AALL Executive Leadership Institute: Listening a Key Component of Leadership

By Maureen Burns, Research Services Manager, Godfrey & Kahn

I recently had the privilege of attending the recent American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Executive Leadership Institute, which was held on July 28-29, 2021, following the AALL Annual Meeting. Thank you to the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) Grants Committee for the opportunity to learn, grow, and connect at the Institute.

The Institute provided relevant and timely leadership-related sessions, covering topics such as inclusive communication, collaboration, driving change during transitional times, and the integration of wellness into leadership.  Communication was a common thread throughout the one and a half-day Institute, coming up both in the excellent presentations and in small group discussions.  The word that kept coming to my mind as I heard each of the presentations and participated in discussions with my fellow attendees was “listen”.

While discussing inclusive communication and how to move from conscious bias to conscious inclusion, Dr. Daisy Lovelace presented us with ideas to help lead us to an inclusive mindset, recognizing that teams diverse in identity, background, and experiences lead to better problem solving.  One element Dr. Lovelace talked about was listening to understand, validate, and offer support. As librarians trained in the art of the reference interview, we are accustomed to asking questions in order to solve a problem.  When someone we lead comes to us with an issue, we should validate their feelings and seek to understand.  Listening, without fixing, is important in today’s world where often stress-inducing change is a part of our everyday lives.

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AALL Annual Meeting Session Recap- Legal Deserts in America: What is Meaningful Access to Justice for All?

Stephanie Huffnagle, a faculty member at Erie Community College in Buffalo, NY, was one of this year’s recipients of a Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) grant for the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting.  Stephanie wrote the following recap.

“Legal Deserts in America: What is Meaningful Access to Justice for All” proved to be an informative and worthwhile session. The session not only provided statistics on the current state of affairs in terms of lack of access to legal services, but also highlighted the reasons behind this reality and presented concrete examples of programs aiming to fill the justice gaps throughout the country.  The presenters were all stakeholders in the battle for justice for all, and they provided their first-hand insight into the issue of legal deserts.  

Lisa Pruitt, Professor of Law at UC Davis, discussed her research, which served as the backbone to the legal desert information in the 2020 ABA Profile on the Legal Profession.  The findings of Lisa and her research team echo and expand on the idea of the justice gap, showing specifically where the gaps exist based on the number of attorneys at the county level.  Lisa explained that legal deserts are those counties where there are either no lawyers, or only one to two lawyers.  The research shows that 40% of counties have less than one lawyer per 1,000 people.

While Lisa focused on the why and some general tools to respond to the situation, her colleagues discussed ongoing recruitment and training programs designed to combat lack of access and legal deserts.  

Suzanne Starr, Director of Policy and Legal Services at South Dakota Rural Recruitment Program, outlined South Dakota’s response to the issue.  South Dakota initiated a rural attorney recruitment program back in 2013.  This is based on a financial incentive to get attorneys into rural areas.  It was interesting to hear how the program was started and to recognize the influence that one person/a small group of people can have by being change agents.

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Retirement During a Pandemic

By Loretta Orndorff, Director of Library Services, Retired from Cozen O’Connor in February 2021 and Recipient of the 2021 PLLIP Hall of Fame Award

Retirement at any time is anticipated, planned for, worried about, and then I think the inevitable just happens. Most people who retire, usually do so only once although a dear friend’s husband, George, retired 3 or 4 times!  As he passed his mid-70s and lost his eyesight, he retired from his church.  Within a year or so he was called to be minister of another church.  After retiring from that second church he was called back into ministry at another church or two before his last retirement finally stuck.  George was a Master Retirerer! 

I am happy to retire only once.  Retiring during a respiratory pandemic was certainly not anything I could have imagined!  When I set my retirement date for February 1, 2021, and started to think about winding down and cleaning up from working almost 24 years as a Library Director at Cozen O’Connor, my most remote guess of the cause of professional, societal, and personal upheaval would have been an approaching world-wide Pandemic. 

As I planned my retirement pre-Pandemic, I realized it would be an abrupt change from the office routine and a cutting off of the normal daily interactions. My big disruption happened almost one year prior to my actual retirement.  The sudden and unexpected lack of normal collegial interactions was further compounded by the changes in normal social behaviors and activities that round out the other parts of our lives.  Thankfully my library work did not slow down.  The work load coupled with concerns for my family and friends, pushed thoughts of my upcoming retirement aside until late 2020.

My Firm sent us home to work remotely on March 17, 2020.  Within about three days our fabulous computer department had almost everyone up and running.  While the switch over felt seamless to most of us, it certainly could not have felt easy to our computer department who worked tirelessly till everyone was settled into WFH mode.  The order to leave the office was so abrupt that people only had time to grab their laptop and a very few work items that were not already incorporated into a database.  In the scurry to get safely home, everything was left behind, personal belongings and any non-mobile equipment were simply left in place.  Certainly the situation would be under control in the not too distant future…right?  When I returned to clear out my office fifteen months after the order to WFH, things were mostly as I left them with a few additional piles left by the mail room.  The most impactful strangeness of my office was the lack of people, the audible hum of the HVAC system which ordinarily would have been obscured by the hubbub of activity, and the very odd feeling of settled quietness which cemented the profoundness of what had happened to us all.

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AALL Virtual Conference Recap: Speakers, Panelists Highlight Inclusion and Diversity Efforts

See the link below for a wrap up of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) 2021 virtual conference, titled “Leading with Wisdom & Insight”.  Authored by Thomas Lang, Senior Legal Analyst at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory, U.S., the wrap up highlights some of the educational sessions and key trends you might have missed at this year’s AALL annual meeting.  Thomas hones in on some of the diversity and inclusion themes in particular, and provides a great summary of Tina Tchen’s keynote address.  Tina Tchen currently “serves as president and CEO of TIME’S UP Now and the TIME’S UP Foundation, overseeing the organizations’ strategic plans to change culture, companies, and laws in order to make work safe, fair, and dignified for women of all kinds”, according to the TIME’S UP staff page.  Prior to joining TIME’S UP, she worked in the White House under the Obama administration and worked as a lawyer specializing in workplace culture.  

Read Thomas Lang’s article–Strategic Perspectives:  AALL Virtual Conference Speakers, Panelists Outline Inclusion and Diversity Efforts in Workplace, Legal Profession (Wolters Kluwer, July 2021)