Conference Recap: Best Practices and Management Strategies at 11th Annual Ark Group Conference for Law Firm Libraries and Research Centers

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By Alicia Navarro, Electronic Resources Manager, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

I had the opportunity to attend the Ark Group’s 11th Annual Conference on Best Practices & Management Strategies held on February 23, 2017.  It was my first time attending, and there were many takeaways for me in terms of best practices to apply. Below are some of the programs that stood out for me and what was discussed.

The program kicked off with Robert DeFabrizio, Manager of Library Services at Goulston & Storrs. He reviewed the steps to develop a plan for reintegrating the library into the business of law and discussed how to align the library with the firm’s mission.  Robert mentioned we should always “start with a goal and a strategy.” Often we tend to focus on the goal, when we should also be on the “lookout for what changes may be happening in the industry” and “be adaptable to changes.” My takeaway from this session is that we should consider letting go of things that are no longer relevant, challenge ourselves, and avoid plateauing in the performing zone and not growing in the learning zone.  We must always review to see where we are and where we are going.

Greg Lambert, Chief Knowledge Services Officer at Jackson Walker, spoke about how libraries can best contribute to the law firm’s client intake process.  Libraries can play a role in helping the firm’s lawyers and administrative teams better understand clients, which will improve client relationships.  Greg mentioned that often, “You may not know how to do something but you know that it can be done. And this is what needs to be explained to your audiences.” Fostering collaboration from other departments is a key element of success.  Litigation analytics will also play a part in expediting information retrieval which ultimately will benefit the client.

The panel discussion You Have Choices: How to Optimize Your Legal Research Resources was led by Oz Benamram, Chief Knowledge Officer, White & Case; Kathy Skinner, Director of Research & Information Service Center, White & Case; and Kris Martin, a Senior Director at HBR Consulting.  The presenters highlighted the importance of metrics and how they can illuminate what resources are actually being used, and for what purposes.  Usage reports provide end-users with insight on how frequent resources are really being used, and can help inform decision-making on what resources to keep.  Re-assessing the resource mix may also provide end users with cheaper alternatives, which could end up decreasing the usage on the most expensive ones.

Kristina Lambright, Director of Pricing & Legal Project Management at Perkins Coie, and Nicholas Weeks, Director of Risk Management at Ballard Spahr, conducted a case study on How the Library Can Be Leveraged to Manage Outside Counsel Guidelines.  During the session, the presenters described how the evolution of Outside Counsel Guidelines (OCGs) provided a roadmap and how law firms are responding to the many changes in this area.  Most importantly, they emphasized the role of librarians/research specialists and how they can “help drive establishment of internal workflows and repositories.”

Another point made during a session was that librarians should make sure they understand what they are being asked for and should consider how they can provide the information in a way to make themselves even more valuable.  A great example of researchers making themselves more valuable was given by Kathleen Agno, Knowledge & Research Intelligence Director, and Marlene Gebauer, Director of Knowledge Solutions, both of Greenberg Traurig.  Greenberg Traurig’s information center broke down the various steps of litigation and identified how research services could help at designated points in a case.  For instance, “Judge Genie” is a standardized judicial analytical profile that can be compiled on a judge at the onset of a case.  Other types of research mapped to litigation stages include opposing counsel reports or expert research.  I would like to look into applying this at my firm.

Overall, the conference was an educational experience, and there were many takeaways.  Each program provided concrete recommendations, and examples of best practices and strategies.  Some themes remained constant throughout the one-day conference, such as the importance of adapting to change and finding new ways to innovate, whether by implementing new technologies or changing your personal outlook.  The key is to get out of your comfort zone.

Note:  Alicia, the author, also presented at the Ark Group conference, along with Steve Lastres, Director of Knowledge Management Services at Debevoise & Plimpton.  Steve and Alicia presented a case study, “An Evaluation of a Firm’s Mobile Application Strategy for the Library.”  They discussed the importance of a good mobile strategy for the library, and why and how to make library content readily available and accessible on users’ mobile devices.  According to the conference agenda, going mobile will help libraries or research centers increase patron engagement and overall circulation, ROI on those databases and services you’ve already purchased, and your reach and influence within your community.

Related links:

Agenda–Ark Group’s 11th Annual Best Practices & Management Strategies for Law Firm Library, Research & Information Services

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