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.