Strategic Librarian

Using strategy to develop the law firm library.

LAC Group & Rapid Research Solutions: R2S

LAC_LogoI’ve made a few career changes over the last few years, but nothing compares to what I am currently doing.  I was asked to join LAC Group last year and was very excited to start in July after discussions with law librarian, founder, and CEO, Deb Schwarz, and industry veteran and COO, Rob Corrao.  What I’ve found since I started is that LAC Group is as innovative and dynamic as they both told me.

LAC Group started out as a law library consultancy in Los Angeles and has since grown into an international company that serves law firms but also serves government, corporations, financial services, professional services, academia, and broadcast and media.  Often thought of as a recruiting company,  LAC Group is much more as it offers consulting, information management, and expense reduction services.  Each of those areas cover many types of services.  You can view the LAC Group website to learn more.

As Senior Director of Legal Market Services, I provide consulting to law firms but I have another responsibility that I think demonstrates how innovative LAC Group really is.  While we’ve always provided research services, in 2012 we took it a step further with the introduction of a new service called Rapid Research Solutions: R2S.  With R2S, we provide both on-demand and in-depth research services complete with a research portal.   As the manager of the service, I worked on the initial launch of the service with Michele Lucero joining me in October as Director of Business Development and Client Services.  Since then we’ve been meeting with law firm library directors and staff across the country extolling the service’s virtues – and there are many.

A research portal is part of the R2S offering.  It allows users to make a request, track the progress of the request, and retrieve the results in the format the firm has specified.  A recent press release explains more about it – LAC Group Introduces the R2S Portal to Support its On Demand Research Business.


Cutting Costs of Online Research Services

It has been 11 years since I cancelled my first set of reporters.  What followed was the cancellation of all print reporters in that firm.  Like many of you reading this post also experienced, it wasn’t easy.  That said, we can now say that most of the lawyers within  firms (who cancelled reporters) have made the transition from print to electronic/online case law.

What’s next?  Many firms are making decisions to go with a preferred provider – Westlaw or Lexis – to cut costs.  The CIOs, CMOs, and CKOs who now oversee the library or research department see this as a way to reduce paying for duplication.  Depending on what content your firm uses, this may or may not be the best way to proceed.  Even so, while this may be necessary there may be strategies you can use  to manage costs of online services.

Note: I realize that many firms have already taken some of these steps or have it planned for the future.  I also understand that all of these suggestions may be or not be right for your firm depending on needs and culture.

  • If you have a flat rate contract or a special offer that includes case law, cancel your print reporters.
  • If your flat rate contract or special offer includes access to the online digests, start training your users on the use of these tools.  Eventually, you will be able to cancel the digests.
  • If your firm is serious about recovering costs for online resources and you haven’t already implemented an ERM tool for client/matter validation, do so now.  It will pay for itself and then some.
  • If your flat rate contract(s)  exclude resources and/or you have access to other resources with the same content, use ERM tools to redirect your users to the right resource.   It is a lot easier than training users to select the right resource.
  • If you haven’t already done so, cancel the print versions of the newsletters or journals you now get in electronic format.
  • If you have WK Intelliconnect, BNA libraries and electronic newsletters, or RIA CheckPoint, or other similar services cancel the print newsletters and looseleafs that provide the same content as those services and use ERM tools to block access to the databases with the same content on Westlaw and Lexis.  Alternatively, you can use those same tools to redirect your users to the right resource.
  • If your firm attempts to recover costs for Westlaw and if you have Westlaw eLibraries that include caselaw where you don’t charge clients for the use, remove all case law from the eLibraries.  If you don’t, you will very likely see eLibraries cannibalize the cost recovery of your Westlaw contract.  I’ve done analysis of eLibrary use where the trend line in my spreadsheet showed the use of eLibraries went up at the same rate that the use of Westlaw went down, eventually meeting at a point that the lines crossed.
  • If you’ve worked with Lexis to set up custom user interfaces (CUI), it is very likely that the use of the interfaces are charged separately from your main contract.  The issue that I’ve seen arise is that the use of these CUIs is generally low.  This can be changed with the proper training and by redirecting the use of the resources using your ERM tool.  Just make sure they get used or cancel them.
  • If your firm charges clients for online services and you are considering adding expert witness or briefs and pleadings to your contract, don’t.  The use of these types of resources are so closely tied to litigation matters  that clients are generally willing to pay for their use.  They don’t represent the library resources that clients expect to be treated as overhead.
  • If your firm doesn’t require refresher training for online resources, recommend that they do so and that it become an ongoing program.  A lot of the client push back of cost recovery is based on the high costs.  Researchers that participate in cost-effective research training will research online more effectively, reducing those costs.
  • If you don’t have a research portal that provides personalized access to resources, implement one.  It will reduce the time researchers spend looking for the right resource and reduce costs for the firm’s clients.

These are just a few ideas based on experience.  I would love to hear other ideas for cost cutting, cancellations of duplicates, etc.  I would also like to hear from you if you don’t agree with me.

Two New Posts for Intranet Series: Part 9 Focuses on Research

I am continuing to work on a series of posts for The Law Firm Intranet.  So far I’ve written 9 Parts with more to come.  Part 9 focuses on content and functionality for the research portal/page. 

See the full list of posts of the series.

Research Training, Mentoring, and Networking Best Practices in using Print and Electronic Resources

As I discussed in my last post, ABA 2010 Legal Technology Survey – v.5 Online Research,  moving new associates from the research habits they developed in law school, to those they need in the real world is a daunting task.  Some would say it is impossible.  Yet, with every new class of lawyers, we, as librarians attempt to do just that. 

We all have known (or know) the new associates that habitually attend what training they can fit into their schedule; call with questions, or yes, even come to the library with those questions; spend time talking to other lawyers about their research; don’t waste their or their client’s time and money on questions they can’t answer;  and generally, take every opportunity to be better legal researchers.  These are the born researchers.  We love them.  We like to see them succeed as associates or become partners or general counsels. 

We more often have known those associates who attend the required training, spend most, if not all, of their research time online, and call or come to the library for help after the hours of online research didn’t produce the results they needed.   We may not feel the same affection for these associates, but we want them to be successful as well.

They are a tough crowd that may never be good researchers without help.  So, how do we reach them?  Especially, how do we help them understand how to do research using the right resources at the right time?  If we apply these questions to our efforts to teach associates how to combine the use of print and electronic resources, the answers may rest on research training, mentoring and networking.

Some best practices to follow:


  • Create a training session for the combined use of print and electronic resources.
    • Include the training along with other firm sponsored training/education required for new associates.  The endorsement by the firm, by including this training in what they are already doing, will go a long way in convincing the associates that this is serious business.
    • Ask partners to participate in explaining why the editorial analysis including digests and treatises (whether it be used in print or online) is so important.  Their participation and endorsement of good research habits will also resound with the associates. 
    • Consider doing a re-enactment of a partner and librarian working together on a research project.  My most memorable experience as a researcher was doing the online part of the research a lawyer was working on back in the 90’s.  He would browse through the digests and find key numbers for me to search on.  I would run the key number search and give him a list of cases.  He would use the reporters to read the cases (now he would probably ask for the printed case opinions) and come back to me with more key numbers or requests to KeyCite (we were a West shop at the time).  You wouldn’t want to take it to that extreme but you could demonstrate using the appropriate print materials with the online resources for a research project.
    • Provide opportunities for the associates to participate in the training session – one wise librarian told me that she was using games to garner associate interest.  Afterall, they are the gaming generation.
  • After the firm sponsored session:
    • Ask your online fee based vendor to teach the associates how to use their online service as a digest.


  • Assign research mentors to each associate.  We assigned librarians to touch base with associates on a regular basis to do additional training on subject based services and to create a relationship that allowed the associates to start learning the value of engaging the library staff in their research. 
  • Create a training program for the librarian research mentors to ensure they understand their role and know how to provide mentoring in this instance.
  • Create documentation with procedures & checklists for the tasks each librarian mentor must complete.
  • Conduct regular mentor meetings to keep the staff engaged and the program moving forward.  These don’t have to be burdensome time wise.  Schedule them as your firm’s time constraints allow.
  •  Ask the firm to consider assigning senior associates or partners as research mentors to new attorneys.  If a mentorship program already exists, as the firm to consider part of that mentorship include research.
  • Work with senior associates and/or partners to develop and conduct the same training, documentation, and meetings.


  • Host regular brainstorming sessions where associates can get together to network and share their research issues while sharing suggestions on how to approach the problem.  Before starting any networking sessions, train librarians in their role as facilitators rather than participants.
  • Consider building a research wiki that would be available to associates only, with the exception of librarian moderators who would respond to questions and post tips.  This would be a wiki that would allow the associates to network with each other by:
    • Asking for assistance when they need it
    • Posting how they conducted a particular research project
    • Contributing research tips 

These are some practices that are already in place in firms or new and ideas I think would work (I haven’t seen or done what I suggest in the networking section of this post.)  I would love to hear other practices that you are engaged in or ideas you think might be worth trying.


ABA 2010 Legal Technology Survey – v.5 Online Research

I received a copy of the ABA 2010 Legal Technology Survey last week.  I was more than happy to get it as I’ve regularly used statistics from the Online Research volume.  I would recommend its purchase as this year’s survey is exceptional in its review of how lawyers use technology while researching.  It also provides a look at how those same lawyers interact with their law firm library. 

Here are a couple questions and answers I found especially interesting for the 100+ lawyer firm population.  Note: all percentages are rounded from the original % in the survey:


How often do you request legal research (both legal materials and non-legal materials that are case-related) from the following – Firm librarians?




While the 12% for never doesn’t surprise me, the 43% for occasionally is troubling and the 18% for regularly is even more disconcerting.  As to the occasional users, this is 43% of lawyers who have asked the library to do research but did not decide to return for help regularly. 

If I were in marketing, I would focus on that group in particular.  They’ve seen the benefit of the library doing research enough to return occasionally but haven’t turned into regular customers.  If I were to ask the same question in a survey that I did for a law firm library and got these results, I would suggest that the library interview those who are occasional users to find out why. 

The interview should start out with the question, “Would you tell me about your practice?”, followed by “What are your biggest frustrations in finding information?”, and go from there.  Don’t focus on telling them what you can do for them, instead, find out what their needs are.  This approach is marketing.  Telling them what you can do is selling.

Additionally, I would suggest that they talk to their regular users to find out what makes them so.  I would also ask those users if they would be willing to provide testimonials and referrals when they have the opportunity – or more formally, at their practice group meetings when the library presents.


Where do you go first to start a research project?



These statistics paint a somewhat bleak picture.  I really don’t know where to start with my thoughts on this.  If you think back to how research used to be done, it generally started with editorial analysis of a legal issue using a print treatise.   I guess shouldn’t be surprised by the 13% for print.   Afterall, it is well-known that lawyers coming out of law school during the last 5-10 years prefer online.

It’s the 54% for free online services and the 30% for online fee based services that are more troubling.  I’m not saying that free services have no place in research.  They do if they are services that are authoritative, can be relied on, aren’t biased, etc. 

What worries me is that I don’t really know what resources these lawyers are using.   According to the ABA survey, 36.7% of lawyers in the 100+ lawyer firms are using Google search most often for their “free” research rather than using authoritative sources.  While the number is the largest in a group that included Findlaw, 10.9%; LexisOne, 1.4%; Government websites, 22.4%; State Bar Association offerings, 9.5%; or the Cornell Legal Information Institute, 13.6%, it doesn’t tell us much about what resources are actually being used.

I guess I should trust that these lawyers know what they are doing.  If I didn’t have 20+ years of experience of seeing new law classes coming to work in law firms without a clue of how to get started with their research, I might be able to do just that. 

In the days when print research was used more readily, at least, I knew that someone using the print to learn about a legal issue before going online (fee based) was using a resource that was generally credible and authoritative.  Now, I’m not so sure.  So what can be done to allow librarians (and partners) to feel better about the use of online over print?

Whether law firms what to invest the time or not, training is really the best way to handle this troubling issue.  At my last law firm, we were able to get a training session approved as required training for new fall associates (we did something similar for summers).  This session focused on how to use the print and online resources most effectively. 

If I were working with a law firm in today’s research world, I would suggest offering similar training, followed by assignments of research mentors (something we did at my last firm as well).  

Look for more highlights from the survey along with commentary in our next blog post.  Also, I would be extremely pleased to hear from you on these thoughts.

Competitive Intelligence Analysis: I’ve Done the Research – Now, What Do I Do With It?

In today’s increasingly competitive environment, businesses need to be able to convert the wealth of data and information available into intelligence for decision making and subsequent actions.  This conversion is acomplished through analysis.  Register now to join us in a webinar called “Competitive Intelligence Analysis:  I’ve Done the Research – Now, What Do I Do With It?” that will be held on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 from Noon to 1PM Central.  This webinar will introduce the concept of analysis as part of the intellingence cycle, discuss several analytical techniques, such as industry analysis, competitor analysis and SWOT.  Real world examples will be provided as well as example templates so that participants can begin to immediately use their learnings. During the session, you will:

• Understand how the analysis phase interacts with the rest of the intelligence system
• Determine the role analysis plays in producing decision-oriented intelligence reports
• Learn how to evaluate analytical tools for different CI requirements

Cost:  $30 per person USD or $60 USD for groups of up to 10 from the same firm


Kristy Morley, Senior Manager, Business/Competitive Intelligence, Pfizer Nutrition
Currently part of Pfizer, Kristy Morley began her career in pharmaceuticals when she joined Wyeth (formerly American Home Products Corporation) in 1997, in the Nutrition Division.  She initially began as a Project Manager in the New Product & Process Development Group.  Kristy made the move to competitive intelligence in 2001, serving the the Nutrition Research group with competitor R&D pipeline tracking.  The function grew and was moved to the Marketing group in 2006.  The CI group currently provides intelligence consulting, expertise, and oversight to brand teams, new product groups, and Senior Management. Prior to joining Wyeth, Kristy spent five years at Avebe America, Inc and holds a B.S. in Food Science and Technology. She has been a member of SCIP since 2001 and is a graduate from the Gilad-Herring Academy of Competitive Intelligence, and currently serves as a member of the SCIP Philadelphia Chapter Steering Committee.


Nina Platt, Principal ConsultantNina Platt Consulting, Inc.
Owner and principal consultant, Nina Platt is a law librarian and former AmLaw 100 firm library director who has worked in law firms since 1986.  Her work in library management has spanned all but 4 of those years.  Nina believes the most effective law firm libraries are critical to both the business and practice of law and that achieving to build a business critical library can only be done through the use of business tools like strategic plans, business plans, business cases, and more.  She has written and delivered numerous articles, presentations, and papers on library and knowledge management topics.   

Questions?  Contact

Creating a Research Portal Webinar

Electronic resources are said to be the future of the library where the library exists on user’s desktops instead of down the hall.  While this sounds simple, providing clear access to the many resources a library licenses for its users can be complex. Register now to attend our webinar called Creating a Research Portal, to be held on Thursday, January 21st, 2010, from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM Central Time.

This session will help librarians focus on how to present electronic resources via the intranet or a research portal in a way that makes sense to users. The topics covered include:

  1. Method for design
  2. Necessary technology
  3. Successful implementation

Who should attend? Anyone in leadership who plays a part in business decisions. Participants could come from the following groups:

  • Library Directors
  • Library Managers
  • Library staff
  • Intranet Managers
  • Information Resources/Services Directors

Whether you are in the beginning stages of creating a research portal or redesigning your current solution, consider inviting your intranet committee or governance team members to attend the program with you.

Speaker: Nina Platt, Owner and Principal Consultant, Nina Platt Consulting, Inc.

Moderator: Carrie Long, MLIS – Research Analyst, Nina Platt Consulting, Inc.

Registration fees: $25.00/participant

Group registration fees: $50.00 for 2 or more participants from the same organization

Questions? Contact: Amy Witt