Everyone is familiar with the age-old adage that “information is power.” Let me tweak that to “Information is both power—and profit.”

And that is the theme of my upcoming session at the Ark library conference on February 21 in New York: “Who moved my cheese? How firm libraries create new top-line (and bottom-line) value.”

If you will attend, I welcome the opportunity to meet you and answer your questions personally. Here’s a synopsis of what I’ll say.

[A version of my post first appeared at LAC Group’s blog here.]

Modern law firms face many challenges

Law firms face numerous challenges to maintain and improve their success:

  • Flat demand for services.
  • Fierce competition.
  • The challenge to recruit “rainmakers” in order to expand client base.
  • How to differentiate a firm from its competitors.
  • The challenge of maintaining + improving profitability.

The biggest but often overlooked law library challenge is how to contribute to firm profitability and more closely align library operations with the firm’s business strategy and profit generation.

Ranking profit enhancing options — an interactive session

When considering options to increase firm profitability, it’s important that law libraries consider both the value and ease each option.

I have no monopoly on the right options or how they rank. Consequently, I will run an interactive session. I’ll offer nine ideas to boost revenue or decrease cost. For each, the conference organizers and I will poll the audience to rank the value and ease of each idea. We’ll try to capture the average score for each factor in real time but in any event publish them after.

You and the audience may disagree with some ideas or the supporting detail. That’s fine. The exercise is more about creating a framework and generating ideas than it is about developing one “right” recipe.

The ranking will place the options on this 2×2 grid:

Value vs Ease grid

Enhancing revenue

Librarians can try to increase direct revenue by improving cost recovery through actions such as charging clients for direct work. Another option is to make the library client-facing, at least with mid-market clients by direct billing clients for research services and perhaps even subscription alerts.

Historically, supporting the firm’s business development (BD) efforts was not a priority. In fact, 20 years ago, few firms systematically pursued BD. With a flat market and fierce competition, however, BD now reigns supreme. By providing better competitive intelligence, law libraries can play a pivotal role in enhancing prospect pitches. In addition, they can identify emerging business opportunities by analyzing research request trends and developing early warning systems to identify competitive threats.

Reducing cost

Librarians have multiple options to reduce cost:

  • Centralize library services in a single location.
  • Minimize the library’s physical footprint (if not already completed).
  • Create standard intake forms and output templates for more routine, high volume business research requests.
  • Monitor utilization to ensure attorneys and staff use resources appropriately.

Another cost reduction method is centralizing business research. In many firms, this can lead to questions about which departments own or should own that function. In my view, librarians can make a strong case that they should.

Managing and negotiating better contracts is, of course, a big job for most librarians already. But have the opportunities to move to “just in time” acquisition over “just in case” acquisition been fully explores?


In my reading, I was struck by a quote from Ariela Tannenbaum, Chief Financial Officer of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. She said that “law firms, whether by sheer inexperience or willful ignorance, often either miss opportunities to make money or fail to take advantage of money already earned.”

Avoiding “missed opportunities” to add to the bottom line may well determine how libraries fare in the future.

View conference agenda and register to attend.
Contact me if you have any questions or comments.