Changing Data, Evolving Librarians

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 23, Number 2 (November/December 2018), pgs. 12-15.

By Zena Applebaum, Director of Professional Firm & Corporate Segments with
Thomson Reuters in Canada

For many years, I have advocated for law librarians to be actively engaged in firm  initiatives in competitive intelligence, knowledge management, business development research, and other areas of law firm administration that are increasingly becoming
important to a firm’s ability to compete. As competition in the legal world increases, firms are hiring fewer administrative professionals. The ones who are hired are expected to do more with less, take on additional responsibilities, and execute on more sophisticated projects. This necessitates not only a broadening of skill sets, but also a reimagining of roles and titles. To me, this is where librarians, especially more recent graduates with digital skills—but really any librarian with organizational, business-minded skill sets—can really add value to their law firm.

The deluge of available information is not decreasing; it is only increasing at a crazier rate each year. The amount of unstructured data, let alone the structured content that is streaming through firms at any given moment, is overwhelming. Cue the law librarians
and legal information professionals to help us make sense of the data, turn information into intelligence, and still deliver research while managing collection costs and physical spaces. Continue reading

How strong relationships and expertise aid business development with clients – a case study

Evolution_Law_Firm_Lib_ROBy Cynthia L. Brown, Director of Research Services at Littler Mendelson P.C., and Jill L. Kilgore, Research Librarian at Littler Mendelson PC.

This is chapter 8 in ARK Group’s new book The Evolution of the Law Firm Library Function and has been posted with permission from ARK Group. 

The project finds its way to the library

Most opportunities have a simple beginning: the big ideas come from identifying a need and boldly pursuing the options. This story begins with a client who had a need: in-house counsel could not field the number of calls they were receiving daily. The calls from human resource professionals were valid and required legal advice, but the legal department was being overwhelmed. In addition to simply responding to the question at hand, the client wanted to understand the types of calls they were receiving and what information was sent out to the business units. They needed help providing the advice, but they also wanted to capture the types of questions asked and any subsequent data created through the process. This client started by approaching their shareholder, who knew to reach out to the knowledge management department, whose chief knowledge officer saw a role for the library. The legal services portion of the project was arranged in a traditional format by the attorneys answering client phone calls and providing advice, but a system was needed to gather, organize, and synthesize the information shared between the client and attorneys. Utilizing existing technology, the library developed a tracking system for each call and a means of categorizing the resulting data. The library saw an opportunity to utilize unique librarian proficiencies and enrich the final work product provided to the client. This case study will show the reader the evolution of the project and how the library identified the need and initiated the pursuit. Continue reading

Data-Driven Decision-Making: Getting Started with Reference Tracking Systems & Data Analytics

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 23, Number 1 (September/October 2018), pgs. 20-23.

By Amy Atchison, Associate Law Librarian for Public Services at the University of California Irvine School of Law Library, and June H. Liebert, Firmwide Director of Library & Research Services at Sidley Austin LLP

We both started as research librarians at the University of California Los Angeles Law Library more than 20 years ago. Back then, we tracked reference desk requests each day with tick marks on a sheet of paper. We refer to this now as “data gathering for dummies.” While this simple method recorded the number of requests in a given time period, it provided almost zero value (how often do tick marks ever get aggregated?), and we lost the most useful information, such as the questions and the answers.

Faculty submitted requests almost exclusively via email or phone back then, which is still true today. Our biggest innovation at the time was to print each unassigned faculty request and tape it to an old file cabinet with the idea that a visual of our growing workload would encourage us to take more requests. The unintended effect was group avoidance of the file cabinet and a de facto game of chicken with the faculty requests.

Time passed and things got better. Although we now work at two very different  institutions—a law school and a law firm—both of our libraries must run efficiently and cost-effectively while still exceeding our users’ expectations. One way we accomplish this is by tracking research requests in an online system that provides us with the data we need to better understand our users, staff, and organizations. Continue reading

AALL Annual Meeting Session Recap: Powered by AI, Built in the Law Library

By Kristen M. Hallows, Bricker & Eckler LLP

Fastcase CEO Ed Walters has had enough with the magic and the unicorns and the hype surrounding artificial intelligence, or AI.  He urged attendees at the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) session, “Powered by AI, Built in the Law Library,” to think of AI like pivot tables in Excel:  they’re just tools.  They’re not magic, but they can be to those who don’t understand them.

He began by sharing a few hilarious examples of the limitations of AI.  Is it a Shar-Pei, or is it soft serve?  AI doesn’t know!  It can’t differentiate between the two.  And, whatever you do, don’t expect appealing names for paint colors from AI.  Stoner Blue might seem appropriate for your teenager’s room, but can you imagine taking home a color sample by the name of Bank Butt?  How about a light brown named Turdly?

So, AI is good at some things and not good at others.  When it works, we stop calling it AI.  You may not identify it as such, but AI is “baked into” some very common tools law firms and libraries probably use every day, such as spellcheck and Google Translate.

Ed refers to the first wave of AI, where we are currently, as “read only” AI.  What’s coming is the second wave, which he calls “read/write” AI.  It’s a much cooler phase in which we get to go from consumer AI to maker AI.  Maker AI presents a new suite of tools that information professionals can use to provide more customized and actionable information to attorneys and firm administrators.  Whereas traditional legal research services offer the same data to all users, maker AI lets information professionals create their own datasets and extract results unique to them.  These results can provide insights to help structure alternative fee arrangements or to help inform litigation strategy or settlement decisions.

Take the Fastcase AI Sandbox.  The AI Sandbox was designed to empower people.  It’s a set of secure servers with datasets and metadata from Fastcase, coupled with an extensive suite of AI tools.  Law firms or law schools can combine the Fastcase data with in-house data.  Once you have your desired dataset, you can query it and get results out.  For example, you can load a set of judicial opinions and get personality insights out–a judge’s preferences or tendencies.  Using Docket Alarm’s new tool, you can create your own analytics on a subset of documents, such as mandamus petitions in Texas.  Upload your own data and crunch it!  And you can build your own apps with Neota Logic, rules-driven software with built-in decision tree logic.

Legal information professionals can drive this new read/write AI.  Law librarians can build things with AI now, not just create reports, and some librarians are already doing it.  Continue reading

Three Takeaways from Above the Law’s David Lat on “The State of Biglaw and the Evolving Role of the Law Librarian”

David Lat, editor-at-large for Above the Law, attended this year’s AALL Annual Meeting and wrote an article offering three takeaways from Monday’s session on “The State of Biglaw and the Evolving Role of the Law Librarian.”  The session featured a panel comprised of Lee Bernstein, Library Manager at Haynes and Boone; Joseph Keslar, Director of Library Services at Blank Rome; and Steve Kovalan, Senior Analyst at ALM Intelligence. Rob Alston, Senior Director of Legal Intelligence Sales at ALM Intelligence, moderated the panel.  According to the article, “Kovalan outlined six trends that he has been seeing in Biglaw and expects to continue:

1. The emergence of areas of intense competition between firms.
2. More consolidation of law firms (aka “merger mania”).
3. Continuing increase in the sophistication — and demands — of corporate law departments.
4. Growing importance of investment in technology.
5. Growing importance of firm management (i.e., firm success will be determined in significant part by firms’ ability to execute on their strategic plans).
6. Greater collaboration across different types of vendors.”

Lat’s three quick takeaways on what this changing environment means for law librarians included ensuring that they’re “getting adequate recognition for their contributions to firm success.”   He also thought “law librarians and library departments need to be flexible, unafraid of making changes when necessary,” and that they “need to make sure they have the resources needed to do their jobs.”  Resources would include “both adequate staffing and a budget sufficient to cover subscriptions to all necessary services — which are proliferating, thanks to the explosive growth in the world of legal technology.”

On Sunday night, David participated in an event called The Tech-Savvy Law Librarian, and “interviewed Dean Sonderegger, Vice President and General Manager at Wolters Kluwer (and Above the Law columnist), about the changing role of the law librarian in Biglaw — and what librarians can do to evolve along with their duties. He outlined several ways that librarians can add value to their organizations during a period of flux for the legal industry.”

Read the entire article on Above the Law.