Strategic Librarian

Using strategy to develop the law firm library.

Cost Recovery Ideas for 2009

Note:  NPCI will be offering Cost Recovery Webinars in February.  Click on the registration ad in the far right column to register for the first webinar taking place this week.  $30/pp or $60/group.

I’ve written a number of posts regarding cost recovery tactics over the last year and a half. 

They all follow a general theme that provides my ideas on how to deal with the cost recovery of online resources.  What would be different in 2009?  Not much, except that 2009 provides an opportunity for law firms to take real concerted action with regards to cost recovery.  Actions that will improve client service whether you decide to charge for online research or you decide not to.  Make 2009 the year you decide to:

Make a firm decision about cost recovery of online resource.  Whether you recover or not, decide as a firm.  Yes, some partners may write the expense off, but whatever gets done, make it a firm decision.

If you decide to provide all online research gratis to clients (according to the ALM Law Library Survey, only 3 % of firms are currently taking this route):

  • Draft a policy/procedure to include in engagement letters going forward.
  • Continue to provide training to researchers to make sure they are doing the best research possible and the vendor will not jack up the cost with the contract renewal.
  • Let clients know the value of the online research they are getting for free by providing a usage report by matter along with the matter’s invoice.
  • Consider increasing billing rates to cover the cost of the research although that would mean the service isn’t really free.

If you decide to charge clients for some online research services and not for others:

  • Draft a policiy/procedure and train all researchers on it.
  • Create a clear description of what is free to the client and what they will be paying for and include the description in engagement letters going forward. 
  • Meet with each client to explain the policy.
  • Consider increasing billing rates just enough to cover the cost of the portion of the resources that you will be providing gratis.
  • Alternatively, provide clients a monthly report showing both types of charges – free and billable.  Describe why each resource is being treated as it is including any changes from the last invoice.

If you decide to charge clients for all online research services:

  • Draft a policiy/procedure and train all researchers on it.
  • Create a clear description of what they will be paying for and include the description in engagement letters going forward. 
  • Meet with each client to explain the policy.
  • Enhance invoices to include more information about each research fee
  • Check back regularly with clients to make sure they continue to understand the policy (this could be done in a meeting that reviews all disbursements why, when, how, etc.).

Whatever decision gets made:

  • Provide annual update training to online researchers to make sure they are doing the best research for the client.  Require all researchers to attend.
  • Demonstrate that the firm is committed to research training by providing documentation that describes the training, how many researchers attended, results, etc.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in relations to what can be done in law firms to improve all aspects of the cost recovery of online legal research including better communications internally and with the firm’s clients.

Good luck with your recovery plans.  Please remember that Nina Platt Consulting offers services in this area and can assist you with making improvements to your program.

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