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Practical ways to prove your value in a challenging legal market

September 20, 2022
Clare Brown

Proving the value of the library and information team to management is an ongoing challenge. How can information people who work in legal, commercial or financial industries move beyond the immediate logistical challenges, and use their considerable library management skills to innovate, demonstrate value and continue to make an impact in a brave new world? Why not join us in this webinar?

 

New call-to-actionVable's webinar will say that library and information people are great in a crisis. We’ve always said this but now we can prove it - over the past few years we have seen a global pandemic, continuing war and political instability, and now we face a cost of living crisis and will probably see a recession. After proving our crisis management abilities, proving our value should be easy, right? 

The evidence for heeding current economic warnings

While nothing is certain, the spectre of a recession is almost upon us, as economists continue to talk about a downturn, amid rising interest rates, a cost of living crisis, inflation and geopolitical tensions. In July 2022, the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist said that the world is teetering on the edge of a global recession, only two years after the last one.

However, the recent Thomson Reuters report caught my attention - what does that dramatic drop in 2022 say? Are we all doomed? Of course not, despite the gloomy economic outlook, most law firms continue to see strong client demand. Despite the alarming graph, as the analysis points out, there are a lot of positive takeaways:

  • Worked rate growth was solid, and rate realisation improved. 
  • Tech spending remains strong which suggests confidence in the future.

This paradox may bolster overconfidence in firms that do not have a contingency plan, which could expose them to inevitable market corrections. It’s a warning and should be taken seriously - the first sign we should be preparing ourselves for the unknown. We know that firms are quick to pivot in times of economic slowdown - as one practice area shrinks, another grows! 

The library and information teams have already scanned the horizon and are ready to provide the resources to ensure end-users have all the information they need. We are constantly making adjustments in response to challenging situations. Indeed, our organisations are relying on our rapidly evolving creativity to predict what might happen next!

Where does this leave the library and information department?

Ultimately, every firm wants to increase revenue, increase profits, and reduce costs.

Library and information managers certainly have a responsibility to ensure that budgets are adhered to and to make savings where possible. We can reduce headcount and cut subscriptions but we have learned that cutting costs isn’t always the way forward. Instead, we have to be clever with the resources we already have - or invest in systems that enable us to do more with less.

As information experts, the expectation is that librarians should provide the best, most authoritative information to decision-makers to drive business success. Delivering that is contingent on us having sufficient resources to invest in systems that meet the evolving needs of the business.

But how do we convince managers that we need more - not less -  investment, when resources are limited? For better or worse, logically collecting evidence and presenting it to management won’t guarantee that you’ll win them over or even communicate value. Your reports need the right style to make the substance more palatable to the right audience. 

Our data can be used in stories to prove our value

We know that librarians bring value to organisations but how do we communicate this to others? Explaining to a colleague what you do each day is never going to communicate your value. If anything, it may well add another layer of confusion as they find themselves distracted by jargon and foreign-sounding terminology.

How do you present your monthly/annual library statistics? Reports with charts and graphs look professional and are expected by your more data-minded stakeholders but do they deliver the full picture? We shouldn’t be saying goodbye to raw data or even SMART objectives, but we should ensure that we communicate value in a way people will understand. 

  • What if we explained how we had eliminated end-user pain points?
  • What if we collected testimonials from influential end-users and clients?
  • What if we persuaded groups to advocate on our behalf in unexpected places? 
  • What if we demonstrated how we had enhanced the reputation of the firm?
  • What if we fulfilled objectives that contributed to the overall strategy of the firm?

Don’t make “value” a boring box-checking exercise which only occurs at budget setting time. Demonstrating value should become second nature and be incorporated into every workflow; every interaction with an end-user is an opportunity to create a story in your reports and newsletters to management (and others!). 

It is a continuous process of improvement and not just something you should think about when economic conditions get challenging - heed the warning and start now!

Want to know more about how to prove your value? Reserve your place on our free webinar now!