American Lawyer Media Legal Intelligence released the 2014 Law Librarian Survey data earlier this month.

Library Chiefs Continue to Rule Contract Negotiations

In reviewing the data I continue to be struck by the terrific challenge library chiefs face in the current environment. Law firm profits are reviving, lawyers continue to demand the best and most strategic information resources for their practices and yet library chiefs have succeeded in

containing costs. The survey give clues how they achieve this. Librarians are sharp negotiators who assess not only price but the comparative value and usability of the content. They also employ sophisticated tools for analyzing the ROI for the resources they invest in. These talents are paying off big time for the firms which employ these experts. It would be interesting for ALM to track the comparative outcomes when firms retain consultant-contract negotiators vs. the library chief with or without the assistance of the internal procurement officer.

The Big Movers

 Embedding, Competitive Intelligence, Social Media Monitoring, Centralization, Billable hours, Sole source for online research.

A Sampling of Key Trends From the 2014 Law Library Survey

  • 58% of Library Chiefs are responsible for overseeing Competitive Intelligence
  • 73% report that the volume of Competitive Intelligence research has increased
  • 40 % of Library Chiefs are responsible for Knowledge management
  • More firms were purchasing eBooks. 
  • 86% report that they achieved better deals from online providers
  • 81% of are embedding librarian in practice groups up from 14% in 2012.
  • 49% publish business intelligence newsletters. 
  • Manzama a social media monitoring tool retained the top stop of news aggregation tools and is used in 49% of the responding firms.
  • 72%  report that recovery for online research is declining.
  • Lexis is winning the sole provider, but spending on WL is almost double the spending on Lexis. It is likely that the decline in cost recovery is accelerating the move to sole provider. Firms have to reduce cost in order to offset lost revenue. Spending on BLaw remains flat.

Questions that Disappeared Last year there were several questions on complexity of research and research shifting from lawyers to information professionals. I do not see those questions in the 2014 survey. This is an important issue and should have been retained.

 Outsourcing and Centralization

For several years Library Chiefs has been spearheading initiatives to streamline library operations through centralization and outsourcing administrative operations.  I am uncomfortable with the results reported regarding centralization and outsourcing. For the second year in a row the ALM data actually suggests both centralization and outsourcing are declining. Centralization was down in in all categories except Contract negotiations. This doesn’t seem likely.

Low Cost Centers

There have been some high profile big firm relocations of back office staff from NY, DC or LA to Florida, Ohio, Kentucky or West Virginia. Library chiefs should realize that  there is an alternative path to  achieve  similar savings. Some firms already have offices in low cost areas and cost saving benefits can be achieved by simply centralizing administrative processes in those cities.

The Long Slow Death of Cost Recovery

In just 5 years there has been a dramatic decline in the number of firms which recover more than 60% of their online costs. In 2009 51% of firms reported recovering more than 60% of their online costs. In 2014 it is down to 17 % of responding firms. This is no doubt due in part to the growth of AFAs and client demands for cost reduction.


Since this survey covers the Amlaw 200, I recommend that ALM add questions on resource expenditure per attorney and staff to attorney ratios. These would provide valuable metrics for benchmarking. I would like to know the   dollar amount of print  resource spending. Yes it will be a kind of deathwatch. Given the increase in sole online provider contracts, I would like to know if the abandonment of access to Lexis or Westlaw forces firms to rebuild print collections of core treatises which are no longer available online or in eLibraries due to the cancellation of the online contract.