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

AALL Annual Meeting Session Recap: Powered by AI, Built in the Law Library

By Kristen M. Hallows, Bricker & Eckler LLP

Fastcase CEO Ed Walters has had enough with the magic and the unicorns and the hype surrounding artificial intelligence, or AI.  He urged attendees at the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) session, “Powered by AI, Built in the Law Library,” to think of AI like pivot tables in Excel:  they’re just tools.  They’re not magic, but they can be to those who don’t understand them.

He began by sharing a few hilarious examples of the limitations of AI.  Is it a Shar-Pei, or is it soft serve?  AI doesn’t know!  It can’t differentiate between the two.  And, whatever you do, don’t expect appealing names for paint colors from AI.  Stoner Blue might seem appropriate for your teenager’s room, but can you imagine taking home a color sample by the name of Bank Butt?  How about a light brown named Turdly?

So, AI is good at some things and not good at others.  When it works, we stop calling it AI.  You may not identify it as such, but AI is “baked into” some very common tools law firms and libraries probably use every day, such as spellcheck and Google Translate.

Ed refers to the first wave of AI, where we are currently, as “read only” AI.  What’s coming is the second wave, which he calls “read/write” AI.  It’s a much cooler phase in which we get to go from consumer AI to maker AI.  Maker AI presents a new suite of tools that information professionals can use to provide more customized and actionable information to attorneys and firm administrators.  Whereas traditional legal research services offer the same data to all users, maker AI lets information professionals create their own datasets and extract results unique to them.  These results can provide insights to help structure alternative fee arrangements or to help inform litigation strategy or settlement decisions.

Take the Fastcase AI Sandbox.  The AI Sandbox was designed to empower people.  It’s a set of secure servers with datasets and metadata from Fastcase, coupled with an extensive suite of AI tools.  Law firms or law schools can combine the Fastcase data with in-house data.  Once you have your desired dataset, you can query it and get results out.  For example, you can load a set of judicial opinions and get personality insights out–a judge’s preferences or tendencies.  Using Docket Alarm’s new tool, you can create your own analytics on a subset of documents, such as mandamus petitions in Texas.  Upload your own data and crunch it!  And you can build your own apps with Neota Logic, rules-driven software with built-in decision tree logic.

Legal information professionals can drive this new read/write AI.  Law librarians can build things with AI now, not just create reports, and some librarians are already doing it.  Continue reading

Moving from Content Aggregation to Content Intelligence

EAIS
Emerging Approaches to Information Services aims to shed light on the shifting role of the information services function

By Steven A. Lastres, director of knowledge management services at Debevoise and Plimpton LLP, as part of Ark Group’s new book Emerging Approaches to Information Services.

In order to give clients their best advice, law firms need to ensure that their lawyers are informed about the latest news, legal developments, decisions, and deals – as well as keeping an eye on the competition. Forward-thinking firms are taking content aggregation tools used
for over a decade to the next level by providing content intelligence platforms.

Content intelligence combines business intelligence with content management. This helps law firms manage a vast amount of unstructured data and helps the lawyer make smart strategic and tactical decisions. The primary benefit of content intelligence is that it delivers personalized information to each individual or team within an organization based on their particular focus and personal preferences. Some of the user features include real-time current awareness dashboards with the ability for lawyers to search across the entire data warehouse of the firm’s premium subscription services and internet resources and providing them with the ability to create their own alerts. Additionally, by taking advantage of the technology and the expertise of information professionals embedded within practice groups, client teams, industry sectors, and market teams, firms can publish curated e-newsletters that
pinpoint the specific needs of their audience more accurately.

Actionable intelligence is also being pushed directly onto practice groups, client teams, and industry intranet pages as well as their lawyers’ mobile devices for easy access. Lawyers can now keep up on a real-time basis with the latest relevant information that affects their practice and clients, making them not only knowledgeable but proactive in servicing their clients.

The need to move beyond content aggregation

The use of content aggregation tools in law firms is nothing new. Most firms adopted these tools almost a decade ago as a way to solve information overload. In the past, lawyers were inundated with dozens of daily emails from vendors pushing their publications directly to a lawyer’s email inbox and clogging the communication channel meant primarily for clients. Content aggregation tools solved this problem – one email
a day contained all the updates, and so became widely adopted in law firms. As good as they were, content aggregation tools are no longer an effective solution for delivering current awareness. What changed? With the age of the internet came the disaggregation of the major legal publishers. A handful of legal and business publishers mushroomed into thousands of publishers from traditional media as well as social media. As a result, there has been exponential growth in the sheer volume of current awareness content that we are pushing to our end-users. Furthermore, the business downturn in the legal industry since 2008 increased lawyer’s focus on business development – reducing the time lawyers have to spend keeping up with current awareness both for the practice and business of law.  Continue reading

Law.com Article on Librarians Making Themselves Heard, Performing Firm-Critical Functions

Steve Kovalan, Senior Analyst at ALM Intelligence, wrote a great Law.com article, “Quiet No Longer: Law Librarians ‘Forgo the Status Quo,’” highlighting how law librarians are making a difference within their organizations. Steve helped compile ALM’s 2017 Survey of Law Firm Knowledge Management, Library, and Research Professionals (aka The Law Librarian Survey), so he is well-aware of the roles librarians currently play at their firms and how those roles have evolved. The “Delivering Value” section of the article includes some charts from the ALM survey and “illustrates just how many functions critical to the success of firms are performed by their libraries.”

Excerpts from the article are posted below with permission from the author.

“Delivering Value

In the post-recession new normal, libraries and knowledge services departments serve as an indispensable resource. Figure 1 below, reflecting responses to ALM Intelligence’s Survey of Knowledge Management, Library, and Research Professionals, illustrates just how many functions critical to the success of firms are performed by their libraries.

Figure-1_Law-Library-Brief

Those key functions include libraries and their staff filling their more traditional roles in legal research support. As clients become more cost conscious, firms can source legal research to their library staff as an efficient, low-cost alternative to billing the same tasks to firm attorneys. And they also include the effective procurement of the growing array of technology-based research and analytic solutions fundamental to the day-to-day operations of today’s firms. In evaluating the effectiveness of tools and negotiating subscription details, libraries are responsible for identifying new tools and controlling costs through negotiating favorable contract terms.

Next, there are the roles that library staff are increasingly filling as researchers in support of firm business initiatives (Figure 2 below).

Figure-2_Law-Library-Brief

Those business research responsibilities are growing to the point that many survey respondents expect the number of business research requests to eclipse the number of legal research requests in the near future.

Finally, as information and research experts, libraries and knowledge services departments are perfectly positioned to facilitate knowledge sharing within the firm through activities such as conducting training sessions and curating newsletters on key subjects. Furthermore, because knowledge not shared is knowledge lost, for law firms operating in the age of the lateral move, knowledge sharing can also be a key mechanism promoting institutional stability.”

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

puzzle-1020011_640

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