Hit the floor: floorwalking as a training tool

Lisa Sabbage on how she uses floorwalking to help fee-earners improve their research skills.

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* Pick your time – Again, your target should determine the time and date of your floorwalk as well as its theme. Check with the relevant PSL or group calendar first to ensure your visit doesn’t clash with their weekly know-how meeting. If your  team has the resource, you can schedule regularly.

* Promote – Now you know what, when and who you're going to be floorwalking, publicise the fact. I email my targets a week or so in advance, informing them what the focus will be. I then send a reminder the day before and even that same morning if it's an afternoon floorwalk. And always dangle some kind of "carrot" in the email to make being available worth their while – for instance, I write something like "I will be showing you X, a good alternative when you can't find the precedents you need on Y". Moreover, if you produce a regular LIS bulletin, use it to promote your upcoming floorwalks.

* Pursue – Naturally you’ll need to follow up the floorwalk. Typically, having had a resource highlighted to them, a fee earner will confess that they’re having trouble with an alert or they can't access an essential legal database. Pursue these issues promptly, keep your PSLs and your LIS colleagues updated where necessary, and get back to fee earners as soon as possible with a resolution - like justice, it's important that LIS is seen to be active.

Floorwalking can feed back into the broader LIS training programme, identifying topics and tasks around which resources or sessions can be designed. For instance, during one floorwalk a fee earner admitted she was struggling to find tax tribunal decisions - we have since incorporated tribunals into our case research training and guides.

What I like most about floorwalking is that, when delivered systematically and well, it becomes a positive advertisement for the Library and Information Service. We are seen to be vital and dynamic rather than shy and retiring; visibly part of the firm rather than apart from it. It demonstrates – quite literally – how we can have a direct impact on helping fee earners to work better and smarter.


Lisa Sabbage is a training and information specialist at a London law firm. After 20 years as a journalist, she retrained and has now worked in law libraries for seven years. She is particularly interested in electronic resources, knowledge management, research skills and legal information training. She likes crime fiction and politics, although she sometimes finds it hard to distinguish between the two.

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