by Caren Luckie
The title really should be “How to Manage Expectations of Modern Technology,” but that just doesn’t have quite the same ring. The title came about from a comment and blog post suggestion made by a co-worker. Thank you, Shivani!
While law schools frequently receive access to the newest version of online resources, firms aren’t always quite as lucky. Yes, there are firms who have firm-wide access to everything and upgrade to the newest product on a regular basis. But the mid-size firms can’t afford to do that. Large law firms pay a premium for online access from several of the online research services, and the budget won’t stretch to the newest and greatest mid-year upgrade. Nor do the budgets stretch to include every product available.
Usually it’s a new fall associate (sometimes a summer associate) or a lateral attorney who wants access to something that we don’t have. The new associates because they’ve seen (and sometimes used) the product in law school. The lateral hires because they had access at their previous firm. We try to cover resources in orientation, but there’s never enough time. And the new attorney is deluged with information on their first or second day, so we don’t expect them to remember everything.
Our firm doesn’t lack for resources, but many of the resources aren’t heavily used. People will get excited about a new product, but if they don’t need it immediately, it fades from memory. We’ll frequently do a trial of something, but, again, if they don’t need it during the trial period, it doesn’t get used, is forgotten about, and, because it’s not used, we don’t purchase it. Then when someone needs it, we have to explain why we don’t have it. If we trial a product, we want feedback on how well it worked, was it useful, and if we should consider purchasing it. And that feedback really needs to come from the attorneys.
So what to do when asked if we have Product X? As usual, it depends. We frequently have a similar product (remember, we don’t lack for resources), or we’ll have a limited number of subscriptions to Product X. We offer training, or we can pull the information for the attorney. If we don’t have it, we try to obtain a copy from another library (easy if it’s a chapter or just an article). Sometimes, we just have to say No, I’m sorry, we can’t get it. Luckily, that’s rare.
On the flip side, we have lateral hires who sometimes come from a smaller firm, and have fewer resources. It’s nice to have people who are really excited that they have access to new resources they didn’t have previously.
We’ve just partnered with our Marketing group to provide more targeted competitive intelligence and business development reports. Similar problem, Marketing had a list of products from a recent conference, and we had to explain that we didn’t have most of them. But, they were happy to learn that we could give them access to some of the products that we do have. And that we might have alternative access to some of the material on the list (public library databases). It was a win-win for both sides.
There’s no easy solution. There’s always going to be a great new product. New associates just need to be aware that firms can be more limited in resources than the law schools. And to always ask the library or research staff about access to materials or obtaining items – we might not have something, but we can probably get it for them.