Anticipating User Needs within a Firm Environment

Meeting user needs extends far beyond the reference desk. As librarians, one of our main goals is to assist the user in making their day easier. We can do this by anticipating needs or determining the best use of our services.

Within a law firm setting, attorneys spend time on business development and client research. This is a major area of opportunity for the library. We, as librarians, have the skills and research tools needed to help attorneys in this endeavor, so why not get involved?

Attorneys probably do not realize the resources the library has access to, some of which are not billed back to the client. Another bonus!

My experience as a firm librarian is that our users may not be as direct in telling us what their needs are and how we can meet those. This is because sometimes our users are not sure what they are looking for or are not developed in their own research skills to even know where to begin.

That is where our opportunity is. Oftentimes, we, as librarians, need to use our intuition in determining how we can effectively and efficiently meet our users’ end goal. One approach is to find the attorney exactly what they might be looking for, while always offering a similar alternative source or piece of information.

This allows us the opportunity to introduce the user to a different research tool or alternative way of finding the requested information.

Additionally, we can contemplate why the user is seeking this information and what truly is their end goal. This process will allow us to hone in on the best way to deliver their request and really understand our users’ needs.

For example, I recently met with an associate who was looking for more information on 12 (b) motions. I sent this attorney relevant treatises, model forms, and relevant case law. It turns out the attorney was looking for forms on how to draft the motion, which I had included as an extra.

Attorneys spend a great deal of time keeping current on companies, clients, cases, and much more. How can we help? We can work with the attorneys in setting up news and docket alerts that save them time and energy. Again, we are in the best position to set up and manage these alerts since we have the research tools and knowhow. This is a powerful combination that we should capitalize on.

Another area of attorney assistance is through your firm’s collaboration sites. As you know, there is a push toward knowledge management. By assisting attorneys with sharing their knowledge, we are not only making a relationship with the attorney, but potentially their entire practice group. Better yet, we are building knowledge within the firm that will be utilized by others well into the future.

In the end, we need to determine what our users are working on and then adapt our skills accordingly. This relates to librarians as being ever evolving and learning. The best part is, the possibilities and opportunities are truly endless if you are willing to be creative.