Legal research services are key services for any law firm to offer its clients, and the ability to provide this service well can make all the difference in keeping current clients happy and attracting new ones. Here are ten ways to enhance your law office’s legal research services:
Utilize a Research Tool Both Online and in Print
The times of going to a library and using a legal resource exclusively in print are long gone. Today, many librarians prefer to utilize Lexis Advance, which is an example of what you can find on Westlaw. Knowing your way around these resources, how they work, and what types of cases they contain will show that you possess the ability to do more than just look up citations for existing information. It also shows clients that you’re not only competent with legal research services but also current on new technological advancements within the field.
Create Quality Briefs
Creating quality products gives clients confidence in your abilities as a researcher and writer. A brief is one of the most common items requested by the general public, so it is important that you are able to produce high-quality work quickly. Knowing how to use software like Westlaw, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law will make this process even faster—and more efficient.
Utilize Free Legal Research Tools
There are a plethora of websites out there with searchable databases for statutes and regulations, as well as access to opinions from state and federal courts. You should know your way around these resources in case they pop up in conversation when speaking with a client or referral source. With such easy access to powerful legal research services tools, any law library would be remiss if they didn’t utilize them too.
Join or Create an Online/Social Network Group
Law librarians are notorious for being experts at networking. There are many opportunities to network online through various social media outlets or by participating in online groups. Utilizing these networks will not only make you more aware of the trends within your field but also potentially create new sources of clientele.
Put yourself Out there!
Do you have a blog? Do you update it regularly? Are you on Twitter? If so, then this is a great way to put yourself out there as an expert in your field and potentially gain clients that seek out your services. Through these platforms, it’s important to be active and engaged with other professionals who share similar interests—especially if they are already established law librarians or legal researchers. Promoting and networking through social media is a great way to boost your business and make yourself more marketable.
Let your Clients Know
Educate your current clients by sending them regular emails with useful legal resources. An easy way to do this is through your firm newsletter or blog (if you already have one). You could even create separate, password-protected sections on your website just for existing clients where you can offer such things as free downloadable spreadsheet templates, tips and tricks for using online research tools, and other helpful resources for busy attorneys who simply don’t have the time to figure it all out themselves.
For example, I send our clients monthly emails with useful legal resources that fit into one of our practice areas. This way they know we are constantly thinking about them and trying to save them time, effort, and money on their cases.
Utilize Free Resources
AALL also has a list of free pamphlets that you can download from their website. These include topics such as “What Every Lawyer Needs to Know about Publishing Legal Materials on the Internet,” “The Library in Your Office–How It Can Help You, How to Get One,” and many more. A membership with this organization will give you access to these resources—so it’s definitely worth looking into if you’re interested in staying up-to-date on the ever-changing world of law librarianship.
Hold Seminars and Webinars
Offer free webinars on topics like “What attorneys need to know about online legal research” or even offer special seminars at your office that both educate your clients and encourage them to continue seeking out new information online throughout their cases. Also consider offering educational seminars with CLE credits for other lawyers in your area of expertise (e.g., law firm management).
Create a list of website landing pages designed specifically for each legal topic you specialize in.
You should then build links to these pages from all of your other marketing materials, including business cards, print ads, billboards, the sides of buses, etc. For example, last year I worked with Phoenix’s Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown advertising agency to create unique bus bench ads for Shilling & Murdoch that were set up in highly trafficked areas where I knew potential clients would be. Each ad contained a link to our practice area landing pages along with a phone number for them to call and request a free case evaluation.
Utilize Open Access
There are many law reviews that make their articles available in searchable, full-text formats on their websites. This is a great way to access free legal research and get your name out there as an expert. Many open-access journals such as the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review, and the George Mason Law Review provide content that can be accessed without a password—simply scroll down to see all of the available free content.
Besides freely accessible journals, nature and science magazines also regularly publish articles on new developments in law & technology. These regularly updated blogs can be found through Natural News or Science Daily —just type “legal research” into their search bar for more information.
By doing any or all of these things, legal research services providers can enhance their services and make them more appealing to today’s practitioners. The key is to make sure the information you provide is accurate, easy to understand, and valuable. It should also be noted that these tips can be applied across services like Lexis Advance and Westlaw rather than focusing solely on Google Scholar. With the rapid pace of change in today’s legal environment, legal research services providers must constantly pay attention to what their patrons need and want while staying ahead of the curve through new services and features.