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… 

The Hidden Algorithms and Analytics of Change: The Rise of the CKO

I have been a law librarian long enough to remember that back in the 1980’s there was an explosion of demand for information professionals in law firms. Online research was emerging as a core practice need and national law firms saw the benefit of creating national director positions to develop information strategies and manage the eye bulging cost of national online research contracts. Law firms began to compete for talent! Law librarians spent a decade as peers to their relatively junior or at least newly minted colleagues in IT. By the mid-1990s firms began to create C-level positions often Information Technology Directors invited into the C-Suite, while Directors of Information Resources/Libraries were left behind and routinely slotted into a variety of subordinate reporting relationships from operations to finance to technology. Now that there are powerful emerging technologies such as analytics and AI that require content expertise, law librarians and knowledge mangers are positioned for a professional renaissance.

In July, the American Lawyer published their rebranded annual survey of law libraries. “In our newly renamed Survey of Law Firm Knowledge Management, Library, and Research Professionals, we found these information professionals are increasingly focused on data and analytical tools to provide cutting-edge research for their firm.” The survey was published along with two articles entitled “Law Librarian Try Chief Knowledge Officer.” and “From Providing Data to Providing Insight.”

In addition, Greg Lambert the Chief Knowledge Officer at Jackson Walker in Huston is the first CKO to be elected President of AALL. Greg is a well known blogger and co-creator of the Three Geeks and a Law Blog. He will no doubt be a strong voice for the profession and a living reminder that a new breed of information professionals is in town. In his first address to the Association, Lambert noted as he has before…”law librarians and others in the legal information profession are some of the smartest and most credentialed members of their organizations. However, this does very little when you’re not part of the decision-making team….A local Houston politician once told me, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” She is right. It is time to go beyond being smart, and credentialed, and helpful, and nice. It is time we take action and create success for ourselves, our profession, our Association, our work place, and the entire legal profession.” The full text of Lambert’s remarks to AALL is available on 3 Geeks.

Can Law Librarians Save Legal Education?

Law school enrollments have been trending down. The problem is not just the tight job market for traditional legal jobs. The bigger problem may be the reluctance of law schools to transform the curriculum – tenured professors can not be forced to integrate the latest technology of legal practice into their syllabi.  Students are being asked to pay top dollar and carry a spectacular long term loan burden for an education which is still rooted in the 19th century. The several of last weeks AALL Conference programs highlighted the numerous ways in which academic law library directors are transforming their law libraries into tech laboratories in order  to give students access to the technologies they need for today’s legal practice… which are not embraced by the rest of the faculty.

Stay tuned – “the times they are a changing…” and if you want to keep up…show up for the 2018 Annual AALL Meeting in Baltimore, Md. with a theme ” From Knowledge to Action.”  it will be the 111th AALL Annual  Conference… how’s that for depth of expertise and endurance!

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