Each morning, after I get on the train, find my seat, pop open a Red Bull, shuffle the songs on my ipod, and show the train guy my ticket, I open up my laptop and download the numerous e-mails waiting for me. Half of them are news alerts, another quarter are daily e-newsletters, and the other quarter are direct e-mails from clients and co-workers. I like to attend to all of these messages before stepping foot into the office, as I wouldn’t get to them otherwise. I can have crazy mornings.
Let’s start with the news alerts. I have always believed that the reference interview doesn’t end when the information is provided to the attorney. The interview is over when the lawyer has completed the task that they have set out for themself. That said, lawyers can sometimes work on the same issue for months and need to be constantly updated with new information on that issue. So, after I answer the immediate question, I set up news alerts for the topic (using free and fee-based services). These news alerts come to me all of the time throughout the day, but the mornings can be tough because of the amount of time since I last opened up my e-mail. I read all of the alerts and then send them off to the attorneys. On most days, I’ll send out about 15 news articles in the AM, with more than 10 going out throughout the day. I try not to deluge the clients (attorneys are my clients, so I’m not confusing you), so I take care to send only the important information. By knowing the attorneys wants and needs, I can form a keen sense as to what to send and what to skip.
Now to the e-newsletters. A very wise librarian taught me that importance of reading newspapers for reference work. After I first heard that, I made it a point to read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal as much as time could handle. Sometimes I’d read the online version, but when it comes down to reading full articles (and many of them), I prefer the print. To this day, I still get through the first two sections of the entire NYT on my way home from work. By knowing what is happening in the world, reference librarians can better suit their users’ needs. It’s not necessarily the factual information found in these articles, it’s a daily spongelike mental focus that is at the core of this theory.
I use this theory when it comes to the practice areas of my clients. I read what they are reading. Whether it’s a daily e-mail update from a marketing association, an update from advertising age, a Mealey’s report on Insurance, or the daily alerts that are sent out by the New York Law Journal, I read it. There are two reasons why I do this. First, the newspaper theory. If I read this stuff, I learn more about the practice area, and when I get tough research requests, I know more about the issue because I’ve read up about it on a continuous basis. I can’t express how important doing this is for my work with clients. I see the results and, in turn, so do they. The second reason I do this reflects back to the reference interview not being over until the attorney had concluded their work. If I’m reading content from their practice areas, I might find an article or report that fits perfectly into an issue that they raised with me months before (We store all of our reference questions in a database) and send it along to the attorney. I love sending e-mails that start out with, "I remember you asked me about this issue last year. This article may be useful with that case". And attorneys love this too. Many are even shocked that I remembered doing the work for them in the past. And, all the time, they are thankful for the extra effort that I put in for them.
So, it’s not only important to do research, but follow up with new content, and constantly learn about what your clients are learning about. Find out what they are reading, and soak up the same stuff.