There has been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere and twitter this week about the Bloomberg Law article “Law Firm Librarians Feel Underused and Underpaid” and the accompanying survey. First off, I want to thank BNA Bloomberg for conducting this survey, sharing the results with the law librarian community and David Perla, President, Bloomberg BNA Legal Division and Bloomberg Law, for discussing these results with me.I think this title was a bit misleading.Librarians were expressing their frustration that firms weren’t fully utilizing their talents.I think that leaner staffing and more recognition of Librarians as an excellent low cost resource have kept them extremely busy and useful.As David said, “Research is in its lowest cost place today. Research is being pushed down to the lowest cost research, the library.”
My discussion with him about this survey was interesting. Their motivation for conducting this research was as a vendor of Business Development (BD) tools, they wanted to get a sense of the scope of the involvement of law librarians in BD. The overwhelming response of librarians answering “yes” to the question of could they be better utilized took them by surprise (95% of the respondents to Question #6). This is something I’ve been talking about for years (Here’s an example
) and I’m pleased to see that this is becoming a universal point of view.
He also noted that law firm librarians see themselves as a resource for the acquisition of work for the firm. This is borne out by the following survey responses:
Q1: 81% cite pushing relevant information on client intel directly to individual stakeholders as demonstration of their value
Q2: 72% see BD and CI as areas currently handled has part of their job
Q3: 66% see BD and CI as logical areas for someone with a law firm librarian skillset to add value
The numbers clearly demonstrate a recognition by the law librarian community of the fact that this is a major contribution they can make to the success of the firm. However, only 18% say their law firm is currently using them in this capacity (Question 5). When taken into account with the previously discussed results, it appears that librarians are not being acknowledged for the BD and CI contributions they are making now. The reasons for this could be that these contributions are funneled through other departments, not recognized as BD or CI, or simply done on an ad hoc basis.
One possible cause for this was identified by David in our discussion.He noted that firm BD initiatives lack consistency from one firm to the next.As result, the quality of the underlying research and analysis is not consistent.Using librarians in this capacity is an easy way for firms to utilize an existing resource to create a consistent high quality basis for strategic business decisions.
The most interesting post
for me was from fellow Geek Zena Applebaum. Zena used the survey to point out a path to address the concerns that were expressed by the respondents. David agreed with Zena’s assessment that Librarians are natural sleuths and are good at figuring out the client’s needs early and identifying strategic areas for the firm to target. Let’s face it, the days of “they know what I can do and they know where to find me if they need me to do it” are long gone. Her post should inspire each of us to take charge of our destiny. Pick up that phone and ask your Marketing counterpart to lunch. Meet with your practice group leaders and show them how you help them achieve their strategic goals. Now is the time for action!