Your organisation’s success depends on information and, without an efficient flow, organisations face insurmountable challenges. The legal information function knows how much time and money is saved by using the right tools for the job. But how can we ensure the rest of the firm does? What opportunities are you missing out on, and what might this look like in practice?
The rise and rise of the legal information service
Recently a review of a AALL roundtable event made me stop and reconsider the inherent value of an information service. In this discussion, Carolyn Elefant commented;
I always viewed law librarians as a valuable resource for legal research [… when] I couldn’t afford WEXIS, I routinely sought the assistance of law librarians to access legislative history and more obscure journals. But as most legal resources became available online and declined in price, I no longer had the need to visit the law library, so law librarians became less relevant and useful to my legal research.
Although our end-users appreciate our visible work, for example research and administrative skills, we can do so much more. Thankfully she concluded that we are more important than ever before - in ways that our organisations could never previously imagine:
- We are able to exhaustively test and improve the end-user experience of online services
- We can refine and implement effective training and inductions
- We can make informed, unbiased purchasing choices on behalf of our organisations and ‘they may be able to extract inside information from vendor companies on how their technology works’.
We are living in a maelstrom of information
The amount of data being generated globally every minute of every day is staggering. Being online is now a way of life; entertainment, socialising, communicating, interacting with companies. The figures are astonishing; as of January 2019, there are 4.4 billion internet users - that’s 57% of the world’s population. 45% are social media users, which means 3.484 billion people.
It’s tremendous time for firms, companies and organisations to seize opportunities and turn this morass of data into something of value to a client. There is a lot of information to hand about competitors, customers, new and developing markets, the regulatory landscape, and even improved workflow and company best practice. But intelligence is only generated if raw data is processed, packaged, disseminated and actively used by the right people.
They can only seize opportunities with the invaluable help of information people who are trained to convert a mountain of data into usable, directly applicable knowledge. In this article I want to take you through some of the ways we can take back control and navigate information chaos. Let’s first look at what the impact is if firms fail to navigate through the information chaos.
What are organisations missing out on?
There are endless articles and commentary about how ‘innovative legal tech’ is the answer to the profitability of a firm. But it is increasingly apparent that this is the wrong way to look at it; we need to look at what we want to achieve before we implement the appropriate technology. You and your information service can step in with objective advice to help cut through the hype.
Improved marketing and business development
Lack of communication between information and business development/marketing teams means you are potentially losing out on opportunities. For instance, by collaborating on business development strategies, information people can be monitoring and producing ‘just before time’ competitor analysis, spotting trends, and keeping abreast of potential markets.
Business research skills are invaluable. You can advise on how to monitor your competitors to find out with whom they are talking, new developments etc. You can leverage news and current awareness to build the brand, pitch expertise or even break into a new market. Your colleagues need to be aware of the opportunities available, not so you can follow the crowd, but potentially anticipate trends and be better prepared.
The success of LinkedIn and other social media demonstrate that meaningful personal connections are vital. If you can start a conversation with a legitimate reason, it is easier to create a collaborative environment to build relationships. This is exactly what information people do within their organisations, so we are well placed to assist with building external relationships - within the appropriate strategic framework.
Differentiating your client offering
Clients are paying a premium for your organisation’s expertise so it is not enough to provide a basic service. In today's competitive marketplace, you should be thinking about how your services can evolve and diversify. And indeed implementing solutions which streamline your existing processes. Take these three examples:
- Alternative Legal Service Providers: A recent report found that law firms aren’t necessarily the answer and that accountancy firms are stepping in to offer legal services. It said that ‘UK corporations are especially keen to use alternative providers to acquire specialised legal services’. Could this be something to do with a trusted brand/well known name? Or are these alternatives willing to invest more in what customers actually want?
- ‘On demand lawyers’: Some firms are setting up networks for lawyers who want to do project work, working either onsite or remotely. They are notified of opportunities according to experience level or expertise, and then they choose whether or not to get involved. This system benefits the firm because of the wider pool of experience, and the lawyers who can choose to work when they want.
- Improved workflow and potential new source of income: In an era of misinformation and information overload, companies rely on their information services to provide reliable and accurate alerts and newsletters. Clients need similar information so they could also be given access to managed feeds, portals and updates. Not only does this encourage client loyalty and engagement, but it means that knowledge and information services become an important revenue stream.
The information function can ensure the organisation is in a prime position to make the most out of the right opportunities. You are an integral part of its success so do not underestimate your importance. Information people are excellent at assessing the needs of the organisation and clients so that everyone has the resources to work towards the same goals and outcomes.