Remote Work Proves the Firm Library Is More Than a Physical Space

By Marshall Voizard, Reference Supervisor, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP

When I started my career as a librarian approximately 15 years ago, I worried I was entering a profession in decline, but I liked the field enough to give it a shot anyway.  Between increasing online access and shrinking print resources, it’s no secret that the traditional library model had been under pressure for decades.  Old timers spoke to me of bygone times of larger staff sizes and law firm libraries that took up entire floors.  There was a feeling of fighting a rearguard action, always losing ground, just trying to slow the loss of staff and print.  An unsaid thought was, when the library finally winked out of existence, would librarians disappear too?

In a sense, the COVID-19 pandemic and our forced work-from-home experience has finally answered this question.  For most firms, print and the physical library location was out of reach for at least a year, and yet in my career I’ve never seen as many job postings for law librarians as I have in the last 12 months.  Correlation may not equal causation, but adding in a number a recent legal news articles on this trend along with many anecdotal stories from colleagues, I’m happy to say I think we can all feel confident that we stand on stable ground.

“The expectation that an attorney would have intimate knowledge of dozens or more legal research or technology products, in addition to their full time job as a practicing attorney, is simply unrealistic….we librarians are well positioned to act as product guides, trainers, and even marketers.”

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This question was posted to the PLLIP MyCommunities page on September 16, 2021. 

We’re Open!

  • We opened up on September 3.  Before that secretaries were coming in 2 days a week.  Associates are encouraged to be in the office, some partners are not coming very much.  I, the librarian, have been coming in 1 day a week for the last 16 months and I can continue with that schedule.  We are a firm of about 30 attorneys.  Most of the large firms in the area are not back in full time.
  • We have been asked to be in the office at least 2 days a week since July 6.  They had expected to change that to 3 days per week after Labor Day, but we’re still on 2 days a week because of the increase in cases.  This isn’t a hard mandate (I don’t know if they’re checking), and we’re not required to select the days and stick to a schedule.
  • Our offices are open, and we are welcome to work in the office if we want to, or need to, but we’re not currently required to be in the office.   There are no incentives for coming in, but they were rewarding those of us who are in with lunches or special afternoon snacks.  I think the lunch ordering became problematic, because that has stopped.  But, they did issue gift cards to local food places as a thank you for those who have been coming in. Nothing has been said about when we would be re-opening, or what the options would be once we do.
  • The office reopened after the July 4th holiday with a hybrid schedule.  They request 3 days on site and 2 days remote per week. This change is supposed to be permanent going forward.  They also relaxed the dress code so that we can wear jeans every day, and have been bringing in free lunch on Wednesdays. As far as I can tell it is working well.  The office is quiet and half full any given day, which is good for social distancing.  They’ve recently asked that we wear masks in hallways and common areas, but not at our desks, due to the unfortunate continuing wave here in the state.
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We Need Intel!: Recap of AALL’s Competitive Intelligence Foundations Training

By Theresa Greco, Advisory and Managed Services Manager, HBR Consulting

I recently had the privilege of attending the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) 2021 Virtual Competitive Intelligence Foundations training.  Special thanks to the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) Grants Committee for sponsoring my attendance to this informative event. 

The two-day training educated attendees on the skills needed to effectively establish a competitive intelligence (CI) function in their firm.  Presenters also shared practical tips and tricks for leveraging competitive analysis for enhanced marketing, client management, and other firm strategic initiatives.

Facilitator Patricia Ellard kicked off day one with a healthy dose of enthusiasm and motivation.  “Confidence is key!” were her words of encouragement to new and experienced CI professionals gathered on Zoom to learn all they could about the ever-evolving Competitive Intelligence function within a law firm.

The importance of “value adding” was a key theme throughout the event.  A panel discussion with Business Development (BD) and CI specialists Barbara Malin, Emily Rushing, and Samantha Callahan reinforced that CI is not an “information collection” activity and that “data on its own is never intelligence”.  What turns a “data dump” into CI is “connecting the dots” and pointing out both the risks and the opportunities for the client.

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Taking on Data Analytics

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 26, Number 2 (November/December 2021), pgs 46-48.

By Miram Childs, Director, Law Library of Louisiana Supreme Court; Andre Davison, Research & Information Operations Implementation Manager, Orrick LLP and Scott Vanderlin, Student Services Librarian, University of Chicago D’Angelo Law Library

Data is everywhere. Many law librarians’ job responsibilities increasingly require them to understand and handle data. What advice, recommendations, or tips do you have to help legal information professionals improve their data skills?

ANDRE: Fifteen-plus years ago, mathematician Clive Humby made headlines when he declared that “data is the new oil.” His metaphor explained that “just like oil, in its rawest form, data is almost useless. But when it is refined, it can be turned into something much more valuable.” Firm law librarians have the unique skills and tools to refine and transform data to perform analytics to support the practice and business of law. Data can seem intimidating, but I will offer recommendations that helped me become more acclimated to using and understanding data analytics. 

VOLUNTEER FOR PROJECTS

At my previous firm, our new CIO created a project to revise our budget reporting process. We were previously utilizing an Excel spreadsheet to track our annual budget. He asked me to lead a project where our goal was to transform the invoice data we were collecting into insights we could use in our budget report. In this project, I learned to utilize tools such as Microsoft SharePoint and Power BI to transform a considerable amount of data into a digestible format for our finance committee. I was able to take some courses to help familiarize myself with the products. My willingness to volunteer to lead that project helped me learn new methods and processes to transform large amounts of data into actionable insights.

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