The 2007 large law firm librarian survey is out. Some of the data surprise me. 

Competitive Advantage (big PDF) in Law Firm Inc. magazine (an American Lawyer, now Incisive Media, publication) includes results of a survey of AmLaw 200 law firm librarians conducted in the spring of 2008; 94 librarians responded. I was struck by what seems like a significant change in market share between LexisNexis and Westlaw.

The survey reports spending across four categories: electronic resources, print materials, LexisNexis, and Westlaw. From 2006 to 2007, the percent share of spending on print increased by two points. Based on what I’ve read in articles and blogs, I assume that this reflects price increases rather than an increase in quantity of materials purchased. Interestingly, the percent share of spending on electronic resources decreased by two points.

The percent share of spending on both LexisNexis plus Westlaw remained constant at 54% but LexisNexis lost three points to Westlaw. Measuring share of just the two relative to each other, LexisNexis lost five points to Westlaw. In a mature market, that’s a big percentage shift.

I will defer to those closer to online research to explain this seeming shift. I say seeming because if different librarians responded in 2006 and 2007, the results may not be directly comparable. The survey does hint at one possible reason for the shift – cost recovery. “Westlaw recovery is better” increased from 35% to 45% and “LexisNexis recovery is better” dropped from 11% to 10%. Separately, client pressure notwithstanding, 70% of law firms recover 61% or more of LexisNexis and Westlaw charges.

A final and unrelated factoid from the survey relates to knowledge management. The percent of librarians who play an active role in the firm’s KM efforts dropped from 84% to 75%. I suspect that reflects a rise in specialized KM professionals rather than firms pulling back from KM.