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special to the national law journal Matthew Bird is a research librarian at Chicago’s Gardner Carton & Douglas. Winning new clients is essential for both the career progression of individual attorneys and the continued success of their firms. Fortunately, law firms have a secret weapon that can give their lawyers an edge in the business development game: law librarians. Although many attorneys and law firms still use their librarians only for traditional tasks, there is a growing recognition by enterprising partners that law librarians can provide innovative research capabilities-particularly for nonlegal research. Law librarians know how to use sophisticated business research tools, and they bring a valuable perspective to business development projects from their work with the firm’s different practice areas. This article describes how law librarians can help the firm’s business development efforts in several broad areas by performing the following tasks: Identifying potential clients based on company size, location or type of business. Preparing attorneys for meetings with potential clients by gathering background information. Tracking activity in specific industries, including analysis of trends. Monitoring legislative and regulatory developments affecting a particular industry. Helping attorneys raise their profile in an industry by identifying relevant associations they can join, conferences where they can speak and industry publications for which they can write. Serving as an “information clearinghouse” to keep different parts of the firm aware of upcoming meetings with potential clients, to take advantage of personal connections and to help avoid conflicts. Conducting research directly for clients who do not have research capabilities of their own. This capability can be a selling point for a firm when meeting a potential client or responding to a request for proposals. Law librarians can assist the firm’s marketing department in identifying prospective clients and creating targeted mailing lists by using specialized business databases. Search criteria can include company size (based on annual sales or number of employees); location (city, state or region); and line of business (using coding systems such as the Standard Industrial Classification and the North American Industrial Classification System). These business databases are much more detailed, comprehensive and reliable than the limited free directories available on the Internet. Other databases and print resources allow librarians to identify key executives and in-house counsel, permitting the creation of targeted mailing lists that the marketing department can use to focus business development efforts. Working in partnership, law librarians and marketing professionals can provide a range of services that help the firm generate new business. Librarians can help prepare attorneys to make presentations to prospective clients. Winning new business as a result of a presentation may depend on many factors, not all of them within a lawyer’s control. (For example, issues such as timing, personal connections and how the target company buys legal services may all come into play.) However, a lawyer can improve his or her chances by making certain that he or she understand the potential client’s business operations. Attorneys who market successfully stress that few things impress potential clients more than a lawyer who is conversant with their business and who understands their specific requirements for legal services. Librarians have many tools to help attorneys accomplish these goals. For public companies, a librarian can often uncover information such as details of the company’s history, operations, subsidiaries and facilities; pending litigation and the outside law firms that have represented the company; manufacturing processes in the client’s plants that may generate environmental problems; the text of employee benefit plans and executive compensation agreements; and news about recent strikes or other labor issues. Sometimes it may be possible to get a sense of the company’s corporate culture. Nonlegal research Although it is more difficult to find information about private companies, a skilled librarian can often ferret out useful data that other researchers might miss. In fact, law librarians are trained to conduct all kinds of nonlegal research that will assist a firm’s business development efforts, including biographical, business, scientific and news searches. Librarians do this kind of research all the time, so why not have them assist the firm’s lawyers with this task, rather than assign it to an associate or other law firm staffer? Insight into in-house counsel It’s also useful for the lawyer trying to generate new business to know as much as possible about the in-house counsel and other officers he or she will be meeting. If one is familiar with their backgrounds and experiences, one may be able to establish a rapport with them that will eventually lead to a business relationship. At a minimum, one will want to know ahead of time which colleges and/or law schools they attended; if any members of the law firm’s team are alumni of the same schools, there may be an opportunity for bonding. Librarians can also check reported cases to see what kind of litigation the in-house counsel has been involved with in the past, and get a sense of his or her experience. But why not go beyond such obvious information? The law firm’s librarian may be able to discover other useful background information on the key people the business development team will be meeting, such as the positions they have held in the past, and perhaps even their favorite hobbies. Knowing that a particular corporate officer is an avid sailor, private pilot or former rugby player might alert the firm to an opportunity for a team member to “break the ice.” Law librarians can also help track activity in specific industries. Whether a firm is seeking to win new clients or provide better service to existing clients, a lawyer’s credibility will be enhanced if he or she can demonstrate familiarity with the client’s industry. Law librarians can help to get the lawyer quickly up to speed on a specific manufacturing process or regulatory issue before the lawyer meets with a client. Using specialized databases that go beyond what is available on Westlaw, Lexis and the Internet, librarians can gather relevant articles from industry newsletters, technical journals, trade association publications and other sources. They can also set up regular news alerts that will enable interested lawyers to monitor trade publications for stories about a person, company or topic. Another critical way in which librarians can assist attorneys is by monitoring legislative and regulatory developments. Clients and potential clients often need a lawyer’s help to understand how existing laws affect their businesses, and how pending legislation might do so in the future. Law librarians are familiar with the legislative and regulatory processes, and they understand the tools necessary to find the information their lawyers need to appear knowledgeable when counseling the firm’s clients. For example, librarians can help to determine the legislative intent behind a law, monitor the progress of a bill through Congress or a state legislature or identify sponsors and research voting records to uncover the underlying biases and agendas behind specific bills. There is even a database that can track legislative developments in all 50 states, a capability that will be especially appreciated by larger clients with nationwide operations. See and be seen Law librarians can also help attorneys raise their profile in an industry. Attorneys become known by giving speeches at trade conferences, by writing articles for industry journals and newsletters and by getting involved in industry associations. Law librarians can assist with all three approaches, by using electronic databases and print resources to identify key trade associations and their conference dates and locations, and to determine the leading trade publications for specific industries. The firm’s marketing department can then use the data to help attorneys decide on the best strategy for publicizing the capabilities and achievements of an attorney, a practice group or the entire firm. Specifically, the data can help attorneys and marketers make informed decisions about the best conferences to attend as speakers, the most productive associations to join or the most promising journals for which to write articles, based on target audience, circulation figures, conference size, editorial policy or focus. Librarians can provide an information clearinghouse function within their firms to enhance business development efforts. Since law librarians work with many different practice areas, they are ideally placed to serve as information conduits within a law firm. For example, one attorney may be planning a presentation to a potential client without realizing that attorneys in another practice group already have connections with the target company, done work for them in the past or sued them on behalf of a different client. Most firms have conflict procedures in place to avoid the last-named situation, but there may be no formal way to identify who else in the firm has ties to the target company. Law firm librarians can provide an informal knowledge management system to help take advantage of such personal connections. One way to achieve this is to have a law librarian attend the regularly scheduled meetings of different practice groups. An added benefit is that the librarian will then be available to provide advice on information resources and proactive research support for upcoming group activities. When the librarians receive a request for background information on a company for an upcoming presentation to potential clients, they can check with one another to determine whether other attorneys have asked for help in preparing to meet with the same company, or another company in the same industry. Law firm librarians can also regularly notify the firm’s marketing department about upcoming presentations to potential clients, to give the marketing professionals advance notice of projects with which they may be asked to help. Help the clients, too Law librarians can conduct research directly for clients, too, once the supervising attorney has made an introduction. Clients without their own libraries or research staff appreciate being able to call an experienced law librarian who can advise them on an information issue or provide quickly a copy of a specific case or statute. Time spent on such matters can be billed at an hourly rate commensurate with the librarian’s experience and expertise, thereby generating revenue for the firm while providing cost-effective service to clients. This capability can be a selling point for a law firm seeking to win new clients. To make the most of law librarians’ skills, law firm management should get them involved early in the strategic planning process and make them an integral part of the firm’s sales teams. Otherwise, in the heat of the moment, attorneys may not always think to ask for the more sophisticated types of assistance librarians can provide. Law firm management should have the firm’s librarians periodically remind department heads about the range of services they offer, and ask them to make occasional presentations to the firm’s practice groups explaining key business development resources and techniques.

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