How Law Libraries Can Meet the Demands of Modern Law Firms

Donna Terjesen | July 02, 2018

In recent years, law firms have seen a major shift in how their libraries function. As new technology has transformed the legal space and firms face a myriad of unique challenges like mergers, employee departures and cost reductions, law library structures and priorities have transformed.

To address these changes, more firms have begun outsourcing parts of or their entire law libraries to bolster their internal efforts – a move that enables firms to focus on more strategic initiatives. Though many firms previously resisted outsourcing, this sentiment has nearly diminished thanks to new solutions and partners on the market. When law firms make the decision to engage an external partner to manage their library function, they actually help elevate the value their law library brings to attorneys and to their firm.

I recently spoke with Jinfo about why more law firms are outsourcing their law libraries as well as how HBR provides a managed services approach to doing so. Here is what law firm libraries should look for when retaining a managed services partner:

  • A customized, partnership approach: No one law firm is the same, and as such, each firm requires different services and offerings when it comes to law library outsourcing. A managed service provider takes this into consideration, providing each firm with the specific services and expertise that cater to their unique needs.

    It is important to keep in mind that outsourcing is just one component of managed services. The best partners carefully look at which pieces of a law firm’s library can and should be outsourced, while also making recommendations for which functions should continue to be managed by the firm. For instance, at HBR, we provide a research on-demand offering for law firms that have research needs on a project-by-project basis, but are not looking to fully outsource their entire law library research needs.
  • Access to a wide range of diverse, talented team members: Whether law firms are outsourcing some or all of their law libraries’ functions, a managed service partner allows them to leverage the skills and expertise of a diversified, talented and skilled professionals.

    One of the main benefits outsourcing provides is that law firms can gain access to resources and skills that they may not have in-house. At HBR, for example, we have many former library directors on our team who are conscious about how we can best support change in law firm libraries. While we bring in librarians for projects, we also bring in project managers and financial analysts – individuals with expertise that is not typically found on a traditional law library staff.

  • Expertise with emerging technology: Many law firms are traditionalists when it comes to new and emerging technologies – meaning they are not always on the forefront of adoption. As we begin to see more tools like artificial intelligence (AI) in our everyday lives, a new challenge has emerged among law library professionals: how do we figure out the best ways to apply new tools to the work we are doing both now and in the future?

    By employing a managed service provider with expertise in emerging technology, much of the weight of determining the answer to those questions is lifted. Outsourcing law library functions and leveraging outside expertise also helps qualm many of the fears around how AI and other technologies will impact law firms and their work products.

    At HBR, we are constantly keeping a close eye on how law libraries will evolve, while also keeping tabs on the latest technologies and their most appropriate uses. As a result, when a new tool begins to take off, we quickly identify whether it would be useful for our clients and provide guidance on how to best integrate the technology into the firm’s existing strategy.


At the end of the day, there is no “one-size-fits-all” managed services approach, particularly when it comes to outsourcing law libraries. As a result, it is crucial that law firms select a partner that recognizes their unique needs, and has the internal resources to add much-needed value and expertise to the firm, especially as the demands of a dynamic and changing legal market continue to be a challenge.