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The Evolving Role of Law Firm Library Support and Services in the Digital Era

February 28, 2022

By Carolyn Bach | Sr. Manager, Knowledge & Research Program

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced a great opportunity for law firm library support and services teams. With firms suddenly thrust into an entirely remote working environment, the visibility of the law firm library department was raised, and the importance of properly resourcing this mission-critical function was rediscovered.

In response to this evolving role of law firm library departments, firms have stepped up to the plate with increased investments in both staffing and resources. There was a 43% increase in the number of researchers at law firms and a 65% increase in the number of electronic services librarians in 2021, according to HBR Consulting’s 2021 Benchmarking + Legal Information Services Survey. Moreover, 36% of the firms surveyed by HBR anticipate their law firm library budgets will increase in the next 12 months.

The events of the past two years have also accelerated the transition into electronic resources and digital libraries as lawyers suddenly had little access to physical volumes. The data supports this industry trend as evidenced by an HBR survey revealing print budgets decreased by 25% last year (Am Law 50 firms reduced spending on print resources by closer to 50%), so the ratio of print to digital spending shifted from $1: $5 in 2020 to $1: $8 in 2021. “The pandemic was the catalyst to finally drive home permanent changes in print collections at firms of all sizes,” the HBR report says.

The evolving role of the law firm library in the digital era has been a work in progress for more than two decades. But now that it is clear that the remote working environment is here to stay — at least in some form — law firm leaders have accepted that they must provide their attorneys with remote access to library resources and staff.

“Law firms are finding they need more researchers and electronic services librarians as internal demands for information services teams rise and the role becomes increasingly digital,” reported Law360. As a result, Law firm library teams have been forced to explore new and innovative ways to support attorneys and staff members working from home. As product and practice needs continue to evolve, legal information professionals will need to frequently reassess their resources and ensure their practice groups’ needs are being met. “There is a need to modernize the legal library into one that is accessible anytime and anywhere,” according to a post on the LAC Group Blog.

LexisNexis® is pleased to host a session at the 2022 Legalweek Conference, “The Evolving Role of Library Support and Services in the Digital Era,” which will explore these important themes. The session will discuss the ongoing successes and challenges that law firm library professionals face as they evaluate, adapt and employ various products, technologies and processes that will benefit their firms and their clients.

The esteemed panelists for the session are: Scott Bailey, Director of Research Services at Eversheds; Elizabeth Guzman, Director of Research and Intelligence Services at Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett; and Leslie Lanphear, Director of Research and Information Services at Akin Gump. Some of the key takeaways that attendees can expect from the session include the following:

  • Establish innovative methods to support attorneys and staff in a work-from-home environment;
  • Best practices when introducing new services and processes
  • How to best leverage library support and services; and
  • What the latest technologies can offer law firm library support and services teams.

This panel discussion will take place on Thursday, March 10th, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Find Legalweek program details here. Learn more about LexisNexis products and services here.