With little to no physical library space remaining in their offices, law firms are getting creative about where their law librarians should be, not only physically but on the org chart.
Some are choosing marketing.
Librarian knowledge of legal markets and first-hand understanding of client needs, along with their information science training and research skills, give them the mix of know-how and insight to optimize legal marketing and business development.
Blending some library and information center staff with marketing staff makes sense, and following are some of the ways law librarians can add value and offer support to marketing initiatives.
Deep web online research support for marketing staff
Marketing departments can’t do their jobs without information. I know from talking to our own marketing team – who often ask if they can borrow some of my research team! – that they spend a lot of time online:
- Tracking competitors and gathering other competitive intelligence
- Identifying and assessing markets
- Understanding clients and prospects
- Researching industries
- Sourcing data and stories for campaigns and presentations
- Identifying influencers and thought leaders
The list could go on.
This kind of internet research is time-consuming on a good day. Add distractions, dead-ends, paywalls, fake news and not knowing how to craft an optimal search string, I don’t see how online research could be a productive use of marketing staff time.
Most importantly, librarians are the most capable users of online information services and content aggregators like LexisNexis, Manzama, Vable and a growing panoply of new options now available. The information in these services is part of what we call the “Deep Web” – behind a paywall and not discoverable in browser searches – and it’s the most valuable, competitive-edge information for marketing to gain access to for the development of the most effective programs and campaigns.
Content marketing support
Law librarians can help create original content and other writing support:
- Research topics and trends
- Unearth ideas based on news coverage, social media discussions, user searches and other tricks
- Supply supporting data, stories and analysis.
Perhaps what could be most helpful is their ability to outline and even write or edit articles and posts.
Experienced law librarians are familiar with the firm’s lawyers, clients and practice areas, giving them an edge in understanding the perspective and conveying the voice of the firm’s attorneys.
Social media networking
Social media marketing via Twitter, LinkedIn and other popular legal marketing networks is another area where librarians are an untapped resource. Monitoring and optimizing social media is an ongoing, time-consuming task. And social media tools are best utilized by somebody with direct knowledge and understanding of legal concerns and client issues. A law librarian can spot legal needs, trends and opportunities and engage with the audience in a professional, insider way.
SEO and other digital marketing
While librarians may not be up-to-date on the latest SEO tips and tricks, they do know legal content. That makes them natural guides to help web marketing staff conduct better keyword research, link-building and other requirements to support and enhance the firm’s digital marketing efforts.
Marketing departments and lawyers themselves often draw on third party content like images and video clips for presentations, social media and other uses. Yet even attorneys are not always as mindful of possible copyright violations as they should be. Copyright clearance is another way librarians can support not only marketing, but the entire firm, to ensure the lawful use of stock photography and externally-sourced content, and to help manage that content for easy access and retrieval.
Marketing analytics support
As legal marketing becomes more sophisticated, large firms are investing in marketing automation systems. If your librarians are not knowledgeable in the use of this technology, it’s an opportunity for professional library staff development and the optimal use of firm resources. Google Analytics, Pardot, Infusionsoft, Moz, Marketo and other systems generate valuable data that law librarians are equipped to monitor, analyze and report to marketing directors and firm business development leaders.
Support your marketing department with librarian help
Big law is investing big dollars in marketing. Yet I know some partners question those investments and marketing’s ability to move the business development needle, considering the current environment.
In-house legal teams are working with fewer law firms – the 3rd smallest law firm roster in 16 years according to BTI Consulting – and clients are disinclined to add new firms to their approved list. Firms face a daunting number of competitors at virtually every opportunity.
It’s no wonder that lateral hiring of lawyers with established books of business remains a popular tactic and a preferred business development strategy!
That said, partners do know that in this environment, a strong marketing presence is essential.
Yet most legal marketing departments are under-resourced, considering the work that could be done. Firms can maximize those resources by offloading some of the background work to law librarians, who are more capable and trained in delivering information support anyway.
With law librarian assistance and collaboration, law firm marketing managers have greater power to spin their magic.