but were not able to grab their attention in any sustaining way.

We started the process in April 2014 with a pilot of Manzama, involving Business Development and Knowledge staff initially, and after of year of evaluating the product, launched our first Manzama project with the aim of getting all legal and BD staff in over 30 offices actively receiving and interacting with Manzama.

We opted for Manzama for a variety of reasons including:

  1. Ability to have a global solution for our worldwide offices
  2. Ease of self-management by legal staff — everything in a single email
  3. Transparent administrative interface for our staff

The rollout to the firm was a global project, involving Knowledge and Business Development (BD) staff from London and Australia, and by the end of October 2015 all staff were given access to the platform and most were receiving content that was directly relevant to their day to day work.

There were several factors that led to the enhanced adoption of the tool across the firm, and ongoing adoption of the service into our day to day business.

  • Treated as a global project across the firm worldwide – Our BD team is a fully global team and having a tool that supports them and all legal staff worldwide was not only a point of pride for the Knowledge and Research team, but supported our staff mobility and collaboration between offices
  • Project team had a senior Business Development staff member ensuring we had buy in, but also were directly addressing the firm’s objectives. We relied on the BD staff person insight to ensure we had building and retaining work at the heart of our initiative.
  • Tied specifically to client information – allowing a clear point of value for the service.

We continue to develop more use cases to increase the visibility of Manzama within the firm, which has had the effect of increasing individuals use of their accounts. We have embedded search RSS feeds from the platform into global intranets and client facing pages, further increasing the visibility of material. In early 2016 we migrated our legal current awareness updates into Manzama – automating the delivery of numerous subject-based newsletters into the platform, and other subscription sources for use by Herbert Smith Freehills users.

We envisage a future where these subject newsletters need not be created, but users have a full customised account with updates from not just online public sources as are included in the Manzama platform, but the subscription sources that are most relevant to them, all in one dashboard and email. We look forward to discovering even more uses to stop searching and start finding.


In 2013, our current awareness service included subscription alerts from publishers and the Library team. The team were spending a combined 6 hours each day curating content whilst other departments were using the subscription and Library alerts to create customised newsletters. Our staff were suffering from current awareness email overload, and valuable intelligence was being lost in unread emails.

Our staff told us that in the increasingly competitive Australian legal market they needed timely, actionable intelligence about current and potential clients, from sources such as client websites, social media and blogs. We heard frequently “news from today’s print newspaper is yesterday’s news online”, and, “we want to know what we didn’t know”.

The team faced the following challenges:

  • How do we capture content from subscription and new media without causing email overload?
  • How do we capture valuable intelligence from sources we didn’t know existed?
  • How can we customise delivery of content to an individual?
  • How can a small team keep up with the speed and spread of online content and deliver today’s news today?
  • How could we reduce Library time spent on current awareness?

We knew from our own industry current awareness that a solution to some of these challenges might be found in a content automation platform. Looking at the options available in the market, we opted to run a pilot of Manzama, involving Business Development, Knowledge Management and the Library team.

After evaluation, we opted for a firm wide rollout of the Manzama, because the platform delivered the following capabilities we were looking for:

  • Aggregation of content from various online new media sources and the Firm’s paid subscriptions
  • Customised profiles for each user
  • Delivery of content in a single personalised email
  • Timely access to news via email and dashboard (push and pull options)
  • Self publishing functionality for users to create newsletters for different interest groups

After the pilot, interest in the product spread via word of mouth. We added our paid subscription sources, created feeds for Intranet pages and set up interest based newsletters and email alerts. Formal rollout began late 2015 when all legal staff were signed up to an email alert that had news on their top 5 clients and Library newsletters were migrated to the platform.

Before the rollout, we knew that the response may be varied. The move to automated content from human curated content was difficult for some, however the team were able to address this by working with filters to improve the relevance of results. Others appreciated that they had one email with their own personalised current awareness.

Overall the response has been very positive – staff understand the value of Manzama, and the Library team now spend no more than an hour a day on current awareness.

Our next steps are to promote the dashboard as a way to find real time intelligence, conduct background research on current and potential clients, and act as a data visualisation tool. Access to this research on demand is valuable for our staff; the charts and trends visualisation gives a bigger picture than the articles in their alerts and provides context around an industry or client.

Our team wants to build on the relationships formed with departments during the rollout. We want to continue to engage and understand how their current awareness needs are evolving, and how the Library, as their trusted partner, can help them get the best from Manzama.

Future Direction of Content Intelligence

We see the future of Content Intelligence lying more within predictive analytics. Rather than being reactive to the news, we are developing ways to proactively spot trends and potential issues before an event occurs by utilising Data Science and Natural Language Processing. As an example of how this could potentially work, if a user states on their profile they are interested in the Pharmaceutical Industry, through the analytics we perform and interpretation of patterns in language, we will be able to highlight the Pharmaceutical companies which should be of interest for specific reasons; Facing a potential lawsuit, financial distress, executive personnel movement, likely investigation or probe etc.


Through collaboration with business development, legal staff and our technology partner, Allens and Herbert Smith Freehills have been able to provide key client and business intelligence to their business development and legal staff.


[1] Michayla Sullivan, ‘5 Tips to Make Your Outreach Efforts Stick’, Firmer Ground, 2 February 2016,

[2] Janet Peros, ‘Blurring the lines’ (2006) April AALL Spectrum 8 .

[3] Ellyssa Kroski, Law Librarianship in the Digital Age (Scarecrow Press, 2014) at 498

[4] Stacey Leeke, ‘The power of content marketing for law firm business development’, Legal Insights, 12 September 2004,

[5] Ellyssa Kroski, Law Librarianship in the Digital Age (Scarecrow Press, 2014) at 498.

[6] John Barker, ‘Should the Role of the Law Librarian in Law Firm Business Development Expand?’ Wolters Kluwer The Intelligent Solutions Blog, 27 October 2014,

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