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.

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