Collection Re-balancing Part I: Facilitating the Move from Print to Digital in Law Firm Libraries and Information Services


The competitive need for digitization has intensified across all industries—and this need is not sparing the legal industry.  If it’s any solace, it is not just law firms that are feeling the pressure of change.In this two-part series, we outline the primary points to consider when rebalancing the print/digital ratio of a law firm library collection, along with an approach to analyzing current print spend to identify titles with the highest potential for cancellation.

Reasons for reducing print

  • Reduce library footprint – Print libraries require lots of space which is expensive in law firms.
  • Eliminate duplication – Online services, especially from the big four legal vendors, typically include the same or comparable information online as in their print publications.
  • Reduce environmental impact – The production and shipment of print products increases firms’ carbon footprints.
  • Serve users in multiple locations – Multiple print copies are expensive; online easier to share/scale across large operations.
  • Reduce upkeep costs – Print requires upkeep including ordering, receiving, processing and maintenance.
  • Increase efficiency – Digital resources offer search and collaboration features that can improve research and project efficiency.

Challenges in reducing print

  • Attorney preference/resistance to change – Attorneys are famously change-averse, especially if they see change as an imposition with no benefit to them. 
  • Licensing terms & costs – Contracts may need to be expanded and/or additional licensing purchased to ensure access and compliance to digital resources. Ability to negotiate new or alternative terms varies widely by vendor.
  • Existing print commitments – Contracts that commit firm to purchasing a set level of print in exchange for discounts may limit options for reducing print.
  • Market instability – Increased competition between information vendors is resulting in market instability. Firms without access to one or more of the big four may need to purchase essential products in print in the absence of online access. Some vendors are tying essential/popular products to contracts for their online services thereby complicating choices.

Paths to Success

  • Communication is key to success. Seek input from print users while working through the process.
  • Leadership backing is critical. Firm leaders must be prepared to help make and communicate difficult decisions and manage reluctant lawyers.
  • Use as champions those attorneys already successfully using digital resources. Get testimonials, have them promote resources at practice group meetings, etc. Word-of-mouth campaigns can be very effective complements to other marketing efforts.
  • It is important to consider the firm’s online billing policies and practices and make any adjustments that may be needed.
  • Review firm’s practices and policies around office copies. Office copies are frequently heavily used for practice efficiency giving them a lower potential for elimination.
  • Prepare to transition print users to online alternatives. Make plans for impacted users to access new resources, including links, passwords, and training.
  • Follow up with key users in the weeks and months after implementation. Address issues and work to resolve them.

In part II, we drill down into some details as how to approach print reduction strategically—as well as a few reality checks that can be helpful along the way.

About the Author

Becky Bowman, Law Library Consultant Becky served as the Chief Research and Information Analysis Officer for Am Law 100 firm, Baker Donelson for 32 years where she ultimately led a team of 5 to serve 750+ attorneys across 23 domestic locations. Becky’s accomplishments at Baker were multiple, including transforming the library from print to digital, overseeing the efficient combination of 15 mergers and acquisitions of library materials, and successfully rebranding her department, and achieving buy-in from key stakeholders. Her exceptional experience is invaluable for clients as they assess the actual total cost and value of their library and research department including current print and digital collections, vendor contracts, as well as consider cultural and workflow disruptions or benefits in moving to an outsourcing vendor.

About the Author

Stuart Zimmerman, Law Library ConsultantStuart provides strategic input on library and research services in large law firms with a focus on library audits, the development of best practices for the delivery of library services, and the implementation of new generations of digital resources for research and library administration. Stuart brings more than 25 years of law library experience both in law firms and public law libraries. Prior to joining Feit Consulting, Stuart was Director of Research and Information Services for Davis Wright Tremaine LLP where he transformed a patchwork of individual law office libraries into a coordinated, efficient, contemporary, firm-wide library system providing high-quality research and library services across nine offices.

About the Author

Feit Consulting is like no other legal information consulting firm. We are legal information geeks, trained attorneys and law librarians like you. We love legal information. We aren’t just cost-cutters. We’re on your side to improve the value of your role, your firm, your attorneys. Our sole focus is on providing law firms with legal information solutions that work and making the job of managers of legal information better, easier and demonstrably valuable to the firm.