I just finished reading a piece (PDF available here) by one of my favorite law firm Competitive Intelligence gurus, Shannon Kay Sankstone. Shannon and her co-worker Charlotte Graesser Henderson from Quarles & Brady explained the need for the Library/Research staff within a law firm to work in tandem with the Marketing department. I like how Shannon and Charlotte broke the issue down into four areas and identified what the library and marketing each brings to the table.

  1. Collaboration: Understand Marketing Team Pressures Law firm Marketing departments have probably never been under as much pressure to find new potential clients, respond to as many RFP’s, and identify cross-selling opportunities as they are right now. Collaboration between the library and marketing teams is extremely important in order to get the best information in front of the right people, at the most critical time.
  2. Workflow: Anatomy of a Research Request For many firms, the Marketing department tends to be the “point-person” on questions being asked and the information that needs to be produced. However, the resources and expertise on how to answer the questions tends to be housed in the library. Just as with collaboration, there also needs to be communication between the researchers and the marketers. On top of that, the “deliverables” needed are very “marketing” focused, and are different than what library researchers are used to producing.
  3. Efficiency: The Real Definition There is a number of specific requests that the Marketing department may ask of the library. The key is to develop simple approaches, such as standard templates, that can get the best available information back to Marketing in a way that doesn’t involve numerous back and forth emails. Once both Marketing and the Library have an understanding of what is expected from each department, the process becomes much more efficient.
  4. Moolah: The Budget Reality Check Both Marketing and the Library need to realize that the “business development” portion of what the firm does, is almost always considered “overhead”. In many cases, though, the cost of the business development research charges gets passed along to the Library department. So, everyone needs to be aware of the true cost that the firm is paying for the business development project. The closer that the Marketers and the Librarians work together, the easier it is to understand what it will costs to deliver a final product. Librarians can point to alternative (lower-cost) research tools, and the Marketing team can determine when it is necessary to spend money versus when it isn’t necessary.
Almost all of these issues are “communications” issues — but then, when you think about it, almost all problems are “communication” problems. Take a look at the full PDF article as Shannon and Charlotte go into much better detail on how the two departments become an efficient and effective tandem.
  • New reader here – but just wanted to let you know I like the way you broke down Ms. Sankstone's material.

    I'll have to check out that full pdf!

  • Great post Greg, and thanks for the mention!

  • As a knowledge management vendor for special libraries, particularly AM 100 law firms, we have seen library directors work with marketing departments in many areas other than competitive intelligence, such as creating deal management systems, which allow marketing departments to easily produce a list of experience and experts in the firm for prospects. Another area pursued by some library directors is the publication of research to promote the firm's expertise in a particular industry. As librarians look for ways to contribute to the bottom line of the firm, partnering with the marketing department is one of the most successful since marketing departments have to connect their efforts to profits and prospects.

  • Great article. An interesting comparison that I'll throw out- legal libraries = information while
    marketing = perception. Looking at the pdf, your website, and Quarles Brady LLP – there is a very big difference in the technology 'feel' that I get. It is hard to explain, but some parts look more cutting edge than others.
    Am I way off base?