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Legal libraries continue to shift online

Legal libraries continue to shift online

Kellie Payne, Bates Smart

A "controversial" trend recently being undertaken by law firms in order to keep up with the times is the digitisation of the legal library, according to a Bates Smart workplace strategist.

Speaking with Lawyers Weekly, Bates Smart workplace strategy team member Kellie Payne (pictured) said there has been a trend over the last decade in relation to the legal library in law firms.

"This is quite controversial amongst some lawyers, but the legal library is becoming more and more of an online resource rather than a physical space," Ms Payne said.

"There often is still a collection, but it’s not used anywhere near the way it used to be used."

Ms Payne said a quiet room often still exists with a small collection of books, but that most research is done online.

"There is still this desire to keep part of that heritage in their culture and it’s a reflection of a quiet space to work in isolation and not being disturbed," she said.

"Especially in open-plan offices, this is really important. Part of the shared space is giving them a quiet room, what we would call a 'library space', but it's just a room that has courtesies that go with a library like your phone is switched off and you don't talk, like an old school reading room."

MinterEllison is one firm that has all but done away with its legal library in its Sydney office, after a recent move to a new premise with an open-plan layout.

"Really what we've said is, 'it's 2016, everybody uses online resources these days'," said Andrew Cunningham, head of innovation at MinterEllison.

"As pretty as they were, the hard copy ones took up a lot of space and they were very inefficient."

Now MinterEllison has just a few bookshelves scattered around its communal cafe space, and also has some original copies of digitised law reports, which Mr Cunningham said is more just for decoration.

"The library will continue to decrease as they get digitised and the concierge workers are there to help people research and find things online."

Further to this, MinterEllison has reduced its paper storage space and its number of printers, encouraging its lawyers to work online as much as possible.

"[When we moved], we reduced our paper file and paper storage and books by 70 per cent," he said.

"That’s really about people working more digitally. We encourage people by all means to print out working copies of documents, but we get them to scan it back up and keep the scanned copy as a record."

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