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Legal Librarians – Always a Law Firm’s Valued Asset!

Technology has and continues to impact all business sectors. It is presenting challenges within the legal industry. Has technology provided a boon for legal library staff in strengthening their position as a valuable asset within their firms? Softlink believes so.

The future is bright for law libraries as they manage the shifting market demands, recent reports suggest. We discuss why legal librarians remain relevant as the legal sector “goes digital”.

The New Library Space

Increasingly, legal information is available in digital format. Legal libraries may no longer need as much physical space due to a decrease in hard copy material, but librarians still need physical space and a digital presence.

Digital resources need skilled procurement and management in the same way as physical ones. Reduced real estate or not, the need for library and knowledge staff remains strong.

The Need for Law Libraries and Librarians is Real

Legal librarians are professionals in knowledge management. Attorneys specialize in the practice of law. Ask yourself:

  • Are attorneys as efficient and effective at researching?
  • Do they have the skills to identify what are valid on-line and hard copy resources?
  • Can they navigate and analyze big data sets?
  • Can they prepare and provide analytical reporting?
  • Can they appraise new technologies and, as applicable, implement them?

No, that is not their skill set. These skills are for a librarian or knowledge manager.

Technology Increases the Value of Legal Librarians

Change is not a new phenomenon brought about by rapid technological advancement. Librarians have always embraced change and the constant need to up-skill. Familiarity with change has enabled them to take advantage of the opportunities new technology, and big data provides.

The 2019 AALL report showed that most librarians continue to monitor emerging technologies and tools, not just for the firms’ staff, but for themselves.

Implementing sophisticated software products such as Liberty and illumin enables legal research staff to manage their resources and research queries more effectively.

These software tools reduce the time required to complete the routine, manual work once required of librarians. Additionally, they give legal research and library staff the means to provide a digital presence and deliver a wider variety of personalized information services.

The AALL report also identified that librarians are also focused on gaining skills in data analytics. This will enable them to deliver targeted and analyzed information from the large data sets that were previously unavailable or inaccessible.

Law Libraries, Not Merely a Cost Pressure

A law firm spends almost 50% of its client fees on office expenses. Nonetheless, most law firms continue to recognize the value of legal librarians.

To view them as simply a cost brings to mind Lord Darlington’s description of a cynic (in Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan) as someone who “knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing”.

So, what value do legal librarians deliver in the digital and information era? Here is just a sample of their responsibilities:

  • Knowledge management
  • Relationship building within the business and with clients
  • Legal research
  • Big data analysis
  • Analytical reporting
  • Undertaking competitive intelligence
  • Investigating and implementing updated and new technologies
  • Staff training

The significance of legal librarians and their staff in helping their firm prosper is widely recognized in the legal sector. The continued presence of legal librarians confirms that. They are not just a cost center.


More legal information and resources are in digital format. Whether in digital or hard copy format, information sources require skilful management. Research, big data analysis, and competitive intelligence are increasingly essential responsibilities that require the skills of specialists. Legal librarians are specialists. That is why they continue to be recognized as an invaluable asset to law firms and their attorneys.