Ten Ways to Add Value to Your Firm in a Pandemic

An action plan for law firm library managers and self-starters during a period of change and disruption.

By Patricia Barbone

Patricia Barbone is the Director of Library Services at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, and is based in lower Manhattan.  She has managed library services through 9-11, Superstorm Sandy, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the state lockdowns to stop the spread of COVID-19 occurred in March of 2020, law firm librarians have been focused on two primary goals:  maintaining quality reference service within a remote environment and managing within an economic climate of uncertain revenue and financial insecurity. Reopening our economy has its own unique set of challenges and provides an opportunity for creativity and resourcefulness for today’s law librarians.

Demand for library services is high even for firms that have implemented furloughs. It is more important than ever to stay visible and demonstrate value. Here are ten action tips to help you rethink your role within your organization and consider what you can do to contribute to your organization’s success.

Even if you weren’t able to implement anything new at the start of the pandemic, there is always an opportunity for improving library service and managing in a period of disruption. Even subtle changes can make a big impact for large and small firms alike, and my prediction is that many things will never be the same again. Can you identify what changes are underway and adapt or pivot accordingly? These ten tips may help.

1. Promote Your Existing Electronic Subscriptions

The day we began remote work, I sent out a number of targeted emails reminding people of the resources available to them with basic instruction on how to gain access. This had the dual purpose of informing our users, but also providing a general sense of comfort that being remote hadn’t cut our users off from library service or library resources. We continue to send emails with tips and training often directed to specific practice areas. The response was extremely positive. Users may be experts in a given practice area, but many still don’t know the leading resources or that a favorite print source is also online. It’s your job to let them know. Some of you may be thinking that you don’t have time to draft engaging emails or that your unsolicited email would be a burden on an already taxed email system. If firm culture is against you, perhaps you can post tips on an internal page, or target individual attorneys who you know would benefit and be receptive. Although drafting and communicating is time consuming, my advice would be to save and repurpose all of your communications. It is worth the investment in your time to take the lead as the experts in electronic resources.

2. Training, Training, Training

This is a perfect opportunity to get users up to speed on electronic resources. Create virtual office hours for vendors. Take advantage of your virtual screen sharing tools so librarians can work one on one with attorneys. Curate and promote webinars and CLE programs. Many vendors have been terrific about reaching out to provide virtual training, tap into them.

3. Read the Industry Landscape

Some of your best ideas can come from the legal and business press. Stay informed, you don’t operate in a vacuum. Talk to peers and vendors. What practice areas are seeing an uptick and what practice areas are slowing down as a result of economic and governmental forces? Consider how you can apply that knowledge to your own environment. This advice is intended for both managers and reference librarians.

4. Follow Trends – Gather and Curate Content

This is where librarian expertise can shine – we know how to follow news, trends, and legislative actions. We know which subscriptions have the best current awareness features and how to set them up. Like many of you, we set up a number of coronavirus news alerts for attorneys tasked with working on client advisories. Our librarians also send selective content that we notice in our daily screening of news. Your goal is to make it easy for lawyers and aligned legal professionals to stay on top of the latest changes in the law and to remind them that the library is the first stop in beginning any research project.

5. Review Your Contracts and Subscriptions

Do your subscriptions reflect the current information need in your firm? Can you get reductions based on the existing economic climate? Is there anything you can cancel? Do you need to add or drop content? While many vendors will work with you during this time period, others will try to upsell you, maintain unwarranted levels of increases, or be indifferent to the drop in either users or usage. This is the time to advocate on behalf of your firm. Continue reading

Law Librarians Helping Law Firms Meet COVID-19 Research And Practice Challenges

In a recent article on Above the Law, PLLIP member Jean O’Grady described how law firm librarians are supporting their firms during the COVID-19 pandemic. PLLIP members Patricia Barbone (Director of Library Services at Hughes, Hubbard & Reed) and Cynthia Brown (Director Research Services at Littler) discuss how their teams are helping their firms respond to client requests and track developments in news, legislation, and more.

Member Profile: Emily Florio

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Emily Florio, a member of the Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals SIS, is the Vice President of the American Association of Law Libraries and Past President of the Law Librarians’ Society of DC. She is the Senior Research Services Manager at Hogan Lovells in Washington, DC.

Answers compiled by Megan Moltrup, Librarian at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Washington, DC. 

What would you name your autobiography?
With a Little Help from Family and Friends

If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
I think it would be great fun to be Mary Russell, a strong, independent female sleuth, and partner to Sherlock Holmes in the mystery series by Laurie King. She travels the world solving mysteries and when she needs a break, she goes to her home in the English countryside.

What’s the last photo you took on your phone?
Given that I’m responding during the pandemic and under the work from home order, there aren’t a lot of things to see, so my cat Mae gets her photo taken a lot.

What’s your favorite thing to do to relax?
For over 25 years, riding horses has been my favorite form of relaxation. I can’t say our thoroughbreds are always relaxing to ride, though being at the farm with all the animals and friends has continually brought me joy.

What is something you learned in the last year?
Being agile and willing will only help you in your career and life.

Have you ever had something happen to you that you thought was bad but it turned out to be for the best?
In my career I’ve had some horrifying bosses that tested my patience and ability to remain positive, though ultimately taught me how not to manage and certainly how not to “lead.” I do not miss those people, but am pleased that I learned something from the experience, which ultimately ushered in better and new opportunities.

What would you do for a career if you weren’t doing this?
Definitely something where I’d be surrounded by and playing with animals all the time. Maybe a zookeeper or owner of an animal sanctuary.

What’s your favorite thing about being involved with AALL?
Without a doubt it is the colleagues and dear friends that I’ve met throughout the years.

What advice would you give to recent new law librarians?
Get involved and volunteer! There are shorter and longer term opportunities at every level and it is a great way to learn about our library types, positions and opportunities. And if you don’t know where to begin, reach out for guidance. You’ll find that we’re a very welcoming, supportive and thoughtful group of people.

Final thoughts
I look forward to connecting with colleagues and friends, both those I know and those I haven’t met yet. I am humbled to have this exceptional opportunity and am graciously anticipating all we can do together.

Business as (Un)Usual: Library Business Continuity Amid COVID-19

By Ellyssa Valenti Kroski, Director of Information Technology/Marketing The New York Law Institute

We’re a private membership law library which serves law firms and law firm librarians by providing research assistance, document delivery, and access to remote databases. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in October, 2012, we were largely unprepared for what would follow.  The inability to physically access our building cut off access to our library’s email which was hosted in-house on our network, as was our application which provided remote access to all of our electronic resources for our members.  We also had a traditional POTS phone system in place, so answering patron phone calls was out of the question as well.  We really had to scramble in order to get temporary passwords issued so that patrons could still access our resources and post alternate phone numbers for contacting us on our website.  We did it, but it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fluid.  We decided right then to start transforming our business model to one that was more conducive to business continuity in the face of crises, one that was independent of location.  Eight years later we were much better prepared for this emergency.

Here are some of the systems we changed and had in place which made transitioning to a remote work situation less of an ordeal as well as some tips for preparing your own library. Continue reading

Welcome to the 2019-2020 Dewey B Strategic Hits and Misses Survey

Reposted with permission from Jean O’Grady at Dewey B Strategic.   Jean is a member of the Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals Special Interest Section. 

Please take the 2019-2020 Dewey B Strategic Survey here. Review the 2019 highlights below and tell your colleagues about the best and the worst of 2019 in legal publishing and legal tech.

The Highlights 2019 was a relatively quiet launch year in legal technology and publishing.  The year opened with speculation about the impact of layoffs at Thomson Reuters. Mid-year Wolters Kluwer suffered a significant malware  attack on May 7 but was fully back online within a week.

LexisNexis announced the full integration of one of its oldest acquisitions. Courtlink which was acquired in 2001 was finally integrated into their flagship product Lexis Advance.  The market responded with mixed reviews.

Bloomberg re-branded itself as Bloomberg Information Group (BIG.) Sadly this signified the retirement of BNA ( Bureau of National Affairs) as a brand. Bloomberg had acquired BNA in 2011 add a significant library of secondary sources including newsletters and books. The full integration of BNA into the Bloomberg platform allowed the company to revert to the simplified pricing model they had pioneered during their launch into the online legal information market.

Fastcase continued an aggressive spree of acquisitions and alliances covering public records (TransUnion), bankruptcy forms, Expert witness information (Juris and Courtroom Insight)  and  legal news (Law Street Media) clearly positioning product to move into the large firm market.

The Year of the Brief Analyser. Casetext CARA which launched the first brief analysis tool in 2016  now has a competitor in the Westlaw Edge “Quick Cite tool.”  At the 2019 American Association of Law Libraries AALL Annual Conference both Bloomberg and LexisNexis previewed their brief citiator tools which are expected to launch in 2020.

Please respond to the survey here. The Survey will close on “leap day” February 29th.