American Lawyer magazine has just released its 2010 large law firm library survey. The results are interesting but not surprising. 

Law Librarian Survey 2010: More Bang, Less Bucks writes-up the results and has links to survey data (free registration required). Almost one-half of the 86 firms replying (45%) reported staff cutbacks. The article raises a good question – what next? Here’s the quote:

But in interviews with a dozen library chiefs, one big fear kept resurfacing: How long can they keep cost-cutting? “There was a lot of fat,” says one library chief. “But now you’ve gotten rid of the fat.”

In general, firms seem to recognize that they can no longer cut their way to profitability. Whether that recognition spares libraries future cuts, however, is not yet clear.

I enumerate below some of the results I find most interesting. Before doing so, however, I offer my usual caveat about ALM surveys. Year over year comparisons are most likely not reliable. Unless the same 86 firms replied in both 2009 and 2010, inter-temporal comparisons are risky at best. For example, in answer to “What other departments within your firm are you responsible for?” knowledge management rated 19% in 2009 and 40% in 2010. That is not consistent with anecdotal data I hear and I suspect a good part of the seeming shift reflects changes in the respondent mix year-over-year.

So, for my interesting finding, I focus only on same year data:

  • Of 35% of firms anticipating moving to to a single online legal research service, 70% lean toward Westlaw and 30% toward LexisNexis.
  • 82% or respondents do NOT plan to subscribe to WestLawNext in 2010. [Updated 15 Jul 10 – I inverted the yes/no responses accidentally when I first posted]
  • 72% firms answered yes to “Is your firm’s library function centralized?” Yet in answer to “How many of the firm’s offices have libraries and library staff?”, 37% answered more than half. Either I’m missing something or respondents have a different idea of what ‘centralized’ means than I do.
  • About 85% of firms have flat rate contracts with both Lexis and Westlaw. I’ve heard a lot of talk about moving to sole source but it sounds like few firms have pulled that trigger yet.
  • The average firm spends about $3.7mil for online resources; the median about $3.0mil. (I added up results of 3 questions to get to these totals.)
  • WestLaw takes in almost 70% more than LexisNexis. Respondents spent, on average, $1.7 million with WestLaw and $1.0 million with LexisNexis.