In a three part blog series, Feit Consulting explores ways and means to promote the value of law librarians in law firms. Part I focuses on how information professionals can work with their attorneys to demonstrate their value; Part II looks at demonstrating value to firm leadership; and Part III looks at branding your firm’s information services.
The AALL State of the Profession 2019 Snapshot is a preview of the inaugural AALL State of the Profession 2019 report. The preview takes a quick look at law librarians’ role in technology management, as well as topics of note in each setting. The Snapshot’s content is an excellent teaser for the full report.
The full report provides an overview of the law library and legal information landscape. This report captures the range of legal information professionals’ contributions and talents, challenges in the field, and ambitions for the future. It is intended to be used as a tool for benchmarking, advocacy, or organizational planning, and personal development. The report is available for preorder on AALLNET (http://bit.ly/AALLSOTP19). The price is $199 for members and $299 for non-members.
According to AALL’s 2017 Biennial Salary Survey & Organizational Characteristics, total information budgets increased substantially for government and law firm/corporate law libraries but not academic law libraries when compared to the 2015 survey results. Government libraries’ information budget increased 31% and law firm/corporate law libraries’ information budgets increased 26%. Academic law libraries’ information budgets were flat.
Electronic information budgets as a percent of total information budgets essentially was unchanged for government law libraries in 2017 at 35%. Not so for other market segments. Electronic information budgets as a percent of total information budget rose 16% for law schools, from 38% in 2015 to 44% of total information budgets in 2017. Law firm/corporate law libraries’ electronic information budgets rose 9%, from 69% to a record 75% of total information budgets in 2017. No time in the history of AALL’s biennial surveys has a market segment reached this 75% milestone. Is the end of this substitution trend in sight? I have my doubts. — Joe
From the introduction to Taking a closer look at the changing role of today’s law librarian:
The legal profession has undergone nearly a decade of fundamental change, and perhaps no single role has seen greater impact than the law firm librarian. Budget pressures, shrinking law library footprints, a decreasing reliance on print, a greater push for online resources, and the advent of new job responsibilities are just a few of the factors that have combined to push law librarians into new territory.
As one reflection of this change, the American Association of Law Librarians has explored a “rebranding initiative,” as an attempt to “redefine and reinvigorate the value of law librarians and legal information professionals.” A decade ago, such an initiative would likely never have taken place. According to a recent survey of law librarian’s completed by Thomson Reuters, however, the evolution of the law librarians’ role may provide cause for such a discussion.
According to the survey’s 123 respondents from a combination of large and medium law firms, more than half of respondents said their role had undergone substantial change within the past three years, with 15 percent reporting “extreme change.” How much has changed? Forty-eight percent of respondents reported spending more than three-quarters of their time on activities that were not part of their job descriptions three years ago. That’s a staggering degree of change.
H/T to On Firmer Ground. — Joe
I get press releases. Oh do I get press releases from publicists on some of the wackiest topics out there. I’m not going to go into that because there is one that actually relates to something in which I’m interested. I’ve written about the shrinking print collection before, especially when it relates to primary materials. I have advocated cancelling reporter subscriptions because there is so many alternative sources for it in subscription and free databases. Mind you, it should be a thoughtful cancellation considering how well the online alternatives can be a solid substitute. The same applies to secondary sources where the treatise is available through an electronic subscription via Lexis, Westlaw, or another electronic library package. I believe we at DePaul are not unique in considering the issues.
Well, back to the press release part. The Primary Research Group has issued a commercial study on the shrinking print collections. It’s called Law Library Plans for the Print Materials Collection, ISBN 978-157440-353-4. Here’s a sample set of stats from the publication:
- The cumulative 2-year drop in spending on print resources from 2014-2016 by the law firms in the sample is expected to be 22.6%.
- For small law firm libraries the number of subscriptions to print journals went from 66.67 to 51.67 and then to an anticipated 45 over the three year period, a cumulative 2-year drop of 32%.
- Primary works accounted for a mean of 35.53% of spending on print legal materials with a median of 30% and a range of 5% to 90%. For law school libraries, print primary materials accounted for 54% of the total print materials budget, a much higher percentage than for law firm libraries 28%, or government law libraries, 32.86%.
The last one is interesting. We in the academic business try to prepare students for the tools that they can expect to use in practice. If law firms are buying less print, and I’m assuming a firm in this situation is using an online database, why are academic libraries still buying at a much higher percentage? But, hey, that’s just me wondering that.
Here is more information about the report:
The study is currently available as a PDF and will be available in book format on September 9, 2015 and can be ordered now. The price for either version is $135.00; site licenses are also available. To view the table of contents, an excerpt, questionnaire and list of participants, view our website at http://www.PrimaryResearch.com or visit the product page for this report at http://www.primaryresearch.com/view_product.php?report_id=561.
The question I’m thinking about now is how to utilize the space that will become available. I’ll write my thoughts about that later.
Sounds like a simple question that can be easily answered, right? Well, not according to a review of a recent “report” provided to our elected leaders at their November board meeting. See Membership Statistics 2019-2013 (Numbers as of May 31 of each year) behind AALL’s paywall.
The report includes a table for the “number of entities with AALL members” and itemizes AALL member entities in the follow categories:
- Law School
- Private Firm
- Government & Court
A couple of data definition questions. Did any member of the E-board seek clarification about the categories used? For example:
- Does the “Corporation” category report data just for member corporate legal departments, etc., or does it include vendors?
Whatever it includes, “Corporation” membership declined from 80 in 2008-09 to 52 in 2012-13.
- “Other” probably includes a couple of library consortia, non-profit, non-library-types but god knows what else. Vendors here?
Whatever this category’s stats capture, “Other” declined from 169 in 2008-09 to 133 in 2012-13.
- As for “Non-Affiliated,” a footnote explains that the category covers those who “have not indicated an affiliation.”
Does that mean individual human beings are being included as institutions or entities in this head count? It’s kind of hard to draw any other conclusion.
Just the “facts”, please. Excluding the mysterious categories a/k/a “Other” and “Non-Affiliated,” but including “Corporations” under the assumption, right or wrong, that it captures corporate legal departments and the like, total law school + private firm + government and courts + corporations membership declined by 191 institutions, from 1,595 in 2008-09 to 1,404 in 2012-13. That’s only a 12% decline. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Oh wait, that’s about half the percentage decline for similar reporting periods reported in “Table 5: AALL Libraries Estimated Information Budgets” published in the online editions of AALL’s Biennial Salary and Organizational Characteristics Survey.
There also is a substantial difference in the absolute number of AALL member libraries, institutions, entities, whatever, for similar reporting periods when the above reported stats are compared to stats used to estimate AALL member libraries total information budgets. Compare the below chart sourced with the data supplied to the E-board this month (which includes “Corporations” in the Private Sector category)
with the below chart compiled from AALL biennial survey data that was reported at Has AALL lost more than 50% of its institutional membership since 2001? (Nov. 4, 2013):
What’s up with this? Hell if I know. I lean toward having more confidence in the committee that has been responsible for collecting and reporting AALL’s biennial survey findings. But if the data reported to the E-Board is correct, then AALL’s estimated total information budget stats for AALL member libraries are wildly inaccurate, unless someone recently decided to count “affiliations” at some sort of internal local level, like, for example, counting each branch office or each functional unit of a law firm as a unique institution, entity, whatever.
According to a review of “Table 5: AALL Libraries Estimated Information Budgets” published in various online editions of AALL’s Biennial Salary and Organizational Characteristics Survey, the answer appears to be “yes.” AALL institutional membership (by which I mean law libraries, not vendors) declined by 57.5% since 2001.
I seriously doubt that 756 AALL member law firm libraries + 333 AALL member government law libraries + 51 AALL member academic law libraries for a total of 1,140 former AALL member law libraries shut down since 2001. So why such a very large, huge really, decline? That was the first question I had when reviewing the recently pay-walled release of the 2013 edition of The AALL Biennial Salary and Organizational Characteristics Survey this weekend.
And the second question I asked myself this weekend was “can AALL remain sustainable when institutional membership declines from 1,984 to only 844 law libraries in a little over a decade?” My hunch is the answer lies in becoming relevant. — Joe
At Noon, Central Time, today, Rich Leiter and the gang will be hosting the PLL-SIS Executive Board at Law Librarian Conversations to discuss the new normal in law firm libraries. Topics include a proposed name change for PLL-SIS. Jean O’Grady, chair of the PLL Board, provides more information about the topics to be discussed including for example the success of the annual PLL Summit, on Dewey B Strategic. Sounds like a very interesting program. — Joe