7 ways legal librarians can proactively support business development

To meet the demands of business development research, firms should transition from reactive information gathering…

Law firm libraries and research services departments have always played a critical role in law firm business success. They support the business development (BD) team and practices by helping maintain current awareness about industries and providing information about clients’ and prospects’ business and risk environment. However, as the competition for legal services increases, two new types of capabilities are increasingly required: (1) proactive support, which means that librarians and researchers initiate research before an attorney or BD staff member requests it; and (2) anticipatory intelligence, which identifies events and trends that may cause a client or prospect to require legal services in the future.

An increasing number of library departments realize that they must increase their value to the firm by moving from being reactive to proactive in finding new business opportunities for the firm. However, doing so requires process improvement and change management. Some researchers are not accustomed to taking a highly proactive approach to information gathering. They may not see it as their role to anticipate business development opportunities and initiate research.

The nexus between research services and new business development is changing rapidly due to competition and technology evolution. It is no longer enough to respond to research requests. Research teams must now capture knowledge about clients and prospects by proactively conducting research, producing new kinds of alerts and newsletters, utilizing the best eResources and building predictive models. They need to proactively deliver BD research products designed for specific practice areas, types of attorneys, regions, and types of matters. If they wait until the law firm receives an RFP or an attorney requests BD-related research, they have waited too long.

Library and research services directors are increasingly aware that they need to continually optimize their capabilities, across people, process, technology, data and governance to enable their firms to spot emerging opportunities, win a larger percentage of them, and develop closer attorney-client relationships that ultimately deliver more value to clients.

Transitioning from reactivity to proactivity

Law firms can meet the demands for BD research support more effectively by transitioning from being reactive to being proactive. Specifically, here are the steps to making this transition:

  1. Thoroughly assess the existing BD research resources and processes;
  2. Encourage all staff members to be more proactive about supporting BD;
  3. Analyze past and current research requests to discern patterns;
  4. Apply business intelligence analytics to your current “ticketing” system;
  5. Retrain your library and research staff members;
  6. Optimize your understanding of your clients’ needs; and
  7. Standardize all your firm’s procedures, practices, and research products.

This is an extract from the chapter ‘Proactive research and anticipatory intelligence – how the library can support new business development’ by Scott D Bailey, global research services director at Squire Patton Boggs, and David Kamien, CEO of Mind-Alliance Systems, in the book ‘The Evolution of the Law Firm Library Function’ which is available to purchase here.

The evolving role of the legal librarian will be discussed at the upcoming Legal Libraries conference on 10 October, in London. To find out more and to book your place, visit https://psl-libraries.co.uk/.