Strategic Librarian

Using strategy to develop the law firm library.

Staffing Studies are a Crucial Part of Strategic Planning

This is another case study that I recently added to ninaplatt.com.  Again, I am posting here in case there is interest.

Many of you might look at this case study and think, in this economy, the need for a staffing study would be moot or even harmful to a library. After all, doesn’t a staffing study mean a reduction in staff? Not always.

Staffing Studies can be used to identify:

  • How to work more efficiently without adding staff
  • Technology that can be used to improve processes and ultimately service to the firm
  • Gaps in knowledge that need to be filled for the firm to get the services it expects.
  • Training needed to move support staff from responsibilities that are going away to those being added as the needs of the firm change
  • Where new staff is needed to better support firm needs

The Challenge

To demonstrate, let’s walk through the results of a staffing study we did for a large AmLaw 200 firm. That firm had seen rapid growth of attorneys with the library staff taking on new roles while maintaining those they already had. After defining the study with the library director, going through background information, and interviewing staff and key stakeholders, our findings included:

  • The department was well thought of by firm members
  • The workload was unbalanced with some teams having workloads (knowledge management (KM)) that they could not keep up with and other teams (competitive intelligence) feeling comfortable with their workload
  • Some responsibilities were holdovers from the past
  • Some of the entry-level research projects could be handled by others in the firm with training
  • Some research conducted was at an associate level
  • The research staff also did court documents retrieval
  • The library system had never been fully installed and was problematic
  • There were too many cross functional assignments
  • The knowledge management team was supporting all library software
  • The lawyers and staff in the branch offices did not get the same support as those in headquarters
  • The director had too many direct reports keeping her from accomplishing more strategic goals
  • and more…

The Solution

From these findings we created a three-year plan for library staff growth based on the services expected by the department and the firm’s goals for attorney growth. That plan for Year One included:

  • Hire a regional librarian to support the branch offices with that position located in one of the larger branch offices
  • Move the research manager and KM manager from working managers to administrative.
  • Add the CI librarians to the research team (they were direct reports to the director)
  • Move responsibility for cataloging and collection development out of a research librarian position that did those tasks half time and research the other half, making her a full-time researcher
  • Move responsiblity of collection development to the research manager
  • Train legal administrative assistants to do the more simple research tasks and to handle the court document retrieval as is done in other firms
  • Hire a technical services assistant to support the work that was not being done because of workload
  • Outsource cataloging and serials management to outsource with the Technical Services manager handling the relationship and results
  • Replace the library system and move the management of that system to Technical Services
  • and more…

Years two and three included adding additional specialized staff to support the increased workflow while maintaining the attorney/staff ratio.

The Result

The library director made several of the Year One changes right away and reported back that they were successful in balancing workload while providing more focused support. Year’s two and three have been placed on hold because of the change in firm growth because of the economic issues the entire legal industry faces. Still, the library director reports that she is more confident in making decisions about staffing in the future.

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