10 Ways Data Science Can Help Law Librarians

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 25, Number 5 (May/June 2021), pgs. 16-19.

By Sarah Lin, Information Architect & Digital Librarian at RStudio, PBC

As law librarians, many of us scrutinize the data we have access to with Excel and out-of-the-box visualization tools. Whether that data is from docket activity, research databases, websites, or online catalogs, what we have can generally be described as “usage data.” But what one skill set would allow us to do so much more with that data, to better understand and communicate what our users are doing and what they need? Enter, data science.

Broadly speaking, data science brings opportunities to work more quickly and easily with data. It provides better reporting formats by incorporating outside data from various sources, and can even turn text into data that can be displayed visually. Even though legal information isn’t always associated with data, science, or data science, data science skills enable law librarians to do their jobs with greater efficiency. With data science skills, we are able to show new value for our teams and organizations, so it is definitely worth the time invested.

Even in a year when time has been both condensed and stretched (when many of us picked up new hobbies, such as baking), learning to code for just one use case, such as replacing Excel as a data analysis tool, doesn’t make sense. Luckily, data science skills are useful for more than just data manipulation, and learning to code allows you to provide many more use cases than just creating better data visualizations for management. Cooking is a useful metaphor for data science: while it’s completely possible to eat take-out, frozen food, box mixes, and cereal for dinner, you can actually create healthier meals with the right tools, enhanced cooking skills, and a better understanding of ingredients. For example, pre-cut vegetables are available in grocery stores, but a chef ’s knife and some practice allow you to customize any meal you make as well as lower costs. Similarly, while you can do your job with Excel and a commercial tool such as Tableau or PowerBI, learning to do data science opens a window of opportunities to new and improved skills that do more than just create improved graphics for reports or budget projections.

The following 10 data science skills and techniques, along with descriptions of the amazing deliverables that are associated with them, are listed in a progressive skill-building sequence, and they will provide you with a fully stocked data science kitchen. Keep in mind that the examples in this article focus on the R programming language, even though data science can also be done in Python (which has similar and sometimes compatible resources for you to use). The power of data science using R or Python comes from the powerful skills and techniques they enable you to use to transform how you work with data in your day to-day job. It’s time to graduate from Excel and start cooking with gas!

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Brief Analyzer Tools in Law Firms: Evaluation, Implementation & Attorney Adoption

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 25, Number 5 (May/June 2021), pgs. 22-24.

By Cara Henley Johnson, Library Manager for O’Melveny and Myers

The modern law firm library has a plethora of brief analyzing tools at the fingertips of librarians, attorneys, and staff. While the major vendors have created their own brief analyzers, they are not all the same, and some have qualities that may be better for different users within your firm. A survey of law librarians from the Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals Special Interest Section (PLLIP-SIS) was made available via their listserv for this article. There were 23 responders, about half from large firms and half from medium and smaller firms. Many of the respondents are not the managers of the brief analyzing tools within their law firm. Frequently, a knowledge management or attorney manager professional works with the attorneys to evaluate, implement, and even train on brief analyzer tools. It could be a growth area for law firm libraries to provide more assistance or manage this particular area as it is so tightly integrated into existing research tools.

Following is a short overview of four brief analyzing tools and how to help your firm appropriately learn and use the tools.

Westlaw Quick Check

Revealed at the 2019 American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting, Westlaw Quick Check is only available on Westlaw Edge. Law firms must subscribe to Westlaw Edge in order to get access to this brief analyzer, so the return on investment (ROI) calculation will vary from one firm to another. The majority of PLLIP-SIS responders to the brief analyzing tool survey use Quick Check and felt it was the most accurate.

If Westlaw Edge is a firm’s preferred platform, then adopting this product might be easier than with some of the other tools. Attorneys can drag and drop their briefs into the system after also having conducted research per their normal workflow. This could decrease training time, as they are familiar with the look and feel of Thomson Reuters products, including Westlaw and Practical Law. In this case, in-house training may be easy to implement, whether a firm is working remotely or in person. However, if implementing Edge and Quick Check at the same time with a new upgrade, vendor assistance may be useful. With Westlaw Edge being used in law schools, law students who may have researched within Edge, but not used Quick Check, could be trained just on this part of the platform.

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PLLIP Diversity Summit 2021: Using Personalized Experiences to Apply DE&I Initiatives in Your Library

By: Ana Ramirez Toft-Nielsen, Research Attorney; Jill L. Kilgore, Research Librarian; and Autumn Collier, Assistant Librarian II, at Littler Mendelson, P.C.

Our experience attending the virtual 2021 Diversity Summit was unexpected and invaluable. Each of us left with surprise takeaways, including some that hit close to home. In particular, the panel and breakout sessions provided us with more than one perspective or dialogue on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We agreed that these personalized sessions made this a reflective experience. The personal stories were affecting—whether allowing us to relate to someone else’s experience, or by showing us a glimpse of what marginalized groups experience regularly. Being aware is a priority, but what’s next? As individuals, we should evaluate how to apply our experiences from the 2021 PLLIP Diversity Summit. What actionable steps is your workplace taking? What actionable steps are you taking? Let this be one phase in your progress toward change.

Leading where you are

We can lead in this work from where we are by identifying the initiatives and commitments made to DE&I at our institutions. We all work at Littler, where leadership supports Diversity, Inclusion and Equity opportunities for our library department. Examples of opportunities include attending conferences such as this Diversity Summit, internal initiatives, and organizational involvement. For this Summit, our director provided the team with the program’s information, supported the registration costs, and provided us with coverage for our daily work, enabling us to focus solely on the conference. When a call to write was sent out, we were urged to write about our experience. With other conferences, such as the AALL Leadership Management Institute, we were encouraged to attend, and offered guidance and assistance with alternative ways to reimburse our costs or help in applying for grants. This encouragement and financial support made us feel empowered to learn and grow. We have the latitude to reflect on these experiences and bring back what we learn to our team.

Within the “walls” of our library, opportunities for open dialogue and professional development abound. We can subscribe to newsletters, including a Littler library-curated weekly newsletter with a DE&I section. We have round-table discussions on a rotation of topics in our book club; this month we are taking time to discuss our experience at the Summit and share with our colleagues.

Our leadership wants us to take an active role to further Littler’s overall Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals. Many of our team members are involved in special interest or other professional organizations. Given the uniqueness of our library department, we have the option to attend development opportunities offered not only by AALL, but also by the American Library Association, local chapters, the International Legal Technology Association, and many other professional organizations. These experiences allow us to bring back new knowledge to team members who might not make that step. We can increase awareness and open discussions in our team meetings, book clubs, and newsletters. The work is ongoing. We will continue to explore DE&I initiatives and continue the conversation that brought us to the Diversity Summit.

Additionally, firm initiatives such as Littler’s Volunteerism Program provide a means for employees to voluntarily participate in social justice opportunities. Employees donate their time, and in exchange, Littler will make a monetary donation to an organization of the employee’s choice. Messages of support flow from the Managing Director and are always accompanied with personal growth and learning opportunities.

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Leader Profile of Kim Nayyer: Building Bridges and Amplifying Voices

We are continuing our coverage of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) inaugural Diversity Summit, hosted in conjunction with the Black Law Librarians (BLL) Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). The Summit’s theme was “From Difficult Conversations to Collaborative Action”, and the session, “Diversity Shares: Listen to Learn”, featured three members of the law library community as panellists, Ramon Barajas, Catherine Deane and Kim Nayyer.

This profile is on Kim Nayyer, Edward Cornell Law Librarian, Associate Dean for Library Services, and Professor of the Practice at Cornell Law School. Previously, she was Associate University Librarian, Director of the Law Library, and Adjunct Associate Professor at University of Victoria in Canada. Before joining academia, Kim worked for many years as a research lawyer and information specialist at an appellate court and in small and large private law firms in Edmonton, Calgary, and Toronto, Canada.

Answers compiled by Megan Moltrup, Librarian at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Washington, DC.

What is your role at your institution?

I oversee the Cornell Law School library and serve on the administration team of the Law School. My law library is one of few in the US law school landscape to be administered by a university library system in conjunction with its law school. I see my role as a bridge-builder and an advocate, ensuring responsible administration of law library spaces, resources, services, and staff, and upholding of my ABA accountabilities in our legal education program. As a Professor of the Practice, I also teach credit-bearing courses in the Cornell Law School JD, LLM, and MSLS programs.

What has been the biggest single change you have seen in the industry? And what changes do you see ahead?

Since I began either legal practice or legal information practice, I’ve seen many changes, several of them pretty big and influential. The single biggest one I can identify, though, is one that we’re in the midst of right now. This is the immense amount of data—legal data, practice and operational data, user-generated data. Information professionals have understood for some time that we can extract value from data to make better operational decisions, to support our colleagues and organizations, and to make better predictive legal analyses in support of our clients. The significant influence of data we’re still wrestling with, is the impact of the vast amounts of real-world data and how they influence the innumerable machine-manipulated tools and resources we use daily. The influences are difficult for our users and communities to see, for information professionals to discern, and—increasingly—for even developers to know and address.

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Member Profile of Catherine Deane: A Servant-Leader, Focused on Facilitating Change and Empowering Others

We are continuing our coverage of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) inaugural Diversity Summit, hosted in conjunction with the Black Law Librarians (BLL) Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). The Summit’s theme was “From Difficult Conversations to Collaborative Action”, and the session, “Diversity Shares: Listen to Learn”, featured three members of the law library community as panellists, Ramon Barajas, Catherine Deane and Kim Nayyer.

This profile is on Catherine Deane, who goes by Deane, and uses the pronouns they/them. Deane has been a law librarian for over 10 years. Most of their career has been in major cities in California. They also spent 4 years working at Vanderbilt Law Library in Nashville, TN. They have experience in both the academic law library and a law firm library environment and they are currently available for management or senior positions at law libraries in California. They have recently become a facilitator for Come Abide Here LLC, a provider of racial intelligence coaching to White members of diversity, equity, and inclusion committees, strategic planning committees, and other organizational leadership groups that seek to achieve true effectiveness and transformation around diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organizations.

Answers compiled by Megan Moltrup, Librarian at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Washington, DC.

What is your role at your dream job?

My dream job at the moment would be a management position. I would love the opportunity to create a culture of respect for human dignity at work. I would like to foster a workplace where you can bring your whole self to work and where I play a servant-leader role, ensuring that everyone has the support and autonomy they need to do their best work.

How has your role as a facilitator impacted you?

On the weekly podcast that I do with Bathabile Mthombeni of Come Abide Here, we strive to be welcoming and accessible. We are in service to the White community of individuals who choose to do the tough inner work necessary to effectuate lasting and impactful change.

I feel grateful for this opportunity to be the change that I want to see in the world. There have always been White people fighting alongside other races for racial equality. It is a gift to get to support them in their evolution and to empower them to shift paradigms. We offer a dinner conversation where they can express in a safe container their feelings about race based on their personal experiences. They may arrive at the dinner believing that they are allies in our fight. My only goal is to provide guidance so that they can move towards a paradigm where they see that the same systems that oppress marginalized communities, also oppress them. So this is just as much their fight as ours.

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