Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Susannah Tredwell on Law Library Cost Recovery

Susannah Tredwell has a great new post up on Slaw.ca on The Future of Cost Recovery.

Unfortunately, I think there's a more fundamental question at play: whether clients are accepting of cost recovery and the extra disbursements entailed on their legal bills; or, if they are now demanding these costs be included; covered by firms as a 'cost of doing business'.

First let's face the facts: clients want to pay the least amount possible for a professional standard of service. They want to keep their legal bills reasonable, and no higher than is absolutely needed.

Do clients see value in legal research? That answer will vary, but one thing I'm sure of: that answer is completely unconnected to the how they respond to extra expenses added onto the end of their invoice. That particular client response is always going to be poor at best.

Anything a client can pinpoint on an invoice that's outside of the hourly rate or the flat fee negotiated is going to be received negatively. It's a natural reaction to say, "strike that off my invoice".  Think about buying a car and how much we all hate those extra fees that get nailed on at the end. Drives us insane right?

So when it comes to law firm's cost recovery for legal research tools, I'm now thinking we need a big shift in direction. Even me.  I used to think that we needed to get these costs onto client bills to showcase the value of our services, and for internal marketing -- demonstrating to lawyers the resources we were managing, showing the value of our services, and to help everyone recognize the (sometimes huge) costs involved.  Unfortunately, this is a battle that isn't going away. And whether we directly cost recover or not isn't going to change things.

So now my opinion has been altered: The last thing Librarians should want connected to "legal research services" is the negative response of clients. Getting these disbursements on the bills isn't showing value of these tools, or our services. It's only getting lawyers to psychologically connect "research costs" with negative client responses. Nobody wins in this scenario.

I also think in most circumstances that firms need to reconsider charging disbursements altogether. It's a huge negative drag in the client relationship. Why? Clients want cost certainty -- not another line item tacked on at the end of the invoice. Most firms would be wise to bury these costs in their fixed fees, hourly rates, AFAs... whatever billing model they use. Because regardless of how the firm charges for its services, clients will always hate the taxes tacked on at the end of the invoice, and they will always hate disbursements.

Only one of those extra costs has an alternative course.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Praise for "Legal Information Specialists "

When Connie Crosby published her summer reading list on Slaw in early July, I noted she listed a new title from LexisNexis, "Legal Information Specialists : A Guide to Launching and Building Your Career". I was immediately intrigued, as I'm always amazed at the different paths my colleagues have taken (and continue to take) into, out of, and back to the law library world. The book is written by members of the legal community from across Canada, and discusses careers in the usual law library suspects (firm, academic, courthouse, etc.) as well as several alternative roles.

One of these colleagues, Karen Sawatzky, has just published a review of "Legal Information Specialists" at her blog, Library Technician Dialog, and she's pretty impressed with both the content:
"I read this text almost cover to cover – I skipped the academic library and law faculty chapters, as those avenues aren’t open to me. The very last chapter is titled Career Development Tips for Legal Information Professionals, but it is applicable to almost any career. ... This book should be in the library of all library schools in Canada, both university masters programs and college library technician programs. One of my colleagues calls working in a law library the “accidental career” – even a lot of librarians don’t realize it’s a career option. We need to do a better job of getting our career path out there and this book has taken a big step forward in realizing this."
... and the form!
"As to be expected of a book written by librarians, it is impeccably organized. The table of contents is extremely detailed. There is an Appendix of helpful resources and a glossary of acronyms. And of course, there is an index."
Gotta love a good table of contents! I haven't come across any other reviews of the title -- surprisingly, not even on Slaw, unless I missed it -- but you can read more on the story behind the book in this news item from the University of Windsor, in which general editor Annette Demers notes that:
"Ultimately, the book is much more than just a survey of the profession; it provides hope and insight about our transferability as information professionals, using the diverse range of knowledge, skills and networks that we have naturally developed to adapt to our changing environment."
I'm even more keen to start reading the book now that I've heard such a positive review, and fortunately Karen has agreed to lend me her copy. Have you read "Legal Information Specialists"? I'd love to hear what you thought of it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Quickscribe Manual Update for July 2012

Just one Quickscribe hardcopy manual update to report this month: the BC Real Estate Legislation Manual.

Remember, free updates to BC statutes and regulations at www.bclegislation.ca.