Law Librarians: Keeping The Industry Honest

Reposted with permission from Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites

By Robert Ambrogi

I’ve just returned from a much-too-brief visit to the annual conference of the American Association of Law Libraries in Baltimore. Although the conference started Saturday, family obligations kept me away until Monday. Then yesterday, flight cancellations along the east coast had me scrambling for a route home, forcing me to leave much earlier than I’d planned to catch the Amtrak to Boston.

Pretty much all I managed to do, therefore, was explore the exhibit hall and speak with vendors there.  From my vantage point, that’s a good thing. As I wrote after last year’s conference, AALL’s annual convention has evolved into one of the leading conferences for legal technology.

The reason for this is partly due to the evolving role of the law librarian. Back in 2014, I wrote about the changing role of law librarians, concluding, “To my mind, there has never been a more exciting or important time to be a legal information professional.” Four years later, that is even more true. As I said in last year’s post, law librarians wear an increasing number of hats these days, and a major one is legal technologist.

Hand in hand with the changing role of law librarians is the fact that information science itself is being radically transformed by technology. The buzzwords permeating this conference were the same you’ll hear at any legal technology conference — artificial intelligence, analytics, blockchain. But this is buzz with real substance behind it. Advances in technology are driving advances in legal research and even redefining the meaning and scope of what we’ve traditionally considered legal research to be.

In this regard, it says something about the state of innovation in law that prominent among those showing off leading-edge technologies at AALL were two of the industry’s most-established companies — Thomson Reuters with its AI-powered Westlaw Edge and LexisNexis with its new Lexis Analytics suite.

I was able to catch up with both companies at AALL and also see more of two new LexisNexis products, Context, which rolls out in September and will help lawyers understand what language judges find most persuasive, and Lexis Search Advantage | Transactional Powered by Intelligize, which is now available and allows firms to mine rich information out of internal document collections. (See this post for more.)

I also got the chance to see a demo of another new product I recently wrote about, the Analytics Workbench from Fastcase and its recently acquired docket-tracking company Docket Alarm. The idea of the Workbench is to allow legal professionals to build their own bespoke litigation analytics across any court, practice area or litigation event.

Visually, the analytics you create in Workbench look like Docket Alarm’s existing analytics product, PTAB Predictive Analytics. The difference is that these same analytics can be applied to virtually any court or type of docket activity. (Docket Alarm includes all federal dockets but is limited in its coverage of state dockets.) Michael Sander, Docket Alarm’s founder and CEO, said the goal is to make it easy for attorneys to create custom analytics, without requiring sophisticated tech expertise.

Wandering the exhibit hall, I was able to get updates from several companies I’m familiar with and make introductions with several I had not seen before. There will be more to come on this blog about some of those companies.

But something I heard over and over again from the vendors at AALL mirrors what I said above about the changing role of law librarians. Law librarians get it, the vendors said. They understand the importance of technology in advancing the legal profession, and they are more likely than other legal professionals to understand the mechanics of technology, to be able to get under the hood and size up whether a product is what it claims to be.

We see this at law firms, where law librarians are often the gatekeepers for new technology, helping to vet and evaluate products before their firms plunk down precious dollars. We see this at law schools, where law librarians are often at the forefront of pushing for teaching and program initiatives in technology innovation and competence. We see this in court systems and government agencies, where law librarians are often helping to lead the charge for expanding access to justice. Continue reading

Spotlight on Innovation in Law Firm Knowledge Management

pic3766Marlene Gebauer, Director of Knowledge Solutions at Greenberg Traurig, LLP, works to foster innovative solutions and to encourage adoption of new tools and services. She took some time to discuss knowledge management and innovation and challenges faced by the legal industry in these areas.

What is your role at your law firm?

I am the Director of Knowledge Solutions and oversee global Knowledge Management (including R&D on new tools and services), Research and Intelligence, Licensing and Contract Negotiation, Outreach and Education, and Library teams. I am also a leader in our firm-wide innovation initiative team.  The team consists of attorneys, executive management and select department directors and is charged with popularizing adoption of innovative solutions and promoting a culture of innovation as part of the normal course of business at the firm.

What do you believe is the value you and your department bring to your firm?

First and foremost, I think we are a cohesive department and function as such. Although our Knowledge Solutions teams don’t always overlap in work performed, we make it a priority to keep department members informed of what other teams are doing and to cross train, so we can best serve our clients. Our teams’ connections to other firm departments and practice groups allow us to share updates on activities and projects going on throughout the firm and to ensure alignment. Any special initiatives are always a cross-team effort—someone handles project management/logistics, someone tackles outreach materials and education, and someone focuses on metrics and analysis. This process strengthens relationships and builds knowledge within the department and ultimately results in more successful initiatives.

I work with an amazing group of people.  We are a mixed bag—attorneys, technicians, analysts, and data professionals—which strengthens the knowledge base of the department and broadens our scope.   Members of our department bring inspiration, perspiration, creativity, business insight, problem solving and relationship building to the table. They love to learn new things and share them with the people around them. We encourage this and give people opportunities for development–and encourage them to seek out their own opportunities and professional networks. Our team members are flexible, resourceful and compassionate. We encourage everyone to be leaders, regardless of title. Continue reading

KM, AI & Client Engagement: The Changing Role of Law Firm Librarians, Part 2

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 librariansThe role of the law firm librarian has undergone dramatic change as technology, artificial intelligence and other innovations have allowed some information service professionals to reinvent the job. This has brought these professionals into areas of knowledge management, strategy, business development, client engagement and legal process improvement that are changing the way they approach their role within the firm.Katherine Lowry, Director of Practice Services at BakerHostetler, is one such innovative soul. (Eight years ago, Lowry shifted her career to report to the CIO and broadened the context of her services around technology, information, and driving greater value in services delivered by her team.) Lowry recently discussed with Legal Executive Institute how her role at the firm has evolved; and in Part 2 of our interview, she discusses her involvement in the firm’s business development and client engagement strategies, and the firm’s newest initiative, IncuBaker.

Legal Executive Institute: Previously, you spoke about how your role at the firm has evolved into one that, in turn, has allowed you to transform other aspects of the firm. Has this evolution changed how the firm interacts with its clients or how it identifies new business development opportunities for your practice groups?

Katherine Lowry: It’s changed in a couple of significant ways. Originally, it was Bob [BakerHostetler’s longtime CIO Bob Craig] and myself identifying, and bringing awareness to our Partners on the impact of technology to the legal practice. This included monitoring new legal start-ups and developing a framework to analyze our research in a tool created by my team called the Legal Nexus of Forces.


 This engagement process with our attorneys and clients helped us see that there was value in our research and ideation around improving our services using technology.


The evolution of where we’re at now is transforming this process. About a year or two ago, I was asked to go out to a client pitch. Since then, I’ve been to several of them. And it’s become more of a corollary to what I’m trying to do here at the firm — to bring what I am doing internally out to clients. For example, today, we have years’ worth of research and product studies that allow us to engage with clients frequently in collaborative ways through team calls or providing CLEs to communicate the advancement of technologies and how they change the landscape of our firm and the entire legal industry.

During the collaboration discussions at the table and the client pitches, it has been really helpful to have someone like me there to ask, “What kind of technology do you use? How do you use data?” It is a great compliment and pairing to our attorneys who are focused on delivering the best legal services to our clients, and I’ve had a lot of success at our client pitches in that regard.

After one pitch, we ended up receiving an invitation to return to complete a CLE program for a client. It was just the relationship partner, myself and Bob, and the client gave us one hour — we ended up staying for two because they had so many questions. It really hit home that clients found value in our research and identification of technology-driven solutions.

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Katherine Lowry, Director of Practice Services at BakerHostetler

Legal Executive Institute: So, was it this process that then led the firm to create IncuBaker?

Katherine Lowry: In a way it was. This engagement process with our attorneys and clients helped us see that there was value in our research and ideation around improving our services using technology. We worked with our Policy group to form IncuBaker, a more formalized Innovation team. One that is founded on research, awareness, collaboration across our attorneys and clients to deliver new opportunities. The future of IncuBaker in 2018 will continue to focus on machine learning, DLT/Blockchain Technology, and analytics. We want to explore with the clients how they’re using these technologies in their business and how it can improve our relationship.

That’s why we got into IncuBaker. We’re really trying to transform the dialog around certain technologies, not just internally, which is of course very important, but with our clients as well. We know that things like machine learning or distributed ledger technology are going to be some very disruptive technologies, especially for the legal industry. Previously, there was really not a path in place to decide how the firm would examine and use these technologies and help clients navigate these areas.

To really make a difference, we need to understand how these technologies can impact the firm, then collaborate with our clients and figure out what that ultimate impact is there too. I feel that’s what IncuBaker can offer — it can make sure that we have good communication back and forth for the businesses and the other administrative departments to understand how the firm can utilize these and other technologies.

We need to ask these questions now. What do these technologies mean? Does this mean we can offer a new line of service? Are we structurally set up to be able to have and apply machine learning?

Legal Executive Institute: Does that take a lot of internal coordination?

Katherine Lowry: I would say, overall, it’s a top-down approach, and we’re making sure to work appropriately with the group chairs, asking them to provide attorney liaisons to participate in studies and conduct proof of concepts to determine what technology will provide the greatest amount of value. As far as administration departments, it’s really about collaborating with them and casting a vision of what’s possible together.

That’s where the engagement with the client, I think, is going to get even more valuable as we progress. The undertone is technology, but it’s really about understanding. “What are their business issues? What are they trying to solve?” From there, we feel at Baker, we’ll have great intelligence to figure out what we should focus on to support them and to provide even better service to them.

And I think we’re having a lot of success so far with that.

The Library – An Indispensable Resource for the Entire Law Firm

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By Diana Koppang, Director of Research & Competitive Intelligence at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP

I manage the library at a mid-sized (150 attorneys) single office firm, and Bloomberg Law recently invited me to speak at a luncheon for Chicago-area private law firm librarians. The suggested topic was changes I’ve been observing in the private law world.  I decided to skip over AI trends, legal analytics (a favorite topic of mine), and other tech innovations. Instead, I spoke on how libraries are integrating and interweaving themselves within their firms. A panel I coordinated for the American Association of Law Libraries covered similar ground, entitled “The Linchpin Librarian: Becoming an Indispensable and Integrated Resource in Your Organization.”

The key to becoming a “linchpin” at your firm is understanding the needs of not just the attorneys – but also paralegals, support staff, and perhaps most importantly, the other administrative departments.

When Adam Sidoti, my Bloomberg Law account manager, asked what was “new and exciting” in the library at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg, I described the library’s expanded role in the new business intake process.  Moving beyond our standard due diligence research, the library had helped create checklists of what should be researched and how results should be presented to the attorneys, as well as what research databases were needed for these tasks. My team looked at it from the perspective of how data collected at the onset would be beneficial to the competitive intelligence reports we later produce. Further down the road, the data initially collected could also be utilized for the statistics our finance and marketing teams need to understand the firm’s strengths.  Again, being a “linchpin” requires understanding the firm’s needs, especially the micro and macro strategic goals.

When Adam asked what duties the library was giving up to handle its new responsibilities, I gave a little laugh and said, “None that I’m aware of.”  However, I realized that’s not entirely true. As we sign more firm-wide contracts and draw focus away from cost recovery, we’re able to empower the firm’s support staff with research tools and training, which does lighten the library’s research load somewhat. For instance, we recently provided finance department staff with access and training for Bloomberg Law dockets and for Lexis Public Records (the Diligence product) so they can conduct research on unresponsive clients.

Librarians are sometimes tempted not to relinquish our tools and tasks so we can ensure our value. We think holding on to these tools is the way to be indispensable. That only breeds resentment between departments, as if we’re hiding or locking down the tools that would help others be more efficient at their jobs. In graduate school, we were taught to be the proud gatekeepers of our institution’s knowledge and information resources.  Unfortunately, the term “gatekeeper” has taken on some negative connotations, implying that we’re not a welcoming access point, but rather, a locked gate. The library continues to be the go-to administrative department for more complex searches or larger research projects, and this ensures our importance. But, through cooperation and resource-sharing, we’re also allowing the firm to derive greater value from our research contracts, and we’re demonstrating our active willingness to support the entire firm. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading