Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of discussion about the value of the Law Firm Librarian (aka Research Analyst). I’ve written on the subject (here and here) as have others (here, here, here and here). Most of the discussion concerns the expense side of the equation. But it occurred to me that this analysis can only get you so far. It’s revenue that can turn a cost center into a profit center. Let’s face it, Law Firms are in the business of making money and profit is a powerful argument when it comes to justifying your existence.
How can we affect revenue? We don’t control writeoffs or client relations. Library staff are unique in a law firm because they track and bill their time in much the same way attorneys and paralegals do. We need to apply the same criterion that is used to evaluate attorney and paralegal performance to the Library staff but customized to our unique world. Metrics such as realization rates and billing practices can allow us to start conversations with shareholders that show them we are invested in the profitability of the firm.
Beginning a conversation with shareholders about the money that’s being left on the table is a good place to start. To do this, we need to be able to give our data context by comparing ourselves to the industry at large. How many times have we heard the phrase “But what are other firms doing?” We need to develop benchmarks to allow for meaningful points of comparison. But how can we 1) collect this data and 2) use it to improve the performance of the Library in generating revenue?
So…to address Question #1, I’ve put together a short 11-question survey to try and collect this information. I have tried to construct this survey with an eye to avoiding questions that may touch on proprietary or competitive information. This is not a rate survey.
As for Question #2, I will report on the results of the survey in this space and will discuss some different ways it can be used to improve Library performance. I feel that this data will allow the Law Firm Library community to finally affect the revenue piece in a meaningful way.
You can access the survey here.