Law Librarians: Keeping The Industry Honest

Reposted with permission from Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites

By Robert Ambrogi

I’ve just returned from a much-too-brief visit to the annual conference of the American Association of Law Libraries in Baltimore. Although the conference started Saturday, family obligations kept me away until Monday. Then yesterday, flight cancellations along the east coast had me scrambling for a route home, forcing me to leave much earlier than I’d planned to catch the Amtrak to Boston.

Pretty much all I managed to do, therefore, was explore the exhibit hall and speak with vendors there.  From my vantage point, that’s a good thing. As I wrote after last year’s conference, AALL’s annual convention has evolved into one of the leading conferences for legal technology.

The reason for this is partly due to the evolving role of the law librarian. Back in 2014, I wrote about the changing role of law librarians, concluding, “To my mind, there has never been a more exciting or important time to be a legal information professional.” Four years later, that is even more true. As I said in last year’s post, law librarians wear an increasing number of hats these days, and a major one is legal technologist.

Hand in hand with the changing role of law librarians is the fact that information science itself is being radically transformed by technology. The buzzwords permeating this conference were the same you’ll hear at any legal technology conference — artificial intelligence, analytics, blockchain. But this is buzz with real substance behind it. Advances in technology are driving advances in legal research and even redefining the meaning and scope of what we’ve traditionally considered legal research to be.

In this regard, it says something about the state of innovation in law that prominent among those showing off leading-edge technologies at AALL were two of the industry’s most-established companies — Thomson Reuters with its AI-powered Westlaw Edge and LexisNexis with its new Lexis Analytics suite.

I was able to catch up with both companies at AALL and also see more of two new LexisNexis products, Context, which rolls out in September and will help lawyers understand what language judges find most persuasive, and Lexis Search Advantage | Transactional Powered by Intelligize, which is now available and allows firms to mine rich information out of internal document collections. (See this post for more.)

I also got the chance to see a demo of another new product I recently wrote about, the Analytics Workbench from Fastcase and its recently acquired docket-tracking company Docket Alarm. The idea of the Workbench is to allow legal professionals to build their own bespoke litigation analytics across any court, practice area or litigation event.

Visually, the analytics you create in Workbench look like Docket Alarm’s existing analytics product, PTAB Predictive Analytics. The difference is that these same analytics can be applied to virtually any court or type of docket activity. (Docket Alarm includes all federal dockets but is limited in its coverage of state dockets.) Michael Sander, Docket Alarm’s founder and CEO, said the goal is to make it easy for attorneys to create custom analytics, without requiring sophisticated tech expertise.

Wandering the exhibit hall, I was able to get updates from several companies I’m familiar with and make introductions with several I had not seen before. There will be more to come on this blog about some of those companies.

But something I heard over and over again from the vendors at AALL mirrors what I said above about the changing role of law librarians. Law librarians get it, the vendors said. They understand the importance of technology in advancing the legal profession, and they are more likely than other legal professionals to understand the mechanics of technology, to be able to get under the hood and size up whether a product is what it claims to be.

We see this at law firms, where law librarians are often the gatekeepers for new technology, helping to vet and evaluate products before their firms plunk down precious dollars. We see this at law schools, where law librarians are often at the forefront of pushing for teaching and program initiatives in technology innovation and competence. We see this in court systems and government agencies, where law librarians are often helping to lead the charge for expanding access to justice. Continue reading

Tune In to The Geek in Review (and Geek Out with 2 Legal Information Professionals)

Earlier this week, we highlighted Saskia Mehlhorn, who will be presenting at three AALL sessions.  Today, we’re highlighting two other very active private law librarians and information professionals who will be taking part in this year’s AALL Annual Meeting—Marlene Gebauer, Director of Knowledge Solutions at Greenberg Traurig LLP, and Greg Lambert, Chief Knowledge Services Officer at Jackson Walker, and outgoing AALL president.

Greg started the popular and long-running 3 Geeks and a Law Blog about ten years ago with Toby Brown and Lisa Sophia Salazar, and he and Marlene Gebauer recently launched an accompanying podcast, The Geek in Review. Their first episode featured competitive intelligence guru Zena Applebaum, who offered insights on life as a “non” (as in non-lawyer, or even non-librarian) at a law firm.

Next, Greg and Marlene delved into Casetext’s development and vision with Casetext founder Pablo Arredondo. They also discussed the market for legal information startups generally, the next wave of legal tech, and the role librarians play in vetting new offerings.  Cas Laskowski of Duke Law School, and of the Firebrand Lib blog, was interviewed for their third airing.  The interview with Cas was a follow-up to her April blog post about impact-conscious design models.

Most recently, Marlene hosted former lawyer and knowledge management professional Ayelette Robinson, who now has a career in acting and production.  Marlene and Ayelette discussed how acting, voice-over and/or improv training can benefit professionals generally, and the importance of being yourself in your professional interactions.

You can listen to the podcast on Anchor, anchor.fm/geekinreview, or on iTunes, itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-geek-in-review.

Episode 1:  Living the “Non” Life in Law Firms

Episode 2:  Being a Legal Information Startup

Episode 3:  Let’s Discuss Impact-Conscious Design

Episode 4:  Understanding How to Place the Focus on Others

You can also follow Greg and Marlene on Twitter:
Greg Lambert (@glambert) and Marlene Gebauer (@gebauerm)

At the conference, Greg will participate in a TED-style format session, “TEDAALL: Library Leaders Share Their Ethics Stories and Challenges.”  Library leaders will give short TED-style presentations discussing important ethical issues in library research, technology, human resources, data management, and other services.

Marlene will be participating in The Tech-Savvy Law Librarian, an event hosted by Above the Law and the Evolve the Law community that is taking place Sunday evening at SPARK Baltimore. David Lat, founder and managing editor of Above the Law, and Dean Sonderegger, Vice President and General Manager for Legal Markets and Innovation at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S., will discuss “How Can Law Librarians Drive the Future of Law Practice.”  Their conversation will be followed by two-minute elevator pitches from legal tech innovators, followed by four minutes of Q&A from David and Marlene. Innovators pitching will include CasetextCourtroom Insight, and SimplyAgree.

We Want Your Knowledge! Modern Law Firm Libraries Take an Innovative Approach to Managing and Delivering Knowledge

With the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) 2018 Annual Meeting starting at the end of this week, we wanted to highlight some of the private law librarians and information professionals who will present at the conference.

Saskia Mehlhorn, Director of Knowledge Management and Library Services, U.S., at Norton Rose Fulbright, is committed to uncovering and extracting knowledge at her firm and making it accessible. Saskia discussed her team’s role recently with Gregg Wirth of Thomson Reuters’ Legal Executive Institute and highlighted how law firm libraries of today have moved beyond traditional print and electronic resource management, and into the content and knowledge management business.

According to Saskia, “Knowledge originates from a law firm’s internal experience and work. Also, you have what’s contained in documents, what’s been written about in presentations and other similar products. Those things will always be a part of any law firm, because lawyers – and the legal profession in general – are based upon the written word. In the last few years, US law firms have reevaluated knowledge management and realized the opportunities it presents.”  The Legal Executive Institute article (part 1 and part 2) focuses on the collaboration and innovation needed for successful utilization of the various forms of knowledge intrinsic to a global law firm.

Saskia, who is the incoming Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect for AALL’s Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) group, was also recently profiled in the association’s AALL Spectrum.  In that profile, she elaborates on how librarians’ roles and knowledge management are evolving with technology advancements.  She also discusses the time-saving role a chatbot can play in the delivery of library services. Below is an excerpt, reposted with permission, from AALL Spectrum, Volume 22, Number 6 (July/August 2018), pgs. 34-36.

“Why is a comprehensive knowledge management system important for firms?

Any law firm, whether it is a solo practitioner or a 4,000-lawyer global firm, has within its systems a tremendous amount of collective knowledge. So instead of asking why it’s important, we should ask, “Why not make use of that knowledge?”

A comprehensive system is a key to the holy grail. All knowledge that has been accumulated is readily available for retrieval and allows law firms to work efficiently and consistently at a high level for their clients.

How has knowledge management changed over the years and how do you anticipate it will continue to change?

Knowledge management hasn’t really changed all that much. When we think of knowledge, it’s really to communicate past experiences—we transcribe them, preserve them, and then make them available. That is how we still handle it today. In the past, it was oftentimes all about the books. Someone would go to a book shelf, grab a book, get the knowledge out of the book, and move on. Now we aren’t constrained to use only the printed format, because everything is also available online, which makes it easier to retrieve the knowledge. As we move forward, we won’t be solely relying on the ability to retrieve knowledge and make results come back faster. In the future, we will be able to use systems that combine knowledge that is available in any given repository with ideas, thoughts, and concepts, whether they are articles or seminars, so you are better able to find a solution to whatever problems arise.”

You are presenting a program at the 2018 AALL Annual Meeting on building a chatbot. What do you find most exciting about its potential? Any challenges or surprises?

I’m most excited about the use of chatbots when it comes to carrying out tasks that are critical but also very time-consuming. In my department, we are currently working on a chatbot that could replace the reference interview. The reference interview is something that is necessary—oftentimes because people don’t necessarily know what they want and they need you to guide them through the process—but it’s a time-consuming process. As we move forward with exploring this chatbot technology, we will develop a number of solutions that allow us to transfer time-consuming tasks to a chatbot, so that the information professional who works behind the chatbot can work on more intricate issues at hand.

The biggest challenge I have come across is actually finding the time to work on the chatbot. While there is a lot of potential and time-saving capability with the creation of this chatbot, it takes quite some time to concentrate on it to make the project successful. The hardest part is freeing up available time: We have so many requests to respond to throughout the normal workday, that finding additional time to create a time-saving chatbot is time-consuming in and of itself.”

Saskia will be presenting on both knowledge management and chatbots at the upcoming AALL Annual Meeting, which will take place in Baltimore from July 13-17, 2018.

Give Me Your Knowledge!

Speakers: Saskia Mehlhorn (Norton Rose Fulbright), Connie Crosby (Crosby Group Consulting)

One of the major issues in any organization is the danger of knowledge walking out the door every time someone leaves, whether due to job changes, retirement, or other reasons. Over the past decades, many organizations have undergone hardware and software system changes. One area, however, is often overlooked-the knowledge that exists in people’s heads and was never put on paper, the so-called, “tacit knowledge.” This program will define tacit knowledge and explore at least three methods to extract and deliver tacit knowledge to future users.

From Concept to Deliverable: Build Your Own Law Library Chatbot

SpeakersSaskia Mehlhorn (Norton Rose Fulbright), Robert Brammer (Law Library of Congress)

In October 2017, the Law Library of Congress attached a chatbot to its Facebook page. This chatbot connects patrons to research guides, foreign law reports, and primary sources of law that are available on the Law Library of Congress blog, In Custodia Legis, and its website, Law.gov. This presentation will discuss the application of AI to law, what a chatbot is, how a chatbot can be used by law libraries, how to build a chatbot that requires no programming knowledge, mistakes to avoid when building a chatbot, how to maintain a chatbot so it is responsive to patrons’ needs, and methods to evaluate a chatbot’s performance.

3 Tech-Savvy Ways Law Librarians Can Shake Up the Status Quo

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 22, Number 6 (July/August 2018), pgs. 46-48.

How law librarians can use technology to increase efficiency and effectiveness in their day-to-day responsibilities

By Ellyssa Kroski, Director of Information Technology, New York Law Institute

Today’s new technology enables librarians to stay organized, plan intriguing events, and even develop their own applications without any specialized knowledge or previous technology experience. By taking advantage of everything that web-based software and apps have to offer, tech-savvy librarians can wow colleagues while increasing their efficiency and effectiveness in their day-to-day work lives. Below are three ways that librarians can become cutting-edge and shake up the status quo. Continue reading

Spotlight on Innovation in Law Firm Knowledge Management

pic3766Marlene Gebauer, Director of Knowledge Solutions at Greenberg Traurig, LLP, works to foster innovative solutions and to encourage adoption of new tools and services. She took some time to discuss knowledge management and innovation and challenges faced by the legal industry in these areas.

What is your role at your law firm?

I am the Director of Knowledge Solutions and oversee global Knowledge Management (including R&D on new tools and services), Research and Intelligence, Licensing and Contract Negotiation, Outreach and Education, and Library teams. I am also a leader in our firm-wide innovation initiative team.  The team consists of attorneys, executive management and select department directors and is charged with popularizing adoption of innovative solutions and promoting a culture of innovation as part of the normal course of business at the firm.

What do you believe is the value you and your department bring to your firm?

First and foremost, I think we are a cohesive department and function as such. Although our Knowledge Solutions teams don’t always overlap in work performed, we make it a priority to keep department members informed of what other teams are doing and to cross train, so we can best serve our clients. Our teams’ connections to other firm departments and practice groups allow us to share updates on activities and projects going on throughout the firm and to ensure alignment. Any special initiatives are always a cross-team effort—someone handles project management/logistics, someone tackles outreach materials and education, and someone focuses on metrics and analysis. This process strengthens relationships and builds knowledge within the department and ultimately results in more successful initiatives.

I work with an amazing group of people.  We are a mixed bag—attorneys, technicians, analysts, and data professionals—which strengthens the knowledge base of the department and broadens our scope.   Members of our department bring inspiration, perspiration, creativity, business insight, problem solving and relationship building to the table. They love to learn new things and share them with the people around them. We encourage this and give people opportunities for development–and encourage them to seek out their own opportunities and professional networks. Our team members are flexible, resourceful and compassionate. We encourage everyone to be leaders, regardless of title. Continue reading