Law Firm Library Marketing: Taking Advantage of Existing Opportunities | Part 1

Unfortunately, good researching alone does not make a law firm library. Though the importance of the library may seem obvious to us librarians, we still must value continually marketing ourselves in the law firm setting. Fortunately, if we recognize them as such, our common day-to-day responsibilities offer ample opportunities to market ourselves. In Part 2 of this series, we will dive deeper into specific examples of existing marketing opportunities, while this Part 1 takes a general perspective towards examining the importance of marketing the law firm library.

Why market?

Continual marketing efforts are essential in the modern law firm library; due to the nature of the firm environment, librarians have an on-going need to market their ability to provide cost-effective legal research. Faced with a constant influx of new associates and a continuously shifting landscape of resources, vendors, and contracts, the library staff’s need to provide training and research assistance is ever-present.

The revolving door of new associates underscores the need for librarians to make themselves known. Certain inefficient behavioral patterns are highly entrenched among new associates; left unchecked, these patterns only become harder to change. Amanda Runyon, in Marketing and Outreach in Law Libraries: A White Paper, explains the following dynamic observed in academic law libraries: “students turn to instructors rather than librarians for assistance because instructors are seen as experts in the field and they grade the assignments”. This pattern is certainly not foreign to law firm librarians: merely replace the term “instructors” with “assigning attorneys”. And,  we habitually observe the effects of this situation: new associates seeking guidance from books that have been out-of-print for years, or using researching terminology that was sunsetted before the associates were born, or simply employing strange/antiquated researching methodology because “that’s what the partner told me to do”. Through marketing the library and improving the visibility of our services, we can change this behavioral pattern.

Expounding the problem and underscoring the importance of marketing the library is the fact that poor researching leads to wasted time and money. Patrick Meyer, in Law Firm Legal Research Requirements for New Attorneys notes “Legal research in the law firm setting is a big deal. Research by ThomsonWest from 2007 found that on average, 45% of the new attorney’s first year of practice and 30% of years two and three will be spent conducting legal research”. Newer associates conduct a lot of expensive research, yet problematically newer associates may not be in the habit of consulting with the library.

Compounding the need for marketing is the ever-changing state of library subscriptions and contracts. Senior associates may be very well-versed in conducting cost-effective research, but their knowledge of what is in-plan and under subscription may be out-of-date. Vendors, of course, are always competing with each other; this creates new research software for the library to subscribe to, and new contracts that can easily result in vendors teeter-tottering with one another over the cost-effectiveness of their products. Long story short, some associates are inefficient researchers and the cost effectiveness of library software is continually changing: the library has a fundamental need to market itself as the solution to these situations. But, how should the library approach the action of marketing?

Simplify The Message

Brevity is king of the busy law firm environment, and this should translate into the library marketing campaign as much as possible. Kristin Cheney states in Marketing Law Libraries: Strategies and Techniques in the Digital Age that library marketing “promotions, as a general rule, should be kept short and to the point”. In my opinion, the real goal is simply to generate awareness of the library; presenting an exposition on every single service the library provides must be avoided. Potential users need to be reminded that the library exists—once a user is in more regular contact with librarians, a more nuanced telling of library services can be conducted.

Simplicity of the message folds in with the classic marketing strategy of AIDA (though existing in some forms earlier, the acronym AIDA is attributed to C.P. Russell, “How to Write a Sales-Making Letter,” Printers’ Ink, June 2, 1921); AIDA is an acronym for the stages of marketing: awareness, interest, desire, action. As we can see, in classic marketing strategy development, the first goal is to generate awareness. And the easiest method of generating awareness is to recognize the potential marketing opportunities available among the usual day-to-day responsibilities of the job. In other words, promote library awareness. And, in my opinion, the easiest way to promote awareness is to be visible; as Woody Allen said “80 percent of success is showing up”. Luckily for us, a lot of the most obvious opportunities for marketing that occur in our day-to-day job merely require us to be visible and to talk about the great job we already doing as librarians. In Part 2, we will discuss these opportunities in detail.

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