A Law Librarian’s Journey from San Francisco to Kansas City, and What I Learned Along the Way

April 19, 2016

Law school blog 5In September of 2014, I received a rather unexpected call from our Chief Operating Officer.   He informed me that Littler was opening a new Global Services Center in Kansas City, Missouri that would house the firm’s administrative and operational departments, including our library.  Here is where my journey began.

On-shoring administrative services centers to lower-cost locations within the United States has become an attractive option for law firms as many cities offer business-friendly tax structures, reasonable rent and a good workforce pool.

There is something to be said for change.  Change can inspire more change, and in our case, the move from San Francisco to Kansas City allowed us to reorganize, redefine, revamp, and otherwise recreate our library.  I made a list of everything I wished were different.  Nothing was off limits.  Anything that was a sticking point for the library, I put on the list.  Then I designed a library from the bottom up.

One very important step we took was to document all of our procedures and policies.  We documented everything from how to pull a copy of a complaint, to what resources we have for the Traditional Labor Group, to a step-by-step procedure for our legislative tracking project.  Not only did having the training documents help us guide our new team, but it gave the team something solid to law librarian resource centeranalyze and improve.  These documents were the starting point for asking, “Why do we do it that way, and what should we change?” Through this process, we have created new and improved procedures for the library.  We are more efficient and are producing a higher-quality product.

Training and communication was key to our success and cannot be over emphasized.    As we transitioned from San Francisco to Kansas City, I had the benefit of a professional and seasoned team in San Francisco who remained on board and provided excellent training to the new staff.  Every week I did a check-in with each new team member.  I asked: What have you learned, what do you still need to learn, what are you really good at, what are you ready to teach others, what are you doing that you hate, what are you not doing that you want to learn?  This process showed me where I needed to focus more time and training, and it also created an open atmosphere encouraging a dialogue with honest questions and constructive feedback.  We have created a culture were nothing is static in our library; everything is questioned and revised, as needed.

The concept of having all corporate departments headquartered in one office to encourage collaboration has come to fruition.  Something as simple as meeting the Client Relations team in person has led to the opportunity to revamp a Business Intelligence Report.  Centralized shipping of all library materials has opened up more communication with our individual Office Administrators.  Learning more about the Conflicts Department led to the joint purchase of a new research tool, and after the first of the year we held an extremely productive Summit with our entire Knowledge Management Department, which encompasses the Library.  Our new corporate community in the Global Services Center has created an exciting new synergy and is providing fantastic results.

Not every firm is on-shoring, and there are still “traditional” librarian jobs in courts, law schools, and government libraries.  However, opportunities are spreading across the country.  If you really want to work in a large law firm library, I’d be looking at towns like Nashville, Tampa, Wheeling, or Kansas City (where other firms are also transitioning).

As a profession, librarians are often seen as the group that holds on too tightly to the past and avoids change.  On-shoring can have a very positive outcome.  I was very doubtful after that initial call in 2014 with our COO.  But I could not have been more pleased with what was waiting for me in Kansas City.  The collaboration, synergy, and raw talent we have amassed are outstanding.

This has been my journey thus far, and the most important fact I have learned is that it is a great time to be a legal librarian in Kansas City.