Partnering With County Law Libraries As Law Firm Members

by Michael Ginsburg, Reference Librarian at Arnold & Porter

Collaboration has often allowed librarians to overcome challenges of access to needed information resources. Early examples include interlibrary loans and document delivery. services. As our firm libraries face new challenges of access, collaboration can again help us succeed, benefiting not just the attorneys we serve, but also county law library (CLL) users. In cities without membership law libraries, we should engage interested CCL colleagues to develop or expand member services.

Recent developments underscore the need to take this initiative. Online information services continue to proliferate, especially with deployment of “big data” analytics. New research needs have emerged as a result. Meeting these needs has burdened already strained budgets, requiring “tradeoff” decisions about subscriptions to add and cancel. Digital migration from print continues to accelerate, with escalating licensing costs that either outpace the rate of budget increases or further strain reduced budgets. Digital migration, in turn, carries licensing restrictions, preventing our libraries from sharing resources without print equivalents. But as we replace print publications with online equivalents, these restrictions also imperil the future of interlibrary loans (ILLs) among our libraries. While in some instances we can still borrow from academic law libraries, many of these libraries also have had to reduce expensive print subscriptions.

Despite these circumstances, attorneys at our firms expect “just-in-time” delivery of relevant information from an expanding range of venues, both online and in print. So we must leverage every available efficiency, especially given reduced staffing levels over the last several years. But “doing more with less” may increasingly entail doing without, unless we pursue other remedies.

CLLs need and deserve support from our libraries and our firms. They serve non-attorneys, including small business owners, government employees, and pro se litigants. They also serve the guardians of access to justice – legal aid organizations, pro bono attorneys, solo practitioners and attorneys in small firms. The economic crisis of 2008 took a heavy toll on CLLs, when their constituencies needed them even more. CLLs in several states closed or were threatened with closure, and in other states they were forced to reduce hours and lay off staff. Not surprisingly, CLLs continue to experience significant shortfalls in public funding. SCLLL-SIS Chair Larry Meyer recently said that the SCLLL “membership, as a whole, is deeply concerned about the twin pressures of decreasing budgets and increasing costs … Many of us have spent much time and energy looking at how to balance these two opposing forces in order to continue to provide the best possible service to our respective user communities.”

Doesn’t that balancing effort sound like a familiar challenge? In our libraries, we also must balance contending pressures. We must balance “just-in-time” expectations against rapidly rising costs, diminished or overstretched budgets, reduced staffing, restrictive licensing, and more limited ILLs. Why shouldn’t we try to face mutual challenges together with our CLL colleagues? We have an opportunity to do so. In cities where no membership law libraries serve our libraries and firms, CCLs may be able to offer or expand membership services tailored to firm needs.

Mikhail Koulikov, of the New York Law Institute (NYLI), has identified three key benefits of membership libraries: (1) “off-site storage of infrequently used materials;” (2) “shared access to online legal information resources;” and (3) “staffing multipliers.” The Membership Library Answer To New Law Firm Realities, PLI Perspectives, Spring 2010, at 14) Although some cities have membership libraries, only a few rise to the scope and level of service that the New York Law Institute offers, or otherwise serve large and mid-sized firms and their libraries..

Can CLLs offer comparable services in cities without membership libraries? In California, the Los Angeles County Library and the San Francisco County Law Library already do. State laws govern most county law libraries. Where not prohibited by law, CLLs may charge law firms for services limited to members.

Our libraries and CLLs can benefit from this public-membership model. CLLs will gain increased funding to enlarge their print collections, improving access for public users. The engagement of our firms will also help CLLs dispel misconceptions about the role of CLLs. Jonathan Stock identifies two such misconceptions that led to the proposed closure of 6 CLLs in Connecticut. (Saving Connecticut Judicial Branch Libraries, AALL Spectrum, February 2011.) These are “the presumption that electronic information makes books – and therefore libraries – obsolete,” and the idea that “Providence has intervened, making all necessary information ‘free’ on the internet.”

Our firm libraries would also receive significant value from membership in CCLs. Our libraries would work together to ensure that our CLL partners have print collections sufficient to sustain interlibrary loans of seldom-used publications that are not online or that our libraries have not licensed. We would have access to online research services that remain valuable to our firms, even though our libraries decided not to start on maintain subscriptions. And we would be better positioned to “do more with less.”

How can we advance this collaboration? We can start by contacting CCL Directors in cities where no membership libraries already serve our libraries and firms. If CCL Directors express interest, we must convince our firms that membership advances their best interests. We have direct evidence that it does, and not just from members of the Los Angeles and San Francisco County Law Libraries. Large and mid-sized law firms are members of NYLI, the Jenkins Law Library, and the Social Law Library. We can also show how supporting CCLs enhances the reputation of our firms, because CCLs provide information resources needed for pro bono representation, pro se litigants, and legal aid organizations. Our local AALL Chapters appear well positioned to aid a CCL-membership initiative, A local chapter can be enlisted to appoint a special committee for public outreach through such means as presentations to firms and publication in local bar journals.


handshakeChuck Lowry is an enterprise sales rep for Fastcase, the winner, with Hein, of the 2014 AALL new product of the year award. Chuck can be reached at 202.999.4975 or

The other day, I got my thirty-year pin in the mail from AALL. Now this only poses a mid-life crisis for me if I am able to live to one hundred twenty-eight years of age, and my family history screams that such a span is unlikely. Still, I like to think that there may be some benefit to others in thinking about my experience dealing with law librarians, especially at conferences. Much of what I say will be obvious to those of you who have attended several conferences; if I am only able to help you express or articulate what you have learned from the conferences, that will perhaps be useful to some of our readers.
This is not the place to lay out a comprehensive plan of attack for the entire AALL or SLA conferences; both of them are venues very rich in opportunities from the programming, the exhibit hall and the socializing. What I propose to do is to offer three or four practical hints that will, I hope, help you maximize the value of your exhibit hall time.
IT’S OKAY TO HAVE AN AGENDA. A retired librarian, attendee at dozens of national library conferences, once told me that she had a very useful mental trick while planning her exhibit hall assault: “I like to imagine that I am not managing library staff and library resources, but I am assembling them de novo.” She knew, of course, that I would be impressed by de novo. That is perhaps an even more useful step now than it was a dozen years ago, when it was first voiced to me. Law firm libraries live in a world where the only constant is change, and practically every budget year starts fresh. The old assumptions are pretty much gone, so do not close your mind to any product or service that can make your library more effective and more efficient, even if you have not previously considered it.
NOW THAT YOU ARE OUT OF THE OFFICE FOR A COUPLE DAYS, THINK OF THE FUTURE, NOT THE PRESENT. Sure, you had an awkward conversation with the CFO only Wednesday about transactional charges, and three vendors have told you that they want an increase because they have not had one in two years, and your best reference librarian has an offer to go to another firm, but you can think about that when you get back. For two or three days, take advantage of what is in front of you. Let us look at just one example. Do you feel like you are not getting a firm enough handle on usage of your various resources? You will need more comprehensive data, firm-wide and by practice group, to allocate your budget? Well gee, OneLog and Priory Solutions will both be there, and I’ll bet they will be happy to see you. And you are certainly able to have a more informal, low pressure conversation in the exhibit hall than if you made an appointment and had someone come to the office, which elevate the pressure on both parties. Use the exhibit hall contact to determine if you want to have someone come to the office for a more detailed presentation.
THE EHIBIT HALL IS A GOOD PLACE TO FORM AN IMPRESSION, BUT A BAD PLACE TO MAKE A DEAL. When you look at a product or service in an exhibit hall, the wireless may be so-so, the right sales rep may be on a break, in the noise and confusion the presenter may not have formed a clear idea of what you want to see, in the noise and confusion you may not ask the right question or have at your side the trusted colleague whose perspective for this one thing will be crucial. Use the conference to form an impression. Is the vendor responsive and knowledgeable? Are the folks at the booth listening to you rather than reciting canned presentations? Do you see them outside the exhibit hall? After all, a vendor with a strong commitment to an association and an industry will most likely have a strong commitment to individual customers as well. Use the impressions you get of the product, service, vendor and vendor personnel to determine if you want to follow up. The exhibit hall is a better place to explore a relationship than to formalize one.
NO LIBRARIAN BUYS 100% OF DEMONSTRATED PRODUCTS AND NO VENDOR EXPECTS TO CLOSE 100% OF PROSPECTS. It’s fine. You can still be pleasant, still even be friends. Things change rapidly in this industry, and it’s easier to meet on a bridge that has not been charred.

Take the Start/Stop Poll: What Did You Start or Stop in 2013?

Submitted by Jean O’Grady, Library Director at DLA Piper

The Poll: Please take the brief (10 question) Start/Stop 2013/2014 Poll

I am a big believer in new beginnings. The dawn of a New Year always provides a good excuse to hit the “pause button” and reassess my trajectory both personally and professionally. I started 2014 with a good omen – being bumped up to first class on my first flight of the year. I will add it to my “good luck” inventory of the year – a list which I consult in those inevitable moments of psychic whiplash.

Knowing When to Stop. I am a big fan of Jim Collins author of the business classic “Good to Great.”


He counsels that deciding what to STOP doing is as important as the projects which we START. It is so easy to continue doing things – because we have always done them. But managing change involves risk. You may take some heat when you stop or radically alter a service… it’s part of the job.

Decades ago I took one bold leap into the future. I decided to stop sending law reviews to the bindery. It was after most current law reviews were on Lexis and Westlaw but before the full archives and images appeared in HeinOnline. I could no longer in good conscience spend the firm’s money and staff time on this legacy ritual that was creating gilded buckram volumes destined for the dumpster within a few years. OK I can hear the snickers – what’s the big deal? Well I was at a rather …”scholarly/nerdy” law firm at the time – lawyers even wanted us to bind their private sets of law reviews from their alma mater… so my decision did raise some eyebrows. I was later reviled for suggesting that we should stop delivering the daily newspapers to every lawyers office (redundant, inefficient, not green.)

shepards volumes

I was pilloried for suggesting that the associates no longer looked at Shepard’s in print – a notion which I tested by putting rubber bands around all the volumes – to prove that this work had all moved online. But to the partners Shepard’s Citator volumes were so iconic that practicing law without these books was unthinkable. So we also have the unenviable task of building consensus around our changes. Luckily the “Great Recession” has had a remarkable impact on making lawyers more amenable to change, especially if you can show them the dollar signs. But there is no question you need to choose your battles, prepare carefully and assess the impact on lawyers – your clients when you introduce change.

Deliver More Value. The speed with which old processes and assumptions become obsolete is accelerating. We can only deliver more value by eliminating or streamlining the routine, the redundant and the unexamined.

The Wisdom of Colleagues. In the spirit of collecting the wisdom of colleagues, I thought it would be interesting to do a poll on what we started or stopped in 2013 and on what we plan to start or stop in 2014. What products did we stop using? what new ones will we adopt in 2014?

The Poll: Please take the brief (10 question) Start/Stop 2013/2014 Poll

The Survey will remain open until January 15th and I will report on the results. Thanks in advance to all participants.

Wrapping up 2013.


Kate Greene Stanhope, Manager Library & Information Services, McInnes Cooper

 2013 is winding down and planning for 2014 well underway. Historically, end of year was the natural time to evaluate departmental performance and set new goals. However, in 2013, we seemed to be doing this weekly – daily sometimes. Our small Library and Information Services group has moved away from the emphasis on library as a physical space and is focussed on the information services that add value to our firm’s business. Research advisory and reference services are still in high demand, though their value is diminishing in the eyes of some. The recent transition to a sole source environment for online research has resulted in increased requests for assistance finding material previously available at our fingertips. This is not a bad thing, but achieving balance between active participation in firm knowledge and information management projects and availability for “just in time” research is challenging.

So, as I contemplate my 2014 Business Plan, I reached out to colleagues in other Canadian firms. They shared their thoughts on what kept them busy this year and what 2014 might look like. A few common themes emerged.

 Beyond legal research – The intersection of library and marketing:

More law libraries are collaborating with marketing, whether formally or informally, to lend expertise in the areas of Competitive and Business Intelligence. In the past year, our L&IS group has worked with Marketing to produce client and industry profiles and we foresee this continuing. Currently, we are trialling an online research product that will enhance our ability to turn these requests around more efficiently and without sacrificing detail (I learned a lot about CI in law firms at the CALL 2013 conference at a session moderated by Agathe Bujold of McCarthy Tetrault).  

 April Brousseau, Assistant Director, Library and Knowledge Management at Stikeman Elliot, shared that her group works closely with Stikeman’s marketing department to provide in depth company and industry research, and assists in the preparation of related materials for RFPs. Another colleague from a smaller firm notes that marketing related work now approaches 50% of his time and includes input into the use of social media, assisting in the creation and editing of visual advertising, and even assisting with the creation of individual lawyer strategic business plans.  Although this work often gets set aside when a lawyer requires research assistance, he delegates some research to students when things are really tight.

 KM for Library & Information Services  

Legal information professionals continue to drive Knowledge Management within firms, but KM practices have relevance in helping us manage our internal know-how, specifically the collective knowledge amassed in the provision of research and reference services. Leveraging this knowledge through identification, classification, and retrieval of “frequently asked questions” can free up time to devote elsewhere. April’s group at Stikeman’s plans to enhance the database of reference question responses they maintain and my group continues to improve our use of Outlook categories to profile reference answers.  We are also looking for better ways to capture metrics about the kinds of questions we receive and the resources used to answer them (See Eve Ross and Bess Reynolds’ presentations Library Metrics and Metrics 101: Proving Your Value for detailed discussions of the value of metrics for information professionals).

 Prominent Roles in KM and Technology Projects

Fellow Nova Scotia law librarians Linda Matte (Library Manager, Cox and Palmer) and Cyndi Murphy, (Knowledge Manager, Stewart McKelvey and current CALL Past President) devoted significant time this year to projects which introduced new technologies to their lawyers practices.

 The cost of updating of print versions of Civil Procedure Rules (CPR’s) is a significant line item in many library budgets. With 30 subscriptions to manage, Linda sought to reduce these costs while still providing current, convenient access to this information. She investigated the use of iPad’s to access CPR’s and discovered that pdf versions of the rules, freely available online, don’t require wifi to use after they’ve been download. She tested the $5 GoodReader app to manage content (bookmarks, notes, highlighting), and found it to be very effective. The pilot project was optional and was implemented over 11 month, with an initial trial group of 10 lawyers. It was a success from the start and as word spread Linda eventually had 100% buy in, with savings approaching $18,000 by 2014.

 When Stewart McKelvey decided to deploy Recommind’s Decisiv Email Management software to better manage e-mail volume, Cyndi was a key member of the implementation team, along with a project manager, technical advisor, and a member of the Stewart McKelvey IT staff (a consultant was retained to assist with the planning and change management aspects of the project because of its impact on lawyer practices). Reporting to the Chief Professional Resources Officer, who was actively involved in the roll-out, Cyndi took the lead on liaising with the IT trainers to compile one-page handouts on the filing and searching features of Decisiv, created the portal page dedicated to Decisiv, and worked with the trainers to populate it. When Decisiv was rolled out to users throughout the firm, she assisted in conducting training sessions. Cyndi acknowledged that it was difficult at times to balance the demands of the project with her day to day work, especially with the travel required to the firm’s other offices. But, support from her staff and recognition from the firm of the role she played in the success of the project contributed to personal and professional gratification.

 Looking ahead, the dynamic nature of the work we do as Legal Information Professionals will probably be reflected in the changing composition of our groups. At Lawson Lundell, an innovative, team approach is described in the advertisement for a new position, Manager of Information Resources.  And, in 2014, my group will welcome the firm’s Conflict and Audit Coordinators as we become more involved in the life cycle of information within the firm, from new business intake to closed file management, and everything in between.

 Now, if I can just get that Business Plan done before Christmas Eve . . .



Renaming the Private Law Libraries Special Interest Section (PLL-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL)

self-imagepost authored by Michael Ginsborg, Reference Librarian, Arnold & Porter LLP

In the Devil’s Dictionary, Ambroise Bierce (re)defines “lawyer” as “one skilled in circumvention of the law.” If Bierce were our authority in the matter, it would seem that a law firm librarian aids in circumventions of law. But as the Devil’s Dictionary makes clear, certain identifications carry a host of associations, whether or not within standard use. Given changes in our profession, what we call ourselves has become a renewed subject of interest.

In 2009, members of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) considered a change in name to the “ Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals” (ASKPro). The proposal was the result of extensive research by SLA. Although SLA members did not adopt the change, proponents advanced compelling reasons for it. They found that “libraries” no longer adequately represented the range and variety of their skills and careers, now often pursued without library affiliation. As a result, continued identification with libraries failed to convey their unique “strategic” value to their employers and clients. The SLA Board offered the proposed rebranding to more clearly communicate this value..

Jean O’Grady, PLL-SIS Chair, recently announced that the PLL Board will examine the merits of renaming our PLL-SIS, and the Board discussed the issue in the October 23rd Law Librarian Conversations. Jean advances equally compelling reasons in the context of law firms. First, PLL’s use of the word “libraries” reveals nothing specific about we do. PLL members provide a wide array of services, including “Competitive Intelligence, Business Intelligence, Knowledge Management, records, docket, web development, and other emerging digital roles.” As Jean observes, our roles have radically changed, reflecting “seismic” shifts in the legal industry. “Librarian” and “libraries” fail to convey how our new responsibilities and skills serve the goals of our law firm or corporate employers and clients.

Second, law firms with libraries are rapidly reducing their print collections and “embedding” librarians in practice groups. In fact, at least one AmLaw 100 firm has no print collection, and smaller firms, like this one, have done likewise. Available data – as in this presentation by Bess Reynolds – clearly show an accelerating trend toward digitization. So it can be persuasively argued that changed circumstances warrant a new organizational name without the reductive and outdated connotations of “libraries” and “librarians.” Carol Ottolenghi describes a familiar connotation in her article about naming those we serve as clients. If called “patrons,” some users “initially think of us as ‘clerks who like books.’” Changing PLL’s name could also help reverse such unwelcome perceptions.

The PLL Board has invited us to offer our comments. I find myself rather conflicted over the Board’s proposal, in much the same way that one SLA member said she was over ASKPro. Why? On the one hand, law firm clients and attorneys will continue to misunderstand what we do if we bill our time as librarians – a point that Jean makes in the Law Librarian Conversations program. On the other hand, the symbolism of “libraries” and “librarians” still matters. Indeed, it has assumed greater importance in our era of digital transformation. Among senses in which we still “like the books,” we believe copyrighted works deserve the widest dissemination among our clients. The words “libraries” and “librarian” suggest that we care about sharing resources and expertise, and maintaining a right of access as close to ownership as possible. They suggest that we favor the continuing availability of interlibrary loans and that we oppose digital licensing restrictions impairing access rights. And they suggest that we belong to a collective enterprise that sustains the indispensable benefits of these unique forms of sharing and preservation for future use.

My ambivalence has no ideal remedy. The nearest approximation to a remedy falls consideration short, but I cannot think of a better alternative than to offer a “hybrid” idea for rebranding. For example, the name “Private Law Librarians and Allied Knowledge Professionals” (PLLAKPro) comes perilously close to sounding like a Dickensian Office of Circumlocution. Whatever name emerges, perhaps PLL-SIS can accommodate a hybrid, emphasizing the primacy of librarians, so that we can continue to signal the ideals of librarianship.