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

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

We Want Your Knowledge! Modern Law Firm Libraries Take an Innovative Approach to Managing and Delivering Knowledge

With the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) 2018 Annual Meeting starting at the end of this week, we wanted to highlight some of the private law librarians and information professionals who will present at the conference.

Saskia Mehlhorn, Director of Knowledge Management and Library Services, U.S., at Norton Rose Fulbright, is committed to uncovering and extracting knowledge at her firm and making it accessible. Saskia discussed her team’s role recently with Gregg Wirth of Thomson Reuters’ Legal Executive Institute and highlighted how law firm libraries of today have moved beyond traditional print and electronic resource management, and into the content and knowledge management business.

According to Saskia, “Knowledge originates from a law firm’s internal experience and work. Also, you have what’s contained in documents, what’s been written about in presentations and other similar products. Those things will always be a part of any law firm, because lawyers – and the legal profession in general – are based upon the written word. In the last few years, US law firms have reevaluated knowledge management and realized the opportunities it presents.”  The Legal Executive Institute article (part 1 and part 2) focuses on the collaboration and innovation needed for successful utilization of the various forms of knowledge intrinsic to a global law firm.

Saskia, who is the incoming Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect for AALL’s Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) group, was also recently profiled in the association’s AALL Spectrum.  In that profile, she elaborates on how librarians’ roles and knowledge management are evolving with technology advancements.  She also discusses the time-saving role a chatbot can play in the delivery of library services. Below is an excerpt, reposted with permission, from AALL Spectrum, Volume 22, Number 6 (July/August 2018), pgs. 34-36.

“Why is a comprehensive knowledge management system important for firms?

Any law firm, whether it is a solo practitioner or a 4,000-lawyer global firm, has within its systems a tremendous amount of collective knowledge. So instead of asking why it’s important, we should ask, “Why not make use of that knowledge?”

A comprehensive system is a key to the holy grail. All knowledge that has been accumulated is readily available for retrieval and allows law firms to work efficiently and consistently at a high level for their clients.

How has knowledge management changed over the years and how do you anticipate it will continue to change?

Knowledge management hasn’t really changed all that much. When we think of knowledge, it’s really to communicate past experiences—we transcribe them, preserve them, and then make them available. That is how we still handle it today. In the past, it was oftentimes all about the books. Someone would go to a book shelf, grab a book, get the knowledge out of the book, and move on. Now we aren’t constrained to use only the printed format, because everything is also available online, which makes it easier to retrieve the knowledge. As we move forward, we won’t be solely relying on the ability to retrieve knowledge and make results come back faster. In the future, we will be able to use systems that combine knowledge that is available in any given repository with ideas, thoughts, and concepts, whether they are articles or seminars, so you are better able to find a solution to whatever problems arise.”

You are presenting a program at the 2018 AALL Annual Meeting on building a chatbot. What do you find most exciting about its potential? Any challenges or surprises?

I’m most excited about the use of chatbots when it comes to carrying out tasks that are critical but also very time-consuming. In my department, we are currently working on a chatbot that could replace the reference interview. The reference interview is something that is necessary—oftentimes because people don’t necessarily know what they want and they need you to guide them through the process—but it’s a time-consuming process. As we move forward with exploring this chatbot technology, we will develop a number of solutions that allow us to transfer time-consuming tasks to a chatbot, so that the information professional who works behind the chatbot can work on more intricate issues at hand.

The biggest challenge I have come across is actually finding the time to work on the chatbot. While there is a lot of potential and time-saving capability with the creation of this chatbot, it takes quite some time to concentrate on it to make the project successful. The hardest part is freeing up available time: We have so many requests to respond to throughout the normal workday, that finding additional time to create a time-saving chatbot is time-consuming in and of itself.”

Saskia will be presenting on both knowledge management and chatbots at the upcoming AALL Annual Meeting, which will take place in Baltimore from July 13-17, 2018.

Give Me Your Knowledge!

Speakers: Saskia Mehlhorn (Norton Rose Fulbright), Connie Crosby (Crosby Group Consulting)

One of the major issues in any organization is the danger of knowledge walking out the door every time someone leaves, whether due to job changes, retirement, or other reasons. Over the past decades, many organizations have undergone hardware and software system changes. One area, however, is often overlooked-the knowledge that exists in people’s heads and was never put on paper, the so-called, “tacit knowledge.” This program will define tacit knowledge and explore at least three methods to extract and deliver tacit knowledge to future users.

From Concept to Deliverable: Build Your Own Law Library Chatbot

SpeakersSaskia Mehlhorn (Norton Rose Fulbright), Robert Brammer (Law Library of Congress)

In October 2017, the Law Library of Congress attached a chatbot to its Facebook page. This chatbot connects patrons to research guides, foreign law reports, and primary sources of law that are available on the Law Library of Congress blog, In Custodia Legis, and its website, Law.gov. This presentation will discuss the application of AI to law, what a chatbot is, how a chatbot can be used by law libraries, how to build a chatbot that requires no programming knowledge, mistakes to avoid when building a chatbot, how to maintain a chatbot so it is responsive to patrons’ needs, and methods to evaluate a chatbot’s performance.

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?

K-Lowry

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