Private Law Librarianship


Cynthia Brown; Ana Ramirez Toft-Nielsen; and Allison C. Reeve Davis

Law firm libraries function as a support center providing services and information to meet the demands of both the firm and its clients. The roles and responsibilities in a forward-facing law firm library are continually evolving. This agility results in both improvement of services and increased opportunities for the librarian.

To best adapt to these continuing needs, librarians must maintain a deep understanding of the business of the law, changing roles of the librarian, emerging technology, and outreach to facilitate the adoption of research tools and services by library patrons.  This chapter will explore and identify how legal information professionals can prepare and mold the future of research departments in the law firm environment.

Key Concepts
  • Understand the business of law and how the firm librarian fits into the legal market by requiring agility to meet firm and client demands.
  • Demonstrate innovative ways law firm libraries remain an integral business function of tomorrow’s organization by staying abreast of emerging market needs and trends.
  • Demonstrate that traditional librarian skills suit the evolving expertise of legal information professionals.
  • Remain vigilant of emerging legal technology as it drives the evolving functions of legal information professionals.

The Future of Legal Practice & The Librarian’s Role

The Transformation of Law Firms

Well before the legal recession of the early 2000s, client demands were already changing. The days of unquestioned billable hours were fading. Law firms felt and responded to economic pressures, and companies were exploring building in-house legal departments to lower outside legal costs. Then the recession hit, and the practice of law was forever changed.

More than a decade later, clients continue to scrutinize bills and demand greater value from their counsel.

[s]ince the Great Recession, demand for Biglaw services has increased at a sluggish pace, well below the growth of GDP over this period. More specifically, a survey of in-house counsel found that 30 percent of them plan to decrease their use of outside counsel (compared to 15 percent who plan to increase their use and 55 percent who plan to stay around the same level).[2] What’s driving this? The high cost of outside counsel — 62 percent of surveyed law departments said they’re reducing their use of outside counsel to realize cost savings, leading to in-house counsel “taking back” work from their outside lawyers. Almost two-thirds of law departments said that work previously done by outside counsel is being transferred to in-house attorneys.i

Have law firms dug in their heels and continue working as they have for a century and a half? Perhaps some firms did just that, and they are out of business or are fading from the legal market. Innovative law firms have chosen change and taken a new approach.

Over the next two decades, the way in which lawyers work will change radically. Entirely new ways of delivering legal services will emerge, new providers will enter the market, and the workings of our courts will be transformed.ii

Over the past few years, some have argued that the production of certain legal services is becoming commoditized.iii In the practice of law, many firms are adapting and are increasingly relying on technology and integrated solutions. Law firms are embracing technology to improve their legal work processes. As noted by co-author, James Jones, “service providers going forward will need to be more multi-disciplinary, more integrated into the solutions they provide, more willing to think about innovative pricing strategies, and more focused on outcomes.”iv

Some law firms are turning inward and relying on their own professionals to assist in increased productivity. Law firms are reorganizing and creating departments to increase productivity, efficiency, and profitability along with improving internal systems.v Law firms are adapting to the new market by creating unique strategies specific to client needs. These firms will need to address various factors such as its clients, practice areas, market competition, and Within this change, the role of the law librarian is evolving, developing, and evolving. Law librarians are included in this process to increase productivity, efficiency, and profitability by loweringvii overhead and bottom-line costs. The forward-facing and future legal information professional recognizes her place in evolving law firm business models and creates an agile research department in response.

[G]rowing firms know how to bring in more business while also increasing the capacity of their lawyers to do more work and collect more revenue for every case and client they bring in.viii

The Business of Law Firm Libraries

 Legal practice has changed and is changing, so how does the librarian and research department fit into the future of the practice of law?

To actively contribute to the efficiency and competitive edge of the firm, a successful firm librarian will understand how the firm makes money, how the firm budgets are set, what costs are passed to clients, and client sensitivity to costs and fees.

Law firm profitability is not determined solely by the number of attorney hours billed; rather, all costs must be applied to revenue to calculate profits. Corporate staff in a law firm may be under the false impression they have no ability nor responsibility to affect firm profitability. Those same employees may believe that if an attorney bills the requisite number of hours in a year, the law firm will make money. This is inaccurate yet is a critical concept for new law firm librarians to grasp. You can play a part in the success of your firm.

Altman Weil, a leading legal consultant management firm, surveys law firms and publishes reports on their findings. A 2019 report discusses improved practice efficiency.

Clients are continually seeking “better, faster, cheaper” ways to meet their business objectives – it’s just the way of free-market competition. Law firm leaders agree almost unanimously (96%) that a focus on improved practice efficiency is a permanent trend in the profession.ix

In today’s market now more than ever, firms compete for business against other firms, in-house legal departments, and alternative legal providers. In this difficult environment, firms must provide their services with improved efficiency and value. The firm librarian is a key factor in providing this efficiency. Firms will not accomplish ‘better, faster, cheaper’ simply by working attorneys harder. Information professionals can provide superior resources, anticipate information needed to assist attorneys in advising clients, conduct proactive research, and serve as differentiators to the firm to provide the competitive edge.x In the 2020 Altman Weil survey, librarians can provide an edge to a law firm by

[i]mprov[ing] efficiency, value and profitability of legal service delivery; learn and improve as you go; build on successes and systematize effective new methods by replicating them in other parts of the firm; and turn your real new capabilities into sustainable competitive advantages by committing to them, locking them into your organizational processes and structures, and communicating, supporting and demonstrating them to clients.xi

In previous years, the legal profession was far less focused on business techniques, and the billable hour was the ultimate baseline. The library was ultimately a support center for the hourly billing machine. Focusing on efficiency, pricing, and value, librarians have become critical in less traditional reference work. Traditional reference will continue to have a place in law firms, but ultimately reference is a reactive service. The library as an information center should provide attorneys with predictive research. As described in “Old Skills, New Tricks,”

Predictive research provides attorneys with the answers to questions the client is about to ask, making librarians invaluable to the firm. Previously, a reference desk might receive a question requesting three years’ of class action filing data organized by jurisdiction and broken down by industry. Starting from scratch, such a project could take weeks or months. With a well-thought-out predictive research strategy, a modern library will have this information at their fingertips, customized for the attorney and ready to dazzle the client.xii

During the 2020 AALL PLLIP Summit, Key Note speaker Ari Kaplan asked the audience, “How can you innovatively impact the law firm’s competitive advantage?”xiii The law firm librarian understands all resources in the firm’s library collection. This includes print resources, online legal research platforms, and other technology products. And, as discussed in more detail later in the chapter, librarians must watch for emerging products and new technology that will change the way legal research is performed. Librarians will find they must know how to legally inform their attorneys better, faster, and stronger than the competitor’s firm to contribute to the firm’s success.

Innovation in Law Firm Libraries

In the changing legal economy, law firms differentiate themselves by demonstrating an investment in innovation as a function of the business of law. These initiatives require a shift in culture and legal information professionals often lead the charge. Librarians have a long history of innovation. They have always created classification systems, indexed resources, provided access to information, and curated specialized knowledge archives. Because of their awareness of and expertise in finding information, they are well-suited to identify emerging client and business needs and offer insights to firm leadership.

To earn a seat at the table, information professionals must find opportunities in which their skills are unique and of value and by proactively offering their skills when firm leadership is looking for novel solutions. Careful documentation of the library’s work, using quantitative project management tools, such as ServiceNow, Quest, or Research Monitor, shows firm leaders just how productive libraries are, the work attorneys trust them to do and advances their place as experts in legal practice technology. Librarians should also identify and document the outcomes of their work product. When discovered case law leads to winning arguments, competitive intelligence reports bring in new business, and traffic to information-rich intranets increases, librarians will be trusted with firm-initiated innovation projects. When the library has a proven record of tracking emerging practice trends, formalizing data analytics, and monitoring client requests, firm decision-makers will trust the insight of librarians when innovation is needed again.

Innovation can be defined as simply as a new method or ideaxiv or as nebulously as trying to describe a complex process. In the law firm environment, however, both are true, and innovation is practiced daily as librarians solve issues of efficiency and create value-added products their firms market to clients. Librarians traditionally create in multiple areas of information distribution, having implemented classification systems, written finding aids, and now move toward single-sign-on technologies or build proprietary databases. The heart of innovation is problem-solving, and as the legal marketplace continues to evolve, librarians listen closely to the pain points and identify creative solutions.

Part of innovation and finding solutions to novel issues is a thorough evaluation of the problem and the resources meant to solve it. Two of the library’s most valuable resources are staffing and finances. Both must be expended wisely to retain the trust of firm leadership. Librarians employ evaluative skills to ensure that new products created and technology purchased solve a problem experienced by the many and not the few. Shiny new technologies may promise to solve problems, like analytics, but unfinished coding or jurisdictional coverage may preclude the usefulness of such tools. Never create or buy without solving a problem.

Learning about new technologies is an important still. Ask, what is the problem this technology purports to solve, and how? If you are not spending time understanding new technology, tools, and strategies, eventually a savvy client won’t trust your firm’s ability to deliver. Librarians will not keep up with innovative ideas and solutions that move the firm forward without the vigilance of rapidly evolving legal technology sources.

Besides understanding the claimed solutions technology provides, law librarians put new platforms to the test with real-world use cases during the evaluative process. They analyze results and usability to ensure the tool creates efficiency and provides novel information delivery that provides a competitive edge to attorney legal practice. During testing, librarians are vigilant of technology capabilities that may not have been the original intended use but emerge as information is collected and data manipulation returns new use-case scenarios.


The marketing department at Big Law Firm increasingly requested benchmarking statistics to compare prospective client litigations needs against business competitors. They need to point to real data showcasing the firm’s successes in litigation when defending companies in the client’s same industry and strained with similar allegations. The library brought on a legal analytics product that uses litigation data from the federal courts to assist with this business development model.
What happened next was the librarians discovered a wealth of additional insights in the analytics. Not only could they deliver insight on businesses and industries, but understand the patterns of opposing counsel, glean strategy when attorneys face particular judges, and identify winning brief templates in various jurisdictions. The analytics tool has proven helpful in more than its intended initial use and is now integrated into early case analysis across the firm, more than returning product and research return on investment.

Forming strategic groups within the library supports big-picture thinking and contributes to the business of the law firm. Communication between the library and firm leadership sets goals upon which the library can design solutions and predict research needs before they are requested. To identify goals and reduce redundancy, strategic planning groups within libraries will be necessary to communicate with firm leadership and various departments.

Formal innovation programs and departments are gaining popularity in large law firms. These groups are often diverse, inviting practicing attorneys and staff from accounting, information technology, risk management, and marketing, alongside information professionals. Librarians must ask for a seat at this table by proving their unique tools and skills in product evaluation, reporting, and metrics. (AALL Innovation Bootcamp Resource Guide, How mature is your organization’s capability to innovate? Adapted from Carnegie Mellon Capability Maturity Model).

Innovation in Action

An institutional commitment to innovation does not alone provide the tools for such innovation. Although some solutions arise through day-to-day implementation, larger-scale projects are often developed through formal ideation and process improvement exercises. Evolving client needs for efficient and tailored information delivery is a great driving force behind law firm innovation today. Coupled with the difficulties of wading through myriad information sources and evaluating constantly updated technology places the library as a hub for problem-solving.

Experts suggest several methods for innovation, whether through formal exercises, or informal, spontaneous collaboration. Design Thinking is a creative process leading librarians to identify solutions to user problems, “at the intersection of three factors: desirability, feasibility, and viability.”xv Service Design is a collaborative approach to problem-solving, taking teams through multiple stages of identification, observation, implementation and maintenance, all while remembering the user experience.xvi Exploring various methods by which teams identify problems and solutions not helps put ideas only into action but fosters a culture of creativity and open ideation within the library department.

Whether formal or organic, pain points will emerge throughout any innovation process, including budget restrictions, resistance to change, or insufficient technology. However, librarians often are the right team and best-suited professionals to tackle barriers because they know the needs of their firms and how emerging technology or novel services can solve problems.


Years ago, Big Law Firm started tracking federal and state legislation to keep attorneys informed of potential and enacted changes to the law most pressing for their clients. The undertaking required librarians to identify a partner vendor to deliver the nation’s legislative reports but also had to ensure that content fit the unique needs of the firm and its clients, which no third party could provide. The library built a proprietary database and published charts of pending and enacted bills. Over time, the legislative project grew with the firm’s move into new practice areas and the need for even further tailored reports. Now, librarians still create the large report but also provide reports to practice groups, bill tailored legislative information to clients, and look forward now to a global need.

Projects such as legislative and regulatory tracking let attorneys know what they need to know before they even realized the information was needed. They use the reports to proactively contact and counsel clients, returning an increase in business.

Evolving Roles & Opportunities in Law Libraries

 The law firm library of today looks different than it did ten years ago and will continue evolving into the foreseeable future. Meeting the requirements of 21st-century clients and business goals means all corporate departments, including libraries, must adapt frequently. The mission of the law firm library is to harness information, creating efficiency and a competitive edge for the firm. Innovative application of knowledge differentiates information professionals and ensures continued reliance on their skill set. The future law firm librarian will retain a strong footing in traditional legal information finding and dissemination but will also embrace new technologies looking for innovative opportunities.

In the past, a law firm library was a showplace. It was meant to be seen and was often a focal point in large offices. Wood paneling, rows upon rows of bound reporters, large reference desks, study carols, and a physically present staff were the norm. Attorneys could be seen browsing shelves or flipping through pages before requesting copies of cases or chapters in treatises from the library staff. Books with post-it notes and “do not shelf” notices would be strewn across work tables. Research was done in books, and the firm library was a hub of activity as well as a showplace to indicate success and a depth of resources.

The move from lush, large, and luxurious libraries to technology-driven research centers was a slow and laborious process with many factors contributing to the transition. No one deciding factor moved a firm library from print to electronic resources overnight, and there remains a wide variety of opinions on how legal research is best performed. Never the less the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has brought about the ultimate demise of print resources in a law firm library. Shut out of their offices, attorneys had little choice but to learn to utilize the online tools provided by their firm.

Evolving Law Firm Librarian Contributions & Credentials

The 2019 AALL State of the Profession report provides a breakdown of how law librarians contribute to their firms in roles other than the traditional duties of research.xvii

As AALL reports, the law firm librarian no longer only waits for attorneys to ask questions. They actively participate in business-generating functions of the firm and offer their skills to areas of research beyond the firm’s practice. They are active contributors of crucial information in every aspect of firm development.xviii

Becoming a law firm librarian can look different for each individual. According to the recent 2019 AALL State of the Profession Report, most have obtained an MLS, MLIS, or MSIS.xix Of particular interest is the less than 25% with a JD. While a background in and understanding of the law are critical, the JD is not a necessity for a law firm librarian. Some library schools offer legal research elective classes, and there are a few legal research certificate programs. In addition, at most law firms there will be training to introduce the key legal research concepts. If the firm has a specific specialty, there will be an introduction to those legal concepts and terminology. Here is a breakdown of the education background:

From Traditional Law Librarians to Modern Legal Information Professionals

Although job descriptions may change, traditional skills still apply. Adaptive librarians translate those skills into new roles and we see the bridge librarians cross to fulfill evolving information needs. This means law firm librarians continue to perform reactive research in response to attorney queries and build processes to provide proactive and predictive information products that help attorneys answer complex client problems without reinventing the wheel with large, unprofitable projects.xx Librarians will take on multiple functions within a smaller institution, while larger firms appoint librarians to specific functions. Many firms are embedding Knowledge Management functions into their research departments and more will follow.

Knowledge Management

 Law firm libraries increasingly adopt Knowledge Management (KM) principles and functions, especially those in mid to large settings. Frequently, libraries are embedded in KM departments and contribute to innovative information delivery initiatives. Myriad definitions of KM exist (see Winston), but Knowledge Management is generally accepted to encompass targeted curation and redistribution of internal and vendor-provided knowledge to fill common information needs. By harnessing KM philosophy and pairing new technologies with traditional legal research librarians differentiate themselves as innovative leaders in the law firm. KM teams provide practice group support, harness data analytics, and provide attorneys with proven insights giving them a leg-up for successful client relations and legal strategy. The skills of traditional legal librarians prove crucial to successful KM adoption and inform new projects based on trends of requested information. Information organization, product evaluation, technology skills, and research acumen all translate to evolving KM roles. These innovative information professionals bridge attorneys, staff, and clients with the firm’s collective experience and knowledge compiling and delivering presentations, memos, forms, and subject matter experts, and keeping online portals stocked with user guides, demos, links to publications, and contacts. Knowledge Management departments offer a variety of service solutions providing attorneys and clients with direct access to toolkits, practice group email distribution lists, template storage sites, various e-books published by KM attorneys, document automation software, and extranets designed to enhance client communications. The law firm library is strategically positioned to connect this compiled knowledge to those who rely on expert information. By managing the content of client-facing extranets, training users, researching legal updates, and immediately distributing sample documents and publications, the team frees attorney time for client services and interpretation.[21]

Reference Librarians

 Law firm reference librarians are innovative and agile and understand the fundamentals of, and are skilled in, traditional and complex legal research. This requires expertise in where the law is found and how to harness that information in response to legal questions. Reference librarians know the importance of a reference interview, direct users to the right sources of information, and know when to suggest new tools and technology, like artificial intelligence, that quickly aligns an argument with precedent or data analytics that reveals patterns in litigation or internal work product that reveals the knowledge of other attorneys’ experiences. They must have expertise in well-known sources of legal information, such as Westlaw and Lexis, but will also be experts in analytics research, resources targeting a specific area of legal practice, and Document Management Systems, and other enterprise search.

Increasingly, firm attorneys rely on information professionals to find the law and offer summarization of their findings in their responses to research requests. This means that librarians identify legal holdings and should be able to package concise results, explain their findings, help attorneys understand the results of new technologies, and highlight the information within. The goal is not only to provide legal precedent but also to demonstrate insight uncovered by new platforms.

Collection Management

 Efficient legal information delivery will remain the central goal of collection management. Collection Development remains an ever-evolving and increasingly complex function of the law firm library. To supplement traditional legal research librarians evaluate new delivery systems and the technologies and tools that add valuable new insight to legal problems. The librarian in any environment remains vigilant of resource cost comparing print retention to database duplication and weighs collection decisions with client demands for attorneys utilizing data in advice and litigation services.

For law firms with Knowledge Management, special consideration must be given to how internal work product supplements or replaces vendor-provided sources of legal information. A librarian fulfilling the collection development function at a law firm will need to remain vigilant of updates to internal information or whether to continue providing access per vendor tools.

Technical Services

Technical services in law firm libraries can look vastly different from other institutions due to the pronounced integration of digital legal information collections and the strategies for finding resources. Traditional skills of cataloging, harnessing metadata, building taxonomies, and creating paths to information through easy-to-follow interfaces still apply. These librarians, however, tackle new types of information. They are working with vast amounts of data and perhaps thousands of internal documents. Utilizing technologies such as single sign-on and underlying practice support intranet pages with online catalogs of electronic resources requires technology expertise and vigilance. Many librarians asked to take on data analytics functions are applying the same skills catalogers use to gather, apply metadata, and present swaths of information in concise, easy-to-find collections.

Special Collections

Special Collections are traditionally defined as those niched areas of research for which resources have been curated and gathered together, usually in an archive or other separate physical space. Now and in the future, legal information professionals are employing the same principles but in virtual spaces for use by the law firm. Applying the principles of Knowledge Management, librarians create intranet pages, toolkits, surveys, and other resources of interest to practitioners of topic-specific areas of law. Because the law changes, librarians managing the new breed of special collections remain vigilant of updates, subject matter expert advice, and new technologies to replace or supplement existing repositories.

Additional Responsibilities

Legal Technology Evaluation

The modern law firm library is an information center, and as noted, while there are fewer books, there is vastly more information. Legal research is now heavily influenced by technology, and new platforms are moving beyond the attempt to mirror a print experience onto a screen. Research is being accomplished in ways that were never possible in print, and the selection of a new research tool can give a firm the competitive advantage needed to build business. Just as librarians have traditionally been the keepers of research books, now they are the keepers of legal research technology in the firm. Librarians will find that rather than reviewing the content of a book for collection development, they will review content and the technology considering aspects of usability, accuracy, stability, and search precision.

The 2019 AALL State of the Profession Report indicates that law firm librarians manage 100% of the research platforms and 40.9% of the knowledge management systems. As seen below, the report further provides a skills synopsis for firm or corporate law libraries. It states that 67.3% are experts in resource evaluation.xxii

A law firm librarian should not be surprised to learn that they will review and be primarily responsible for recommending legal information and technology tools rather than asking the attorneys what tools they would like the library to order. Today’s attorneys do not have time to review and evaluate products. They need an information professional to advise them. A strong professional law firm library will be curated by you, the informational professional providing the correct content in the best format utilizing the best technology to fill the needs of the firm.

Besides research platforms, the future law library will utilize emerging technology. This is an evolving area and will need to be carefully monitored for developments that might be beneficial to the firm. Legal technology is industry-created to make the practice of law easier, more efficient, but most importantly, more profitable. Part of a librarian’s responsibility is to understand the trends in legal tech and identify those new products that match a use case within the firm. When introduced to a potential new technology tool, thoughtful evaluation of the company, coverage of data, need of finite data sets, and usability must all be evaluated and reevaluated. Legal information professionals will know a variety of tools, both built internally at the firm or provided by a vendor, that fulfill attorney requests for information and provide clients with a complete analysis of their legal issues. Not every new shiny toy will work for every firm. Forward-thinking librarians will stay informed and be able to connect the best tool with the appropriate use case, thus achieving efficiency, added value, and profitability.

With the expansion of legal technology, law firm librarians are moving beyond providing traditional reference and research services by providing data analysis, technology support, and client development. Job opportunities for developing, running, and improving automation technology will accompany the emerging technology.

Virtual Service, Outreach, & Remote Work

Over the decades, as reference work has come out from behind the desk, services have moved to satellite offices or spaces away from the physical library, and increasingly librarians and attorneys conduct their work virtually. As the large cherry wood reference desks were removed from law firms and office space became smaller and smaller, the need for the work performed did not shrink. The library department might have transformed from a print showcase into a modern research center, but the skills of informational professionals and the needs of attorneys have kept evolving.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the physical footprint of the future law firm is uncertain. However, we have learned virtual work is possible for far more employees and tasks than previously believed. Both attorneys and staff have found new flexibility in remote work, and it is reasonable to expect remote work to continue as the workforce determines how and when to return to physical offices.

By providing virtual services, law libraries can support attorneys regardless of location, time zones, or availability. Indeed, the call for 24/7 service is growing to meet the demands of local and global attorneys as the workday expands. Extended coverage supports flexibility for both attorneys and staff. To face the virtual world, communication skills become more imperative, and Reference Librarians should adopt multiple channels to conduct reference interviews and work through legal problems. Email, instant messaging, phone calls, and office visits connect attorneys and information professionals.


Law librarians are also responsible for training new hires, seasoned attorneys, and summer associates. Given the demanding schedule and physical environment, librarians may create virtual training, which allows attorneys from any office location to participate. This also alleviates scheduling issues and travel logistics. With the availability of WebEx and Zoom, training can be provided efficiently and in a condensed fashion. Librarians can record short training videos utilizing WebEx, Zoom, Captiva, and other technology to provide tutorials and current technology training.


Julianne, a senior librarian at Big Law Firm, has visited and met attorneys around the country while highlighting technologies and innovative services provided in the research department. Unfortunately, a new policy has restricted an attorney’s access to a trusted treatise. The attorney is upset and frustrated after attempting to find the treatise’s content on physical shelves and online tools. He remembers, “Julianne and I discussed that access is changing due to newly adopted technologies,” and he calls her. The relationship that the librarian built fostered trust, and she was able to assure the attorney that the treatise’s content is located in an easy to access virtual environment and provided excellent service in providing online credentials, training on navigation, and took it a step further by conducting the research quickly. The attorney doesn’t even use his online credentials. Instead, every time the treatise is consulted, a librarian is trusted to find the required sections and send them swiftly, freeing the attorney’s time for client counsel.

In firms spread across multiple offices or the nation, regular in-person visits are crucial to the connection between offices without librarians present and the responsibilities of the law library. This is a chance for law librarians to highlight new technology and learn the pain points encountered by attorneys when providing client service. However, these sessions should not focus on training alone. Attorneys in one office may cover a variety of practice areas and have different information needs. The librarian can also offer updates as to the responsibilities of other corporate departments, the breadth of information available and will meet with attorneys individually to help them build their business with tailored services and tools. The connections made through face-to-face encounters prove fruitful as more attorneys utilize the services of the library and trust librarians to deliver thoroughly researched information.


Library services must be marketed to the attorneys indicating the value and necessity of each tool. Law librarians are not only providing support but also are taking on the role of marketing and outreach. Marketing and outreach comes in various forms, such as internal research pages, newsletters, emails, training, blogs, office visits, and inter-office competitions (just to name a few). Targeted marketing is important if there is a new research platform or services for a specific practice area. Customized outreach to specific practice groups highlights the value and the law library’s expertise and tools. Below is a list of some of the marketing and outreach responsibilities:xxiii

  • Implementing and promoting library services and programs to support attorneys
  • Participating in the development of instructional materials in research techniques
  • Creating library marketing materials
  • Maintaining the library’s electronic presence with research resources
  • Developing relationships with offices, attorneys, and practice area groups to assess their needs for outreach
  • Providing library orientations and trainings to summer associates, new hires, and seasoned attorneys

When librarians market their services and products, they must remember that not all resources relate to every attorney, and attorneys only need to know about a product if it solves a problem for their practice. Time is of the essence, so outreach must be relevant, captivating, and convincing that the use of a new product is more efficient for their attorney. Marketing savvy law librarians answer the question, “why does an attorney want this tool, and how will she use it?” If the service or product does not pass the test of serving the many rather than the few, then wide-reaching marketing is not the best strategy. Librarians are trusted to know attorney pain points in client service delivery, and new products or services must make this easier. By addressing pain points and solutions and keeping end goals clear, librarians can put content into the right hands.


While there has been significant change in both the legal profession and library services in recent years, the opportunities for informational professionals in the law firm setting are growing and will provide the proactive, creative candidate a rewarding opportunity.  Individuals who seek a workplace full of collaboration, ingenuity, transformation, and prospects should seriously consider a career in the law firm’s research department.

  • “Legal Trends Report, 2019,” Clio,
  • Design Thinking for Libraries: A Toolkit for Patron-Centered Design, (IDEO, 2015)


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Introduction to Law Librarianship Copyright © 2021 by Cynthia Brown; Ana Ramirez Toft-Nielsen; and Allison C. Reeve Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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