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During the past decade, most law firms have slowly but steadily scaled back their print library collections and increased their reliance on online legal research tools. Law firm researchers may have access to a dizzying array of Web-based options, including the extensive and varied resources available through Lexis and Westlaw, as well as practice-specific research tools, docket-based research tools, online legal newsletters containing searchable article archives, business development research products and many other types of resources. The explosion of online options has opened a Pandora’s box of new responsibilities for law firm librarians, who are typically responsible for coordinating online research offerings at their firms. Not only must law firm librarians provide training for online research tools, but they must also keep attorneys updated about potentially useful new products, pricing structures for existing products, price increases, licensing restrictions, content changes and the most suitable tools for their particular research needs. That tall order is made taller by the nature of the population being served. Attorneys are a time-pressed, information-saturated population, and messages from internal departments like the library may not always garner their complete and undivided attention. Library communications about online research tools may be overlooked or ignored if the attorney is facing more pressing issues on that particular day. Talk to enough librarians, and someone will have a horror story about an attorney who spent scads of money doing something that could have been done for a pittance if a different research tool had been used. As the cost of online research tools escalates, librarians must find new ways to actively market online offerings to attorneys to make sure that they’re using the full spectrum of products offered at their firms and that they know which products are right for their research needs. Although the marketing strategies employed by librarians will vary from firm to firm, depending on the culture of the organization and other factors, some potentially useful marketing strategies are provided below: • Come up with a tagline. Before introducing a new research product or feature, the librarian should formulate a brief, memorable statement that conveys the No. 1 reason that attorneys should use the product. Does this tool offer content that existing research tools do not provide? Does the product allow the attorneys to conduct research in a more cost-effective way? Is it a time-saver? Is it easier to use? It may have many selling points, but the librarian should choose one memorable feature that can be conveyed in a uniform way by various library staff members. Coming up with a tagline can be tricky because the librarian may not have a solid understanding of the attorneys’ research needs and the tools they are currently using. The librarian should ask for this information, either by directly quizzing attorneys whom they encounter in person, or through slightly more formal methods such as conducting a short survey or by requesting information from a sample of potential users. Attorneys who have been well-served by the library in the past are a great source of information, as they may be more willing to “give back” to the library. If conducting a survey seems like the most appropriate strategy, the librarian should be sure to keep the survey instrument short or attorneys aren’t likely to participate. Web-based tools like SurveyMonkey.com can be used to formulate online surveys that attorneys can complete from any computer with Web access. Training on requestConduct targeted training and rely on word of mouth. When a law firm decides to introduce a new research tool, the librarian’s first impulse may be to schedule a training luncheon to reach as many attorneys as possible. This can be a great strategy if the targeted attorneys attend, but there’s no guarantee that they will. Even attorneys who would acknowledge the value of training may be loath to spend an entire hour learning about a new product. Unfortunately, attorneys only have so much nonbillable time during the day to spare, and the library is competing with other departments, such as information technology (IT) and marketing, for a share of that time. In addition, many attorneys use lunch for business development, and training lunches cut into those opportunities to reap new business for the firm. Depending on the situation, a more successful strategy may be to announce the new research tool and offer to provide training upon request, but then specifically target a few midlevel attorneys who are reasonably technologically savvy and whose opinions carry some weight with their colleagues for one-on-one training. If the librarian can get a few key attorneys to begin routinely using the product, word will spread to other attorneys. • Take advantage of teachable moments. Typically, attorneys contact librarians at their firms to ask them to conduct research on their behalf or to ask for recommendations for sources to use when conducting their own research. Both of these situations provide priceless opportunities for librarians to promote online research tools. When librarians use Web-based tools to locate materials requested by attorneys, they should mention those products as they deliver their results and ask the attorneys if those tools would be useful to them for their own research. Even if an attorney does not express interest in using a particular product, the librarian has raised the attorney’s awareness about the scope of online resources available at the firm. Attorneys who contact the library for assistance with their own research tend to be particularly receptive to learning about resources that can provide them with the materials that they’re seeking, so if there is a useful online resource available, the librarian should take this opportunity to demonstrate that product to the attorney. Research requests from attorneys can be another method for gauging the needs of specific practice groups. If the library receives similar research requests from several attorneys in a particular practice group, the librarians can target that practice group for task-based training in response to that obvious information need. • Demonstrate only one feature. Often librarians feel compelled to show attorneys all of the bells and whistles of a new product, but that approach can be overwhelming to a new user. Sometimes the best technique is to demonstrate one particularly good feature of the product. Attorneys who want more information about the product will explore it themselves or request additional training from the library. When it comes to promoting online research tools, training serves as a form of marketing, since getting attorneys to interact with a product is a crucial first step toward getting them to use it on a regular basis. • Take the message to the users where they are rather than expecting them to actively seek out information or training. Convenience is crucial when serving time-pressed populations. Librarians can stop by attorneys’ offices to offer brief, one-on-one training sessions. They can ask the IT department what software their trainers use to provide virtual training to attorneys and begin using that software to provide virtual one-on-one training. This is particularly useful when marketing research tools to attorneys in regional office locations. If the product is targeted toward a particular practice area, the librarian can ask the practice group manager for the first five minutes of the next practice group meeting to quickly introduce a new product or provide an overview of a new feature. • Build a presence on the firm’s intranet or portal. This is another way of taking the message directly to the users. Many law firm libraries have a presence on the firm’s intranet or portal, but is there a place where attorneys can learn about available research tools and access tutorials and instructional handouts on various products? Think of this space as a virtual library for online research tools. An attorney seeking print treatises on a particular topic can browse the library to see what’s available. Creating an online space for Web-based research tools provides them with a similar browsing capability. In addition, this site may be a good place for librarians to communicate with attorneys about any pricing changes and licensing issues involving those products. Gentle remindersReinforce the message (but not too often). Attorneys who aren’t using a research tool regularly may forget that it is available. Current awareness features available through many research tools are one way to remind them, but the library will need to periodically remind them, as well. One should keep in mind that there’s a fine line between keeping attorneys informed and overloading them with information. The more messages that the attorneys receive, the less effective each of those messages will become. For example, near-daily e-mails about new research content will only annoy attorneys and damage the library’s credibility. • Seek support from practice group leaders. When a significant new product or feature is being introduced, it may be a good idea for the librarian to contact the leader of the targeted practice group to ask for some support for their training efforts. Nothing makes a training luncheon more successful than an e-mail from a practice group manager encouraging younger attorneys to attend. • Target new attorneys. New attorneys tend to be more open to learning about online research products. If possible, the librarian should contact all new attorneys to offer them a brief introduction to online research products relating to their practice area. The best time to contact them is typically within the first couple of weeks after their start date. If the library is part of the orientation process for new attorneys, the librarian can take an opportunity during that orientation to demonstrate at least one research product or to point them to the intranet or portal space where they can locate information about research tools. • Use cost as a selling point. Cost is always an attention-getter with attorneys, so the librarian should always ask whether the product can be marketed on the basis of cost. Does this product decrease the cost of conducting research? Even if a product is expensive to use, it may be less expensive than the alternative methods for obtaining the same information. • Use various media to convey information. The librarian should consider the available communication options, including e-mail, the firm’s intranet or portal, internal newsletters, bulletin boards, training sessions, printed handouts, practice group meetings and general word of mouth, and should always try to convey a tagline or message using more than one medium. Attorneys who get the message in more than one place are more likely to remember it. • Ask vendors for marketing ideas. Besides keeping librarians updated on the latest features of their products, vendors are a great source for novel marketing ideas, since they have a vested interest in marketing their products to attorneys. Shannon Vicic is a reference librarian at Denver-based Holland & Hart.

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