The changing landscape of the law firm library was the topic of our recent webinar, The Rise of the Library. LAC Group joined forces with partner Manzama to discuss the evolution of the law library.
A practical agenda was covered as LAC Group CEO Deb Schwarz and Manzama CEO Peter Ozolin shared ideas, working examples and best practices in order for the traditional law library to evolve as expectations and responsibilities continue to change.
The webinar was recorded for playback on demand, and I will share the link at the bottom of this post. Meanwhile, following are key messages of the presentation.
1. Redefine the Role of the Library within Your Firm
The traditional law library is reactive, responding to requests as they come in. The goal of the librarian was to leave no stone unturned, resulting essentially in a data dump for every request.
The new law library must continue to be responsive, but also shift to a more proactive role. Law librarians must be on the lookout for ways to add meaning and value to information, shifting from a quantity mindset to more of a quality mindset.
Law librarians have long been the firm’s information experts – that function is evolving to include information technology expertise and subject matter expertise on topics that are relevant to the firm.
2. Expand the Client Base for Information Services
Today’s law firm library must expand services to support not only lawyers and legal matters but other firm staff and needs. In competitive legal markets, marketing and business development teams are important new internal clients for the law firm library. More law firms are looking to their libraries for Competitive Intelligence and Market Research expertise. Deb Schwarz shared an example of this with Manatt, a law firm client of LAC Group. Today’s law library also plays a role in supporting client teams by uncovering information relevant to the business needs of the firm’s existing clients.
3. Shift your Approach from Operational to Service-Oriented
The traditional library function was operational, dealing with paper-based information resources contained within a distinct physical location with limited access. Today’s digital information requires a distributed, dynamic, service model. Mobile access from a multitude of locations and devices is the new requirement and expectation. These changes are leading to different habits such as more self-service.
The rise of the library requires a shift from doing work that lawyers and staff can do themselves to adding information value and easing the burden of information overload. Peter Ozolin shared a working example with Foley, a law firm client of Manzama. Also discussed in the webinar was the regular delivery of Curated Alerts as a service-oriented deliverable.
A service approach requires the librarian to reach out and identify information needs throughout the firm and focus on finding new ways to deliver a more useful, streamlined work product.
4. Define Success
Peter Ozolin discussed the importance of taking a cold, objective look at your current reality:
- Is your primary focus on operations or service?
- Are you equally proactive and reactive in your approach?
- How is your organization perceived within your firm? Are you demonstrating clear value?
He advised every library director to visit and revisit their performance, rated on a scale of 1-10 for an honest assessment as to where the organization is and where it needs to be, with ideas and a strategic plan for how to get there.
5. Measure Results
Deb Schwarz discussed the importance of performance and results-driven metrics, which are the ‘big data’ of your own library organization, in order to build a strong case and present a compelling story to firm management. Traditional stats like the number of attorneys who use the library in a given time period or the daily volume of research requests are no longer meaningful. Devise measurements that show true value, such as business development wins and losses or resource utilization trends. Metrics need to tell a story.
6. Continuously Improve
As the walls of the traditional law library come crashing down, figuratively and literally, the one constant that remains is change. In order to keep pace, regular assessment and continuous improvement have become a necessity. While it feels safe and comfortable to stay immersed in library duties, the new law librarian must get out into the firm and remain vigilant about ways to continuously improve and maximize opportunities.
Law firm management is looking closely at the library function. Their search is often focused on cost savings and efficiencies. A savvy library director will elevate the discussion to include the value of information leadership and expertise. By focusing and delivering on firm needs, the law library will rise and continue to play a crucial role as it evolves from a room filled with books into the firm’s dynamic knowledge platform and information service center.