The Second Oldest Legal Profession: Law Librarians: The Analytics and Algorithms of Change in the Legal C-Suite

Editor’s Note: Reposted from Dewey B Strategic with author’s permission.

By Sr. Director of Information, Research & Knowledge at DLA Piper US, LLP.

The recent AALL Annual Conference in Austin was “hands down,” the most exciting AALL Program I have ever attended. The programs were great – it was often hard to decide which panel to attend. I found my own panels  (Moneyball Analytics and Hits and Misses in New Products) up against programs that I hated to miss (the Innovation Tournament and an “all star”  CEO panel (Fastcase – Walters, Casetext – Heller, Ross – Aruda,  Ravel – Lewis) on AI and analytics prodded and provoked  by moderator Prof, Susan Nevelow Mart.

Legal Tech thought leaders Bob Ambrogi and Kevin O’Keefe were a familiar sight at the panets, events, exhibits (and the nightly Fastcase after party). Earlier this week Ambrogi lauded AALL as one of the best conferences for those interested in legal tech. Is the market finally getting what information professionals have known all along? The legal profession requires content experts to navigate the burgeoning market of AI and analytics offerings. AALL: The Other Legal Tech Conference

The Second Oldest Legal Profession

I spent time in the exhibit hall with Lexblog’s Kevin O’Keefe who commented on  the quality and variety of  panels and programs at the conference.

O’Keefe was surprised to learn that AALL had been around since 1906. In fact, in the legal community,  only the American Bar Association has an earlier founding …1878. AALL predates every other law related association by decades. It was 65 years before the Association of Legal Administrators was founded in 1971, 74 years before ILTA was founded in 1980, 79 years before the Legal Marketing Association was founded in 1985.

O’Keefe also commented on the importance of information professionals by comparison to other law firm administrative functions. “Lawyers could still practice law without technology, or marketing or administrative help, but legal information always was and remains core to the practice of law.”

O’Keefe has a point which goes beyond the core practice of law. Law firms have become complex, regional, national and multi-national organizations. Business intelligence and legal knowledge has never been more critical to the current high stakes competitive market, no one else in the firm is better qualified to assess the potential value of research products offering AI and analytics… and yet…information professionals occupy relatively few seats in the legal C-Suite compared to the technologists and marketing professionals. The person who understand the quality of information should be at the table and not down the organization chart out of ear shot.

But this may be about to change…  Continue reading

PLLIP Resource Guides: Law Firm Library Intranets

PLLIP members Julia Berry, Emily Florio, Catherine Monte, and Nola Vanhoy contributed to Law Firm Library Intranets, a resource guide created in 2015.  This guide examines how a well-designed law firm intranet serves as a powerful tool for sharing knowledge within a firm.  It delves into the library’s role in selection and design of an intranet, who’s involved in building and designing an intranet, and how to make the case to management that a robust intranet is needed.  The guide also explores the library’s role in content creation, what to include in the library portion of the intranet, how to utilize Sharepoint parts/webparts, and how to maintain and promote the intranet on an ongoing basis.  Finally, it touches on options for delivering content and making resources accessible without an intranet. Continue reading

PLLIP Resource Guides: Strategic Planning for Law Firm Libraries

The PLLIP Resource Guide, Strategic Planning for Law Firm Libraries, was created in 2015 by Anna Irvin, Natalie Lira, Saskia Melhorn, and Lindsay Carpino.  The guide focuses on why private law libraries need to develop a strategic plan, the importance of aligning the plan with the firm’s needs and goals, and how to formulate and implement a strategic plan. Below are some highlights from the introduction and from the Library Innovation & the Future section.  The full report provides a more detailed look at the strategic planning process.

From the Introduction:

The Changing Legal Market:

“As a result of the changed economy and competitive marketplace, law firms have dramatically changed the way they conduct business. Here are some of the important trends in the legal market that affect law firms and their libraries:

  • Streamlined legal services to reflect the new economic reality
  • Client-mandated changes in the way firms charge for their services
  • Increased collaboration and knowledge sharing
  • Increased globalization of law firms and their clients
  • Technological innovations in business and legal services

As the legal market becomes increasingly competitive, the pressures on library directors and staff to adapt to new business models increase as well.  Expectations have changed in terms of the library’s effectiveness, technical skills and the ability to “do more with less.” Successful librarians have adjusted the way they operate and developed new and cost-efficient ways to provide the same level of service.  The strategic planning process enables a library to conduct a critical self-evaluation and apply changes that ultimately align it with the firm’s strategic vision, changing industry trends, and clients’ heightened expectations.”

Strategic Alignment and the Benefit of Planning:

“…Economics and competition drive law firms to rethink their organizational efficiency and demand proof of value from major cost centers, such as libraries.  The AALL Report on the Economic Value of Law Libraries emphasizes the role of library directors in asserting their leadership by proactively implementing strategic processes that align with their organization’s needs and expectations.

Changing how the library serves its constituents (attorneys, staff, and clients) improves the way the law firm conducts business and can help improve the firm’s bottom line.  Librarians have insight into the information needs of the firm and of the legal industry as a whole.  They are the best evaluators of what information and resources the organization is lacking and have the skill sets to help the firm operate in a leaner fashion by engineering more efficient workflows that help create a more intelligent organization.

Key strategic areas where librarians add distinct value within law firms include:

  1. Budget/Contract Negotiation: strategic cost reduction and cost recovery, optimizing library services, electronic resources management, and copyright compliance
  2. Knowledge Management: intranet content development, expert database creation, current awareness promotion, social network development, and information security enhancement;
  3. Business Development Research: competitive intelligence, marketing support, extranet support, all geared toward growing the firm’s business;
  4. Non-Traditional Roles: embedded researchers, risk management research, compliance, and legal project management;
  5. Moves/Facilities: reducing the library’s footprint by transitioning from print to electronic resources.

Continue reading

Revisiting the PLLIP Resource Guides: The Library as a Business Development, Competitive Intelligence and Client Relations Asset for Law Firms

The Library as a Business Development, Competitive Intelligence and Client Relations Asset for Law Firms was written in 2011 as part of a series of resource guides published by the Private Law Librarians Special Interest Section of AALL.  The section has since been renamed the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals Special Interest Section to reflect the array of legal information-related positions held by its members.

From the Introduction:

“Although bringing in new clients is an important role of the marketing department, in the current legal marketplace, client retention and development have become increasingly important for attorneys and for business development and marketing professionals. A challenging economy in the late 2000’s led to a change in the way firms do business, and being able to demonstrate value to existing clients as well as new clients is crucial. The library can play a key role in business development efforts by providing timely, reliable, and well-presented information about current and potential clients, industry and legal market trends, and cross-selling opportunities.

The amount of available information can be overwhelming.  However, professional librarians are trained to find and evaluate the best resources for the content, timeliness and value of that information. By working together with attorneys and business development professionals, the library can provide the information necessary for client advisories and intranet postings, responses to RFPs (Requests for Proposals), pitches, conference materials and other publications. The challenges in the current legal marketplace make it more important than ever to find the best information in the most efficient and effective manner.

This AALL Resource Guide was developed to help law firm management understand how professional librarians can assist in marketing and business development efforts with a goal of increased revenue and profitability by:

  • creating a cross-functional team with legal staff, marketing and others in planning for marketing and business development initiatives;
  • conducting the research necessary to support those initiatives;
  • supporting the knowledge needed by the firm to compete effectively by developing proactive client-information products (advisories, alerts, intranet content);
  • monitoring and reporting on legal industry trends (new fee arrangements, flexible work schedules);
  • and maximizing information resources and eliminating redundant work efforts.”

The guide elaborates on what competitive intelligence (CI) is; provides examples of how firms use CI to make decisions, and lists examples of resources for business development & client retention by type of resource—market research, industry research, company research, people research, and current awareness tools.  The guide refers readers to their firm’s research center to find out what resources are available to them, and firms may have newer resources that weren’t available at the time this guide was written.

Contributors to this guide included Camille Reynolds, Karen Hison, Kathy Skinner, Jocelyn Stilwell, and Nina Platt.


For further reading, the September/October 2016 issue of AALL Spectrum featured an article by Zena Applebaum on “Competitive Intelligence and Your Library:  10 Best Practices.”

Also, AALL is offering a Competitive Intelligence Foundations course in Chicago on October 27, 2017.  The course is open to both members and non-members.  Topics to be covered include competitive intelligence concepts and methodology; establishing and organizing a competitive intelligence function; integrating competitive intelligence into strategic practice and firm goals, and a look at how competitive intelligence is different for law firms.

What’s In a Name?: Rebranded ALM Survey Reflects Law Librarians’ Evolving Roles

Last week, ALM released its Survey of Law Firm Knowledge Management, Library, and Research Professionals.  ALM renamed the survey, formerly known as the Law Librarians’ Survey and now in its 16th year of publication, to better reflect law librarians’ current roles and functions within their organizations.  Due to the shifting legal information landscape, law libraries and information centers have increasingly transitioned to digital resources, whether they be traditional legal research resources in online form, or newer resources capitalizing on the growing availability of data. Law librarians have utilized their organizational and analytical skills, along with their research abilities, to meet the demands of a data- and information-rich environment, where artificial intelligence, data analytics tools, and information discovery and curation products are claiming their place alongside more traditional legal research resources.  Titles for library and information center directors, managers, and staff have changed accordingly, with positions such as director of information services, chief knowledge officer, director of knowledge solutions, and competitive intelligence manager becoming more common.

Jean O’Grady, blogger at Dewey B. Strategic, and a long-time member of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals section of the American Association of Law Libraries, thought it was time ALM’s survey acknowledged the many changes law firm libraries have undergone, and last year she urged ALM to revise their survey to keep pace with law librarians’ real-world environments.  Lizzy McLellan’s article, From Providing Data to Providing Insight, quotes Lucy Dillon, chief knowledge officer at Reed Smith, on how the research and knowledge management function has now extended into more aspects of law firm management:

“While the traditional law librarian role has made way for more modern approaches to knowledge management, Dillon says that research roles are not dying out. But knowledge is becoming an administrative area that touches on more functions, including marketing, business development training, HR and even overall firm strategy.”

In another article accompanying the survey, “Law Librarian?  Try Chief Knowledge Officer”, Greg Lambert, chief knowledge services officer at Jackson Walker and incoming president of the American Association of Law Libraries, reiterates Dillon’s point about the increasing relevance of the library and research center to firm operations and strategy generally:

“Smart firms make sure that these information professionals have the ability to make decisions on what types of products and information processes the firm has that best fit the overall needs of the firm, and the ability to align these products and processes within the overall strategy of the firm.”

The article also states that librarians and information professionals “are increasingly working on matters such as business intelligence and competitive intelligence that are central to firm strategy.”  In her Dewey B. Strategic post on this year’s survey, Jean O’Grady notes, “The survey indicates that these intelligence responsibilities also include lateral candidate due diligence, research assisting with RFP responses, participating in client satisfaction research and pricing projects.”  Furthermore, for Lucy Dillon, a “major part of her role” now involves “finding new ways for the firm to serve clients”.

To further explore the expanded role of the law librarian and legal information professional, next week we’ll post some of a series of resource guides created by the Private Law Librarian and Information Professionals Special Interest Section.  Initially published between 2011-2015, these guides highlight the various functions performed by law librarians and information professionals within their firms, and provide more detail about PLLIP members’ roles in the current legal information environment.