ALM Legal Intelligence has released the 2018 Survey of Law Firm Knowledge Management, Library and Research Professionals.

It appears that most of the largest firms opted out of this survey or missed the deadline to participate. The median law firm size  of participating firms was down from 500 attorneys in 2017 to 376 in 2018 . And the responses actually suggest that there was a disproportionate number of very small firms responding as evidenced by an average staff size of 1.5.

So…. CKO’s and Law Library Director’s  in the largest ALM 100 firms need to make sure that their Executive Directors and Managing Partners who see the survey understand that the data comes from much smaller firms.

The author of the accompanying article “Law Librarians are Focusing on Business Intelligence Research” — refers to the varying composition of surveyed firms as resulting in large swings in data from year to year. It would be helpful to disclose how many firms in various size tiers responded each year.

The article  focuses on one issue – the growing volume of competitive intelligence research handled by research departments. This isn’t a particularly new trend. In my opinion the most interesting trends involving AI and analytics was buried at the end of the article.

Even though there appears to have been low participation in this survey by the largest ALM 100 firm’s there is an over arching theme that is of value. The largest firms are generally on the cutting edge of adopting new technologies and workflows. This survey shows that the transformation of law libraries  is pretty mature. Information professionals in all size law firms have fully embraced not only business intelligence but also  knowledge management, project management, process improvement and analytics.


So while I  am reluctant to cite much of the data reported in this report  especially where it is  skewed by a dramatic change in  size  of the responding firms—I do believe there are some useful insights.

Key findings

  • 65% of the firms said their budgets had increased–29% reported increases of 3 to 5%.
  • There is significant evidence of the transformation of libraries beyond providing traditional resource support functions into supporting a wide range of innovation initiatives enhancing workflow and insights for lawyers.
  • Volume of both business of law research and practice of law research have been increasing.
  • Significant number of respondents are involved in the creation of pitch materials.
  • 29% of the respondents are engaged in developing in house tools for AI and analytics.
  • 47% have staff involved in programming.
  • 29% are involved in custom development of tools using AI and analytics.
  • 87% work closely with IT in setting priorities and strategies.
  • The sole CALR provider trend appears to have faded away. No  firms reported  having selected a sole CALR provider. All firms had Lexis,  Westlaw and Bloomberg – (although there was no indication if  firms were referring to Bloomberg Law or the BloombergBNA products).
  • Westlaw was rated the most valuable product for practice of law. (However I noticed that Lexis was not on the list of 9  products to be evaluted. ALM explained this omission to me as a mistake on their part. Two Lexis owned products Ravel and Lex Machina were on the list – Lexis Advance was not)
  • Bloomberg Law was rated the most valuable product for business of law research.

Suggestions for next year

Client billing.  The client billing question completely missed the mark. In asking how research time was described on client bills,  it simply combined three different descriptions (librarian, research analyst and library services  in one question)– – – which is pointless. There is nothing to contrast. The issue that is on law library directors’ minds is whether time is more likely to be written off or written down if it is attributed to a librarian rather  research analyst. Evidence seems to suggest that a research analyst will have the highest recovery. They also include a description called “Library service” and I know from my years of discussions with lawyers that this is a total loser. A billing description of library services is interpreted as possibly encompassing administrative activities which would never be billed clients. This is a good question which was poorly framed.

Analytics Add more questions about analytics. There was no specific question regarding the adoption of analytics prop products—- which I would identify as the fastest growing sub set of legal research materials. These products deserve greater analysis.

The Lead That Got Buried. Eve-Marie Nye, director of research services at Pillsbury Winthrop and Charles Frey director of the library at Munger Tolles  & Olson provided important insights into the a trend that I hope will get more attention next year. Both offer insights into the volume of sophisticated new tools offering analytics and AI enabled functionality.  Nye points to the challenge of training lawyers to use these tools effectively. Frey highlights the need to have information professionals screen out the products which are all hype and lack substance. Both highlight the biggest challenges of analytics products –understanding the quality and the limitations of the data. These are serious issues which deserve further examination. and I hope they will  be explored in greater depth in the 2019 survey.