Law Librarians & The Future of Law Firms

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 24, Number 2 (November/December 2019), pgs. 23-25.

By Jordan Furlong

Jordan Furlong of Ottawa, Canada, is a legal market analyst, speaker, and consultant who forecasts the impact of legal industry trends on lawyers, legal organizations, and clients. He is the author of Law Is a Buyer’s Market: Building a Client-First Law Firm and writes regularly about the legal profession at

This past summer, I gave the keynote address to the Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals (PLLIP) Special Interest Section Summit X: The Path to 2030, in Washington, DC, during the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting. The
title of the presentation was “New Horizons: How Law Librarians and Legal Information Professionals Can Redefine Law Firms in the 21st Century.” The following is a brief summary of those remarks.

The Legal Landscape
The gradual but unstoppable transformation of the commercial legal marketplace—including new client buying patterns, rapid technological advances, and a host of new providers emboldened by regulatory liberalization—is creating a state of “climate  change” in the market. This poses an immense challenge to law firms, which developed
and flourished in last century’s more sedate competitive climate and whose business model will now have to adapt in response to this change.

Among the most important consequences of this legal climate change is a growing bifurcation of legal work into two broad categories:

  • “commodity” work (routine, repeatable, straightforward, traditionally
    given to associates), and
  • “complex” work (intricate, challenging, high-stakes, traditionally kept by

These two types of work have always existed in law firms, of course. But one of the profitability secrets of law firms is that they perform commodity work the same way they perform complex work: sequentially, laboriously, by-the-lawyer-hour. This is the key feature of the law firm leverage model: bill associates’ on-the-job learning efforts on basic tasks and reap the resulting profits.

Now, however, this law firm profitability secret is becoming a handicap. Commodity work is migrating from law firms and moving to more efficient and cost-appropriate platforms, including managed legal services companies and low-cost/offshore centers. These providers are winning this work because they have designed systems and trained
people to carry out these tasks faster, cheaper, and more efficiently than law firms can.

Law firms could keep this work if they were to adjust their workflow, pricing, and profitability approaches; that is, if they would perform commodity work efficiently and systematically, as it should be done. But law firms just aren’t set up to do that, structurally or culturally, and few are even trying. Continue reading

The Power of CI Checklists: Using model competitive intelligence (CI) checklists to plan and complete impactful CI reports

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 24, Number 2 (November/December 2019), pgs. 48-49.

By Kevin Miles, Manager of Library Services at Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP

We are all familiar with using checklists in our daily lives. Examples can include grocery checklists, to-do checklists, or checklists for planning a trip. Checklists keep us focused on the steps or elements needed to complete a task, and they help us verify that critical information has been collected. Whereas most general checklists usually are not used
to create a report, CI checklists are used to create reports and can be very effective.

CI Checklists Are CI-Specific

Competent CI professionals rely on checklists to plan and complete competitive intelligence reports; CI checklists outline and guide CI reports. The three essential qualities of a CI checklist are that it must be pliableprocedural, and purposeful. Pliable means the checklist can be adjusted; steps can be added or subtracted. Procedural means the checklist is built step-by-step within an order, forming touchpoints for your report. Purposeful means the report is not a data dump, but rather, it answers specific questions. You may have to ask the attorney three different questions to determine what the attorney wants to know, how the attorney will use the information, and what the deadline is for the report.

Model CI Checklists

CI reports range from background reports about officers and directors, companies, and industries, to websites, litigation, transactions, and other activities.  As we discussed in the September/October 2019 issue of AALL Spectrum, CI checklist questions can be grouped into six categories:

1. People
2. Company
3. Litigation Parties
4. Intellectual Property
5. Industry
6. Other Activities

Let’s look at a few model CI checklists, which have been condensed here for purposes of illustration. Copies of the full versions are available at the bottom of this post. Feel free to adapt or modify them to suit your purposes.

People Checklist

  • Name of person
  • Address
  • Telephone
  • Email
  • Social media presence
  • Workplace
  • Education
  • Additional business relationships
  • Who knows whom

Company Checklist

  • Company name
  • Company address
  • Industry
  • Officers & directors
  • Social media
  • Mergers & acquisitions activity
  • Subsidiaries
  • Law firm contacts within the company
  • Locations in the world

Litigation Parties Checklist

  • Plaintiff/Defendant ratios
  • How many times in litigation?
  • Win/Loss/Settle ratios?
  • Which courts have they appeared in?
  • Which judges have adjudicated this company?
    • By name
    • By percentage
  • Which law firms/attorneys represent them:
    • By name
    • By percentage

Intellectual Property Checklist

  • What is the composition of the IP portfolio?
  • How many patents are:
    • Granted
    • Licensed
    • Sold
    • Expired
    • About to expire

Industry Checklist

  • What is the overview of the industry?
  • What are the names of the companies in the main industry?
  • How do they rank in terms of size?
    • Number of employees
    • Revenue
    • Profit

Other Activities Checklist

  • Is the company involved in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) activities?
  • What are their political contributions?
  • Is the company on a watch list?
  • What are their real estate holdings?
  • What are their cybersecurity policies?
  • Have there been data breaches?
  • What information can be gathered from the website?
  • Are there any Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violations?

Now, Begin

Developing a CI checklist is the first step to gathering information for the CI report.
Checklists create consistency for your reports and ensure that everything that needs to be included is incorporated.


Practical Competitive Intelligence “Breaking Down the Basics,” in the September/
October 2019 issue of AALL Spectrum at


AALL Competitive Intelligence Strategies & Analysis, May 2020. Details will be  forthcoming.


Listen to the 2016 webinar “Advanced Competitive Intelligence: Best Practices
in Conducting CI Research,” at bit.lyAALL2go0616CI.

Checklists in Word

People Checklist

Company Checklist

Litigation Parties Checklist

Intellectual Property Checklist

Industry Checklist

Other Activities Checklist


Brainstorming Solutions to our Competitive Intelligence Pain Points

By Delia Montesinos, Senior Competitive Intelligence Analyst at Ropes & Gray

The content of this post was originally published in the Northern California Association of Law Libraries newsletter.  Content is republished with permission.

Competitive Intelligence (“CI”) is my daily bread and as much as I love it, it can drive me to the most bitter of tears. There are so many pain points! Putting together a report requires too many tools; turnaround times are sometimes unreasonable; the amount of information can drive one to distraction or, worse, be too little to be viable. To top it off, I have to deal with my uber-obsession about delivering the most kickass, ‘trust-me-there’s-no-more-info-to-be-found’ work product—an obsession largely driven by the fact I generate these reports with little or no context: I have no clue how my work fits into the bigger picture. Therefore, when they asked me to present at the Northern California Association of Law Libraries (NOCALL) Spring Institute, I immediately chose CI pain points.

What I (selfishly) hoped to accomplish was learning new tips and tricks from my peers. What I discovered is that, despite CI work being more prevalent, few law firms have dedicated CI teams like mine. Additionally, many librarians work CI on an irregular basis: when I posed the question at the roundtable, nearly 90% of participants said they work CI less than 5% of the time. For them, each CI request has the added challenge of remembering which tool has what info or, worse, how to find info when you have no tools at all. As a result, I have begun to pen a newsletter column to demystify CI work for my NOCALL peers. What follows is an abbreviated version of two of my columns, updated with the resources we brainstormed at the Spring Institute. Continue reading

ARK Group Conference to Highlight Role of the Modern Law Firm Librarian: Knowledge Management, Big data and Analytics, and Client-facing Solutions

The modern law firm librarian and legal information professional’s role continues to evolve along with the changing legal industry, and knowledge management, analytics, and client-facing solutions now occupy more and more of legal information professionals’ time.

The ARK Group’s 13th annual Law Firm Library, Research & Information Services conference brings together a group of legal information professionals to illuminate their changing roles, and to share their strategies and best practices for dealing with current challenges and opportunities.  Several members of the American Association of Law Libraries’ Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals’ section (PLLIP) will be among the speakers at the event, which will be held Thursday, February 21, at the SUNY Global Center in New York.

Below is a snapshot of the presentations. View the full agenda on the ARK Group site.

Opening Remarks – Conference Co-Chairs
Kris Martin, Senior Director, HBR Consulting, and Holly M. Riccio, Senior Manager, HBR Consulting 

Putting Intelligence in BP Decision Makers’ Hands 
Angela McKane, Lead, Technology Intelligence, BP 

Keeping Up With the Quants: Leveraging Data in Managing Departments
Kathryne L. Valentine, Director of Knowledge & Practice Innovation, Dentons US LLP

Partnering with Clients to Drive Practical Innovation
Toby Brown, Chief Practice Management Officer, Perkins Coie LLP, and Gwyneth McAlpine, Director of Knowledge Management Services, Perkins Coie LLP

There Are Always Two Sides to Every (KM) Story
Kathy Skinner, Director of Research & Information Services, White & Case LLP; Gina Lynch, Director of Knowledge Services, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; and Holly Riccio, Senior Manager, HBR Consulting 

Buyer Beware: Evaluating Analytics Products – How to Select an Analytics Product
Jean O’Grady, JD, MLS, Sr. Dir of Information, Research & Knowledge Management, DLA Piper LLP (US); Diana J. Koppang, Director of Research & Competitive Intelligence, Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP; and June H. Liebert, Firmwide Director of Library and Research Services, Sidley Austin LLP

Time for a Little Library R&R (Recovery & Revenue) 
Greg Lambert, Chief Knowledge Services Officer, Jackson Walker LLP, and Lee Bernstein, Library Manager, Haynes & Boone, LLP 

Who moved my cheese? How firm libraries create new top-line (and bottom-line) value
Ron Friedmann, Chief Knowledge & Information Officer, LAC

Kill the Library, Elevate the Service…
Huu Nguyen, Partner, Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP; Scott D. Bailey, Global Director of Research Services, Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP;  Nancy Rine, Director of Research Services and Conflicts, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver &  Jacobson LLP; and Thao Tran, KM Manager, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver &  Jacobson LLP


Changing Data, Evolving Librarians

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 23, Number 2 (November/December 2018), pgs. 12-15.

By Zena Applebaum, Director of Professional Firm & Corporate Segments with
Thomson Reuters in Canada

For many years, I have advocated for law librarians to be actively engaged in firm  initiatives in competitive intelligence, knowledge management, business development research, and other areas of law firm administration that are increasingly becoming
important to a firm’s ability to compete. As competition in the legal world increases, firms are hiring fewer administrative professionals. The ones who are hired are expected to do more with less, take on additional responsibilities, and execute on more sophisticated projects. This necessitates not only a broadening of skill sets, but also a reimagining of roles and titles. To me, this is where librarians, especially more recent graduates with digital skills—but really any librarian with organizational, business-minded skill sets—can really add value to their law firm.

The deluge of available information is not decreasing; it is only increasing at a crazier rate each year. The amount of unstructured data, let alone the structured content that is streaming through firms at any given moment, is overwhelming. Cue the law librarians
and legal information professionals to help us make sense of the data, turn information into intelligence, and still deliver research while managing collection costs and physical spaces. Continue reading