In a high pressure environment such as law firms it’s to be expected that, on occasion, tensions are going to run high, and legal librarians often find themselves facing the brunt of this. For a workplace to be productive, however, communications need to be as open and positive as possible. So here are seven quick tips for improving relationships between librarians and lawyers for our legal librarian readers:
1. Learn to speak lawyers’ language - whilst most legal librarians aren’t typically trained lawyers they are specialists in their own field, and many lawyers tend to forget this. Try to find out what your lawyers’ buzzwords and key phrases are and drop them into your communications, show that you are on the same page.
2. Be tactical - earn yourself some gold stars and share your expertise with your lawyers to help make their life easier. There are heaps of free legal resources, such as Google Scholar, that many lawyers, quite surprisingly, don’t know how to use properly. Help them tap this resource and get yourself some brownie points whilst you’re at it. If you’re in need of some ideas, perhaps see if you can stop by a team meeting to try and get a full picture of your lawyers’ needs.
3. Patience - fact of the matter is, as a legal librarian, you are working in a service industry in just the same way that your lawyers are. Whilst lawyers must face frustrated clients on a regular basis, your lawyers are your clients. Thus, this irritation is transferred back to you. In a profession as stressful as law, patience is key.
4. Be open - ask your lawyers for feedback and find out how you can support them better. The reason for your lawyers’ frustration may well be a lack of communication between you both. If they know your door is always open, so to speak, then they’re far more likely to come to you directly with a problem in the future.
5. Show your value - in such an information saturated industry legal librarians are in the perfect position to show their value. As an in-house information and research specialist you can give your lawyers an edge by feeding them that extra tidbit of information that nobody else yet knows. Don’t be afraid to keep developing in line with the technology and resources available to you.
6. Minimise interruptions - smartphones, client calls, endless meetings and constant streams of emails mean that lawyers are consistently faced with endless demands on their time. Try to find out what times of day your lawyers will be best prepared to receive your alerts and notifications, it’s best to catch them when they have a bit more time to spare and can read through their daily digest. If your alerts always reach them just before a big meeting, chances are they won’t be read. Content automation with analysis and tracking tools can help you manage this.
7. It’s not me, it’s you - trained to look for problems, lawyers tend to look at the world from a negative perspective. Keep in mind that sometimes you may be bearing the brunt of lawyers’ frustrations simply because you just happen to be there. This is the point where I recommend a cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit.