KM, AI & Client Engagement: The Changing Role of Law Firm Librarians, Part 1

Reposted with permission from Gregg Wirth of the Legal Executive Institute’s LEI Blog

By Gregg Wirth, a financial journalist and the Content Manager of the Legal Executive Institute’s LEI Blog.

law firm librariansAmid all the dramatic change in the legal industry, it may be the image of the law firm librarian that has changed the most. Gone is the quiet, staid librarian housed in an oak paneled room, locating dusty legal tomes upon request. Today’s law firm librarian is much more likely to be one of the most tech-savvy members of the executive team, and the lynchpin of the firm’s strategies around knowledge management, information resources and business process improvement, all while keeping a hand in the latest innovations, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence.

Perhaps exemplifying this vocational evolution best is Katherine Lowry, Director of Practice Services at BakerHostetler. Lowry recently discussed with Legal Executive Institute her role at the firm, the value of collaboration and the thrill of interacting with clients.

Legal Executive Institute: Five years ago, you became BakerHostetler’s Director of Practice Services, a position that not a lot of law firms currently have. Briefly, could you describe what you do in that position?

Katherine Lowry: When I first joined in 2010, I was Director of Information & Resources, but the aspiration was that the role would become more prominent. We just had to define it, and we had to create it. There definitely was a strategy in place to do more with that position and have it integrated into IT and not just be traditional library services. So, it wasn’t too long after that — a little more than two years — that I became Director of Practice Services.

With that new title came a great expanding of my responsibilities. I went from overseeing traditional library services and records & information services, to also handling Legal Innovations, which now includes a data analytics and business intelligence strategies; User Services and Lateral Onboarding, Information Services Training and the Project Management Office, which was completely revised with a new governance model and methodology to apply to the entire Information Services department and the CIO’s office. Then of course, earlier this year, I was given responsibility for IncuBaker, the firm’s initiative in the areas of blockchain, artificial intelligence and data analytics.

My responsibilities expanded over the years, and I was challenged to transform such groups as the PMO and Lateral Onboarding, and then give over responsibility to those groups to others. In fact, to make room for continued growth in innovations through Legal Innovations and IncuBaker, I now manage fewer teams. However, the constant theme throughout my tenure at Baker is to focus on services delivered to our attorneys and ultimately our clients and to ensure the needs of the business dictates the integration of technology.

For example, the librarians — we call them legal researchers, because I think people have that connotation that librarians are all about helping you check out books or that it’s mostly print-driven — are key in the firm’s technology integration. For example, we wanted to adopt IT as a service, rather than IT as an engine. The idea of IT as an engine, is that ‘We’re here to keep the lights on. We’re here to keep making sure that Word doesn’t crash for you, and that you have mobile devices and whatnot.’

IT as a service model, under my group, really means that we’re driving and creating different services to the firm’s attorneys, whether it’s legal research or micro-education about our suite of offerings in information services.

Legal Executive Institute: 
So, it’s a different way of looking at the firm’s knowledge and information resources, is that right?

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Katherine Lowry, Director of Practice Services at BakerHostetler

Katherine Lowry: Yes, and I’m going to step outside the library for just a minute, to give you an example. One of the groups that I manage is training for all of the CIO’s office. Our group is deeply entrenched in trying to make sure that there’s a greater level of adoption for the technology that we have across our enterprise. That is our core goal, so we’ve revamped exactly how we do that. We offer training classes that are more web-based so we can cast a wider net. We’ve worked with target segments inside of our offices, creating these local active advocates of the technology, so that they can be another line of defense and adoption. And we’re pushing this knowledge across each office. As a result, secretaries are getting greater expertise, and they’re helping us spread the word about integration of technology.

Most recently, we’re working on micro-education on-demand. If you need to know something, we have a platform now called Brainstorm, where you can search. No session is longer than probably two-to-three minutes. It’s just a quick bite of how to do something, or where to find it, that sort of thing. It really boosted our Microsoft Office 365 integration, by helping people understand the software’s capabilities and how to expand those.

These and other initiatives were first called ‘practice innovation’, but now we call it ‘legal innovation’, and it’s really just our strategy to help innovate on a practice level or on a more specific topic. And the integration and adoption of such technologies has always been a core focus of mine since I’ve been at the firm, regardless of what title I’ve had.

Legal Executive Institute: It sounds like you work with IT, research and other groups to integrate technology into the firm’s practices. How important is this collaboration and how can you fend off the silo-mentality that seems so prevalent at larger law firms?

Katherine Lowry: If we want to address a question like, ‘How do we coral this kind of knowledge into a practice group’s or practice team’s workspaces and integrate it all into the document management system, so that everyone can share the same information and data across all 14 offices?’ — then that typically falls in the knowledge management function and means we’re going to have to stretch the solution across the entire firm for it to work well.


The integration and adoption of such technologies has always been a core focus of mine since I’ve been at the firm, regardless of what title I’ve had.


For us, that means we’re rapidly trying to introduce data analytics across the firm, develop a formal Business Intelligence strategy, and make sure that we know what data we have across the firm, so that we can make better decisions and not just trying to find data in one silo that may not be representative of other pieces and parts across our enterprise.

Getting rid of the information silos here, locating and assessing all our internal knowledge, then creating knowledge graphs across all of our practice areas — it’s not easy work. Sometimes, we had nothing to start from. We had to kind of create from scratch, and ask ourselves ‘How do we structure this? What does it look like?’

And with AI feeding raw data into the mix, we now have to be the cleaners and tag it. We have to create these knowledge maps and graphs that represent our work and illustrates what we know. If we do that, then I believe that we’re going to be able to leverage AI even more.

This is a major culture change — not just for us but for the industry. And it’s definitely not a discreet project; it takes a horizon vision. It takes asking yourself, ‘Five years out, what is that going look like and why do we need to be owners of that? And, who else can help us with that?’

In Part 2 of our interview with Katherine Lowry, Director of Practice Services at BakerHostetler, we’ll discuss her role in business development and client engagement, and the firm’s newest initiative, IncuBaker.

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All Hands on Deck for Business Development Efforts: Libraries Part of the BD Crew

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It was great to see the library getting recognition in an article by Bloomberg Law’s Scott Mozarky, Large Law’s Not-So-Secret Weapon In Marketing And BD: The Library.  In the piece, Scott says, “Law firm libraries have always been major assets for partners and associates in providing strong practice of law results to their clients. However, the library was not often perceived to be a key component in a firm’s marketing or business development machinery.”

This particular line struck me as timely since On Firmer Ground recently recapped two webinars where private law firm librarians/information professionals were discussing competitive intelligence efforts at their firms.  You Ask, We Tell – Your CI Report Formatting Questions Answered was hosted by the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals’ Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), and Library and Marketing: Why Can’t We Be Friends? represented a first-time collaboration between the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) and AALL. Two of the panelists representing the library function in the LMA webinar said they had been involved in competitive intelligence work at their firms for ten years, and that they played an integral part in the firm’s business development efforts.

Scott is correct that librarians aren’t always perceived as a key part of the firm’s business development machinery though, and his article offers a perfect lead-in to a list of competitive intelligence/business development resources available from the American Association of Law Libraries.  Hopefully, firm librarians can glean some useful nuggets from these as they keep pushing ahead with their business development contributions. Continue reading

More on ILTACON 2016—Tips and Tricks for Implementing an Expertise Location System at a Law Firm

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By Julie Bozzell, Chief Research and Knowledge Services Officer, Hogan Lovells

Finding who knows what or has experience doing XYZ quickly in most law firms today is not as simple as we’d like it to be.  At ILTACON in August, I participated in a panel  titled “Finding a Needle in a Haystack with 21st Century Expertise Systems.”   Other panelists included Kate Cain, Director of Market Intelligence at Sidley Austin LLP; Marybeth Corbett, Director of Knowledge Asset Services at WilmerHale; and Joshua Fireman of Fireman & Company.

Our session included discussion of expertise v. experience, expertise systems and solutions, why firms need expertise location tools, and the fun range of challenges that exist with implementing any such solution in a law firm.  I emphasized to the audience the expertise librarians can bring to these projects based on their experience with, and love of, developing and managing controlled vocabularies and taxonomies.  Along with that, librarians and information professionals have a deep passion for searching and for refining search tools to better meet our discovery needs.

ILTACON Session Description:

Expertise location systems are ubiquitous at law firms of all sizes and are key solutions that help with everything from responding to client proposals to finding the right attorney to help with a particular matter. An effective expertise location tool can be a differentiator for law firms, yet they are tricky because of the need to pull together multiple sources of information while providing clear answers. People from the trenches will share their experiences of implementing various solutions and tips and tricks to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a new solution.

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More on ILTACON 2016—Social Collaboration Tools as an E-mail Alternative

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Emily Florio’s post on attending ILTACON mentioned some of the private law librarians and information professionals that presented.  Katherine Lowry, Director of Practice Services at BakerHostetler, participated as a panelist for the session, “The Social Collaboration Tools Making a Meal Out of Email”.  The session focused on social collaboration tools, such as Slack, ThreadKM, Yammer, and Beezy, that law firms are using to facilitate collaboration and to help stem the endless stream of e-mail messages.

Katherine contributed to the panel by discussing BakerHostetler’s use of Yammer, and described the roll-out and adoption process.  According to Katherine, “[I]t was a great panel filled with a diverse set of products supporting social networks in the legal industry”, and she’s happy to see “social networks gaining even more momentum”.  She recommended the recap of the presentation written by Sameena Kluck, a Strategic Account Executive for Thomson Reuters and Westlaw.

The session’s moderator was Patrick DiDomenico, Chief Knowledge Officer at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart.  Other panelists included Ginevra Saylor, National Director of Knowledge Management at Dentons; Raul Taveras, Manager of Litigation Technology Solutions at Fish & Richardson P.C., and Cindy Thurston Bare, Director of Knowledge Management at Orrick.

Librarians and Vendors: Some Thoughts As Conference Season Approaches

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by Charles J. Lowry, enterprise sales representative for Fastcase

The poet Dante took great relish in describing the sign over the entrance to the underworld. There is a part of that sign that all vendors secretly fear is in the hearts of librarians as they contemplate the exhibit hall:

Per me si va ne la citta dolente,

Per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,

Per me si va tra la perduta gente.

Inferno III.1-3

“Through me you enter into the grieving city; through me you enter into unending sorrow; through me you enter to be among a forsaken nation.” What I hope to do over the next few paragraphs is to offer a couple thoughts that might enable both librarians and vendors to appreciate the opportunities and challenges of the exhibit hall. These thoughts are based on years of experience, but it is my experience only. I make no claim to speak for all vendors or for any particular vendor, including my employer. Continue reading