Friday, November 14, 2008

Docketed out the door?

Last Friday, the Director of Finances for my firm took me out for lunch. "Uh-oh", said I.

I was informed that, henceforth, I must docket my research time. Further, I must docket a minimum of 250 hours over the next six months (i.e., starting at 500 hours per annum with likelihood to increase). It was indicated subtly that my salary (and job) is now dependent upon my hours docketed. I am charging at $160.00 p/h to the client. My salary breaks down to approximately $26 p/h before taxes. I wonder to whom the difference will go?

I support docketing research time to associated case work. To me, it is common sense, as is client charge-back when using resources such as eCarswell and QL. However, in making my salary dependent upon docketed hours, any activity that cannot be docketed loses priority and will fall to the wayside. It becomes a matter of my job security. Thus, to the wayside will fall all non-case-specific library work, including the day-to-day management of the library, information literacy programs that I am expected to develop and present, and the enormous amount of 'forensic librarianship' that is still required to pull this library from its previous state and into the 21st century.

Also, I am a professional librarian and researcher. I produce product quickly and efficiently. Where an articling student or lawyer can/will spend two days researching a question, I can usually produce in a fraction of the time. With docketing, efficiency is no longer 'productive' towards the necessity of logging hours to maintain a salary. To fulfill docketing requirements, I wonder whether I must slow the speed of my return. After all, I must wait for someone to come to me with a research request before I can docket time. Then, I must maximize the opportunity.

Now, librarianship aside, the introduction of a docketing-dependent salary changes the terms of my contract of employment with employer. I am unsure how to approach this matter. At this stage, no new agreements are in writing or signed, yet the expectation by my employer that I abide by these new 'terms' exists. My salary is still paltry; in fact, it is a good $13k less than the students I instruct and assist on an ongoing basis.

(The explanation recently provided to me by the Chair of the Library Committee concerning the difference between articling student / librarian salary was that good law students are hard to find. And good, experienced law librarians are easy to find? This is from the same person who believes I can and should get my docketed hours up to 1600 per annum. Doesn't sound like much? Well, it works out to around 6 2/3 hours of docketable research per day, in addition to all other library duties required by a single librarian operation. NOTE: I'm contracted to work an 8 hour day comprised of 6 1/2 work + 1 1/2 cumulative break time.)

I am rather at a loss. Are other law firm associated librarians expected to produce to a fixed minimum rate of docketable hours? My initial research indicates not. So much of what we do is out of the realm of 'billable'. We do ask for matter numbers as a matter of course because we want to recover as much as we can in costs. My experience with other firms, and the experience of colleagues with whom I have discussed this issue, is that most lawyers see law librarianship as a service. Whether or not our service is billable is immaterial, so long as the lawyers get what they need.

Incidently, I will mention that I am again seeking new employment. Though it would benefit tremendously, I do not believe the corporate culture of my current employer allows for the professional services of an MLS/MLIS.

I was graciously told during the lunch meeting that I may have anything on the menu. I had a couple of large glasses of wine.