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“In 2000, the big law firms got bigger, the small law firms stayed small, and the midsize firms struggled.” Source: Miami Herald, Dec. 18, 2000, Business Monday Section, p. 11. Annual Survey of the Nation’s Largest Law Firms Percentage Increase from 1999 to 2000: Largest percent: 12.85 percent 2nd 25 percent: 11.41 percent 3rd 25 percent: 4.50 percent Smallest 25 percent: 2.76 percent Source: NLJ250, Dec. 4, 2000 In the year 2000, the top three growth leaders were Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe (Baltimore, 132 percent), Drinker Biddle & Reath (Philadelphia, 52 percent), and Greenberg Traurig (Miami, 52 percent). Times are not just changing; they are exploding. Large law firms are expanding at an incredible tempo, transcending traditional growth rates with alarming speed. This, however, should not be a cause for despair. Mergers and growth can be factors for positive change: opportunities for vision and strategic planning, and for re-organizing, an administrative skill that librarians mastered long ago. When law firms merge, all aspects of law library administration are affected. The issues that must be addressed include space, collections, hardware, product licenses, and staffing. In this article, I will describe what my staff and I learned as we dealt with the changes encountered due to Greenberg’s 52 percent growth last year. It was (and is) our own personal Y2K challenge. This is written from the viewpoint of the acquiring firm into which the other firm is being merged, with the assumption that the acquiring firm will have the main responsibility for managing all merger activities. STAFFING Having your full staff in place prior to a merger is a critical factor to a smooth transition, for all administrative functions will be taxed. The existing administrative workload may double, or even triple, overnight, so it is very important that staff be able to inherit added tasks and keep operations functioning while staffing adjustments are being made. It is good to have written job descriptions and delineation of duties for existing library staff in place prior to a merger. The library staff in firms of 300-plus attorneys should include an administrator or director, an electronics librarian, a head of reference, a cataloger, and reference librarians in each of your locations. There should also be reliable administrative support staff. These people are usually responsible for the daily routines: routing and paper-porting materials. They may also handle acquisitions, cataloging support, bill payment preparations, and duties related to charging online costs to clients. In most situations, the library administrator from the acquiring firm will be asked to make an instantaneous analysis of existing staff from the firm to be merged. This is an undertaking that must be dealt with delicately and with moral fortitude. People’s livelihoods are at stake, as is the bottom line of the now-merged entity. The administrator should not see this as a formidable task, just one that must be accomplished with finesse, directness, and candor. What must be paramount is the future of the firm and the personnel involved. In most instances, the immediate decision is to maintain the status quo. There is comfort in the continuity of retained staff with whom attorneys from each firm are familiar, as well as in being assured that there will be additional staff to assist immediately with supporting the newly merged firm. If, however, the administrator foresees a future problem with all or some of the “new staff,” then the decision to terminate should be made swiftly. In many instances, the merging firm will have termination packages that can be financially rewarding should the employee be let go at the beginning of the merger. These packages will not exist four months down the road, so timely decisiveness will be appreciated. There may be no merging staff, in which case the library administrator will have to begin hiring as quickly as possible in order to have minimum disruption of library services. Again, it is best to act quickly, before the proverbial dust settles and law firm administrators begin to look gravely at the bottom line. Compare pre-merger staff-to-attorney population ratios with what these will be after the addition of the new lawyers. Types of practices being merged and numbers of users are instrumental in this decision. For example, adding a real estate department may not have as dramatic an impact on the law library as adding intellectual property or litigation departments. USER NEEDS Assessing staff needs, though a primary merger activity due to the need for immediate additions or subtractions, is not the only appraisal that an administrator or director will be asked to make. The needs of the new user population must also be calculated. In tackling this responsibility, a director should immediately introduce herself or himself to the new department heads and other attorneys. Remember that, in a merger situation, the merging firm may have been promised the moon, sun, and stars. It is up to the library director to make delivery of as many of these promises as possible, as seamlessly and painlessly as possible. Stating the mission of the library department and explaining its vision and relationship to the firm’s vision will assist in arresting any fears the new attorneys may harbor. Presentations introducing the library and law library orientation tours are a must for the new user population. Although there will be follow-up later by staff librarians, it is the director who should first address the new attorneys. This not only displays the department’s professionalism, organization, and competence, but also conveys the importance with which the acquiring firm views the merger. Since research activities must go on, the new attorneys must feel confident that their needs will continue to be met (even if this only means you ensure prompt delivery of The Wall Street Journaleach day). MY MERGER OR GROWTH TOP-10 LIST There is a maxim in most large law firms undergoing merger: “Keep on billing.” To that end, here is a law library checklist on how to make a merger successful. Although each merger possesses its own nuances, these tips should help to diminish any serious trials and tribulations caused by joining the two entities. 1. STAFFING Make sure that positions necessary for servicing the present attorney population are filled. According to the last survey conducted by AALL, an attorney population of 190 or more requires 10 or more library staff for adequate delivery of library services. The survey did not delineate what type of staff this should be. You may have seen the “Librarian-at-Large” article I wrote with Julie Bozzell, “Library Staffing: Are Ratios Enough?” ( Legal Information Alert, vol. 19, no. 6, p. 6). We found that when comparing library staffs and positions, needs vary from firm to firm. You should develop a flow chart of services rendered and duties performed; this will assist in justifying new positions. 2. PRINT COLLECTION Inventory the collections to be merged, noting duplicates and titles in new practice areas. Check to see if treatises are up-to-date. A valuation survey may already have been made for assets that the firm wishes to acquire; this should include an inventory of books and their values. If this has not been done, it is best to begin pricing items to be purchased as soon as possible, as this can be a laborious task. When firms merge, the accounting must be done swiftly and accurately. Consult used book dealers for estimated prices and have this and the inventory ready when the financials are being settled. Find out the merging firm’s previous policies and procedures on retention, office copies, ordering, and payment. Ascertain who its local vendors are and establish acquisitions procedures with them. Ask them for quotes on costs when transferring existing accounts. 3. SUBSCRIPTIONS Again, check for duplication and currency. Try to ascertain when renewals are due. Determine which titles can be discontinued and whether additional copies of other titles must be acquired. Find out how materials were routed previously: full copy, paper-port, table of contents distribution, and any other methods. Merge the new subscription titles into existing routing forms and distribute to new attorneys when giving the library orientation presentation. 4. NON-PRINT RESOURCES Make a list of products (CDs and software) and services (Internet or proprietary databases) that the merging firm subscribed to that you do not have. Again, introduce yourself to local vendor representatives and obtain information on the additional products. Arrange training for your staff and any attorneys who need it. Acquire licensing agreements and password lists. 5. FLAT RATE CONTRACTS Determine which of each firm’s services are at flat rates. These will all require renegotiation, as the attorney population will change. You will likely have to cancel all existing flat-rate contracts and start over. The new attorney population is now part of your firm as the former entity no longer exists. Check to see if the merging firm was a member of the Copyright Clearance Center. 6. MENTORING Involve newly merged library staff in decision-making and operations as you bring them into your staff. Have your staff mentor the new people. Be sure the mentors convey not just policies and procedures, but firm history as well. Both staffs need to be educated about both firms’ cultures in order to anticipate future expectations. Equally important, the vision of the new, merged entity needs to be communicated to all. 7. SPACE PLANNING Evaluate existing space and create a five-year plan. Often, this is a good opportunity to secure additional space for the print collection and new office space for staff, particularly if remodeling is being done in conjunction with the merger. 8. CATALOG Integrate the new collection into the existing catalog. This can be done fairly quickly, beginning with duplication and ending with original cataloging, if the catalogs are in an electronic format. It will be a more laborious undertaking if one (or both) is a card catalog. 9. BUDGET The merging firm’s library should have a budget available. You may have to approach the merging firm’s manager for historic records. Merge the budget with yours, keeping a careful tally of what is paid and for which firm. This will be critical for your variance report later. Note any changes in online contracts due to increased user population; also note any new contracts necessitated by the addition of new practice areas. Be aware of what payment policies were negotiated for existing services. Check invoices carefully to make sure you are not paying costs incurred by the previous entity. 10. CONTINUITY Follow through on each of the above, particularly with management and new staff. Prepare a report for the firm administrator stating what steps were taken and what costs were incurred. This is extremely important for future law library staffing and budgeting. Keep records from the start and file them for future reference. This may not be the alpha and omega of what to check for when your law firm merges, but it should cover the important bases. Remember that law firms are businesses, as are law libraries. People and money are the most scrutinized variables, as they can be managed, increased, or diminished. Keep a running log of each variance that the merger causes and use the record to prepare an impact study after the merger is completed. Documented preparedness has saved many a librarian from administrative grief. Finally, although this article is written from the viewpoint of the librarian whose firm is doing the acquiring, there is much to be gleaned for the “acquired” librarian as well. As stated in the opening paragraph, mergers and growth are occasions for positive change. It is a time of professional and personal opportunities, for regrouping, and for cultivating inner as well as outer vision. In the past 30 years, professional librarians have evolved from scholars of print to savants of the digital revolution. We have managed to grow and transcend the medium, the manner, and the place. Whether you are acquiring or being acquired, you possess valuable talents. You are, as we all are, keepers of the flame. Linda Will is the director of the research center at Miami-based Greenberg Traurig. Her e-mail address is [email protected].

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