Benchmarking the Library

Colleen Cable | August 28, 2019

Benchmarking is an effective way to help organizations identify best practices, compare themselves to their peers and reveal areas where there may be opportunities for improvement. Benchmarking in the legal business is no exception. Law firms recognize the value of benchmarking themselves against industry standards in areas including fees, financial performance and staffing ratios.

Law firm libraries, too, need reliable benchmarking data on a range of topics including library staffing, budgets, research request volume, subscriptions and content purchasing. Library leadership can use this data to guide internal decision-making in areas such as resource allocation, to identify industry trends that may impact future planning and budgeting, and to authoritatively demonstrate the value and contribution of the department. Reputable benchmarking data can also support reporting efforts to firm leadership and help justify proposed expenditures.

A recent American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) conference session highlighted the importance of utilizing data and metrics to demonstrate the ROI of the library. By incorporating industry benchmarking from peer firms, internal metrics are rendered even more valuable and better enable the library to tell the full story.

Unfortunately, however, independent benchmarking surveys that provide information of value to law firm information professionals are scarce. The currently available benchmarking reports are either too broad or too narrow to be actionable, and do not parse the data into segments that permit comparisons to actual peer firms. For example, they commonly combine all data from information departments, regardless of size or type of firm, into one bucket.


HBR’s Benchmarking + Legal Information Services Survey for Law Firms

To fill this void, HBR Consulting is launching its Benchmarking + Legal Information Services Survey for Law Firms. The goal of the HBR survey is to provide law firm library leadership with a tool to help manage the library’s narrative within the firm. The survey report will provide participants with information that “fits” their individual department -- information that can be used to support resource allocation and investment decisions and to contribute to the conversation with firm leadership and advocacy for their departments.

HBR is a recognized leader in legal industry surveys: we understand that the process of benchmarking must be reliable, authoritative and statistically significant. For example, HBR’s well-respected Law Department Survey is now in its 16th year. The Law Department Survey typically has over 250 respondents and, through iteration of specific questions year over year, is able to uncover trends in law department operations that help law departments plan for the future. The process and methodology for HBR’s new Legal Information Services Survey for Law Firms will be modeled on that of the Law Department Survey.

Legal Information Services Survey participants will be able to access the tallied results through an interactive dashboard form, with information segregable by firm size and other categories. The ability to isolate data directly relevant to a departments’ true peers will yield legitimate comparisons on which department leaders can confidently rely when making decisions. Additionally, HBR plans to conduct the survey on a regular cadence so as to include trending information, which can support future planning.

Click here to complete the Benchmarking + Legal Information Services Survey for Law Firms.