Guest post by Michayla Sullivan, Bose McKinney & Evans, LLP, Knowledge & Research Services Specialist
As law firms continue to look for ways to cut budgets, it is important that all employees add value to their firm. Firm librarians can do this most efficiently by leveraging their research experience to assist attorneys on cases and business development. In order to provide this assistance, librarians must first persuade attorneys to send them research requests. In many firms, whether due to lack of awareness of the full scope of library services or forgetfulness of those services’ existence, many attorneys do not utilize their libraries’ research services as often as they could.
Firm librarians can address this under-utilization by conducting library outreach within their firms. There are several methods law firm librarians can use to gain and retain research requests that require little time from the attorney while maximizing the amount of attention gained for the library’s research services.
Stickiness of Everyday Promotional Materials
Every single item that passes through the library to an attorney is an opportunity for outreach. Thus, every routed current awareness publication, book delivered to an attorney’s office, and document written to an attorney that comes from your library should have a sticker containing the library’s interoffice contact information. The sticker message can directly call to attorneys to “Save time!” and “Send us your research questions!”
The stickers can be created using Canva, a free online tool for creating graphics, which can then be imported into a Word label template. Thereafter, simply print, peel, and stick the labels on as needed or add a digital image of the sticker to the footer of every email sent out. Doing so provides continuous and consistent library promotion, which may result in immediate research requests when the attorneys see the stickers reminding them of the information services offered. The value added from time spent on the research requests generated can more than make up for the initial time spent creating the stickers.
Occasional Promotional Materials
Utilizing promotional materials that require a little more time and attention from attorneys and distributing them on an occasional basis are another great way to promote services. Creating a flyer with longer descriptions of the types of research services provided and examples of actual research questions you’ve successfully addressed is another option. This helps provide attorneys with a better picture of the types of complex research handled.
Getting to Know You
Making yourself more visible will help your attorneys remember to use your services. A personal conversation about your research skills will often be more memorable than a flyer. Utilize interoffice mail delivery as little as possible and instead personally deliver items to the attorneys.
Given the large volume of materials that need to be delivered, it is not likely feasible to hand-deliver everything. Just do what time allows, and if the attorneys seem amenable to a little conversation when you make the deliveries, take the opportunity to talk to them about ways you can assist them with research, as conversations may reveal that attorneys are unaware of the variety of information needs with which you can help them.
Remember the Paralegals
It is not just attorneys who can benefit from your research services. When they do not have time to address a research need, attorneys will often push these tasks to their paralegals. Like attorneys, paralegals are often short on time. Librarians can help alleviate this burden by taking on some of their research tasks. Make special efforts to reach out to your paralegals and you will likely find they are pleased to hear how you can assist them. Value added to a paralegal’s work is also value added to the firm overall.
Put in the Time Again and Again
The above efforts require both time and repetition, as many attorneys may forget the research services offered even after they have used them. Given this never-ending time commitment, how can an already busy librarian find time for outreach? Just do what you can.
You do not have to deliver everything to every attorney in your office. Perhaps you can deliver only to attorneys you have not seen in a while. You do not have to create new stickers and flyers all the time. Just expend time creating them once and then occasionally refresh the design by making a few changes to the message. Only you can judge how much time to spend on outreach, because you know your law firm and its library best.