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Law Firm Library Metrics – AALL Session Summary

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I attended a session titled “The Wonderful World of Metrics: Show Your Value to Leadership” at the recent AALL conference. As our business is largely focused on collecting and producing metrics for special libraries and law firms in particular, this session was of great interest to me for a number of reasons. Firstly understanding which metrics are considered key candidates for collection and reporting allows me to focus our efforts in support of firms’ objectives. And secondly a focused discussion on metrics ties into an initiative we ran in late 2013 to catalog the various ways in which law firms libraries communicate with their firms. This exercise resulted in a framework document we hope will help firms compare their communication strategies with that of other firms – read this article for more information about our communication framework.

The remainder of this article presents a summary of what was discussed during the AALL metrics session at AALL. A special thanks to Steve Lastres and Marcia Burris for sharing their presentations with me, the content of which informs much of the body of this article.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, when it comes to metrics more is not necessarily always better. When deciding what to record, you should picture yourself at operationally significant periods within the year like year-end, budget submission time, and month end, imagining the information you would ideally like to report upwards or use to make operational decisions for your department. For example a handy technique is to design your ideal annual departmental report and then work backwards asking whether at present you have the necessary data to produce the report.

The annual report should talk to your firm’s strategic goals if it is to be effective and well received. Of course you won’t collect metrics solely for upward reporting to management, you’ll also collect metrics to help run your department better. Differentiate between external and internal metrics – those meant to help you and your team run things better, and those meant to communicate your value externally within the firm.

The AALL session panellists each went on to discuss a subset of metrics they record and report on. These metrics can be classified into six categories:

  1. Financial
  2. Usage
  3. Research Services
  4. Technical Services
  5. Training/Professional Development
  6. Miscellaneous

In more detail, here is a list of the entire set of metrics discussed by all four panelists under each category. These are the metrics each firm collects and uses in their annual reports or in their operational decision making:


  1. Library expense actuals to budget
  2. Contract savings
  3. Cancellation savings
  4. Online research cost recovery figures
  5. Budget allocation amongst resources
  6. Library hours – billable vs. non-billable
  7. Library billings and collections
  8. Library expenses compared to peer firms


  1. Online resource usage metrics by resource, person, department, office, practice group, etc.*
  2. Intranet/know how usage metrics by resource, person, department, office, practice group, etc.*
  3. Mobile research usage metrics
  4. ILS / catalog usage metrics

* This is an extremely simplified list of usage metrics as there are hundreds of possible report/metric permutations. In addition the granularity of usage metrics you record also varies widely and will depend on your collection methodology, the resource(s) in question and your requirements.

Research Services

  1. Overall requests counts
  2. Requests by research librarian
  3. Requests by type and purpose of research
  4. Requests by requestor, dept., practice group, office, etc.
  5. Requests by priority, complexity and rush status
  6. Requests by billable, non-billable, individual client and/or matter
  7. In/out of hours request breakdown
  8. Requests by time zones
  9. Request response times
  10. Request proportions with/without c/m
  11. External resources used to fulfill requests

Technical Services

  1. Document request counts
  2. Password queries
  3. Book orders/cancellations
  4. Interlibrary loans
  5. Invoices processed

Training/Professional Development

  1. Number of training sessions run
  2. Training course composition
  3. Number of attendees (split into appropriate groups)


  1. Number of newsletters/current awareness alerts sent
  2. Increase or decrease in print holdings

In summary there are a great number of metrics you could collect, deciding which are useful, how to collect them, and how to make most use of the metrics once collected is the challenge. While I don’t believe it’s entirely true to say that you need to measure something to manage it, solid metrics are extremely helpful communication tools and can be essential in certain types of decision making.

ResearchMonitor, Quest and SmartRecharge have many features not least of which is the production of Usage, Cost, Research Services and Technical Services metrics. Please get in touch to find out more about how they can help you produce the metrics listed above.



Peter Borchers, Managing Director

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