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

A 360 View: Essential Steps for a Successful Next-Gen Online Catalog Upgrade (Part 2 – Implementation)

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Co-authored by Cheryl Niemeier, Director of Knowledge & Research Services, Bose McKinney & Evans, LLP, and Michayla Sullivan, Knowledge & Research Services Specialist, Bose McKinney & Evans LLP

Congratulations, you’ve selected your online catalog system! After you have decided on a new platform and signed the contract, you will need to implement the new system. The general stages of implementation are:

  • Record migration
  • Library employee training
  • Product customization
  • Promotion of OPAC

The implementation process involves several considerations. Your new vendor should be able to help you bulk import your old library records to your new system. As mentioned in Part 1 of this post, hopefully you’ve made absolutely certain to double-check on this functionality before you signed the contract. The lack of this service is a deal-breaker. Even the smallest law libraries can have thousands of records that are critical for day-to-day operations. An inability to import records in bulk or compatibility issues between the old and new systems could make the migration process difficult, lengthy, and possibly not worth the associated time and cost. Some larger libraries also may have the same consideration for patron records.

The new generation of library catalog systems tend to have far more functionality than older ones, therefore, a surprising amount of training may be needed for your staff. Expect to spend weeks or even months discovering all the new features and how to use them. Be sure that your library staff has at least 10-15 hours over the first several weeks to dedicate to initial training with the vendor, reading manuals, and/or watching training videos. Also, account for extra staff time spent on performing routine tasks in the new system. Allowing for some overtime during the transition period also may be necessary.

After you have mastered the features available in the new system, you will need to spend time customizing it to your needs. Your vendor may be able to help you with some of this, but much of it will be left to you. Depending on which product you go with, the biggest customization may be designing your OPAC. You not only will have to design its overall appearance; you also will need time to determine which features to make available to your patrons. Which search fields will you make available? Will there be links to outside resources? If so, which ones? Will your patrons be allowed to add and remove themselves to serials routing lists? Do you want them to use the OPAC to submit reference requests? After you have answered and implemented all of your customized features, time devoted to testing them is essential.

Build it and they will come? This may hold true in some instances, but no matter what, make a plan to promote the OPAC to the employees at your firm. Every library catalog needs name—one way to get people excited about your new online catalog is to ask for name suggestions or have a naming contest. Next up is announcing the chosen name and arranging demonstrations of the catalog at your firm’s practice group meetings. Also, don’t forget to demonstrate it to the paralegals and secretaries at their meetings. If your firm has an intranet, position the link to the OPAC prominently. Lastly, in the ensuing months make sure to remind people about the OPAC whenever you get the chance. As people call asking where a certain book is kept or if the latest issue of a favorite current awareness journal is in yet, take the opportunity to remind them about your new catalog system.

Advantages abound in moving up to a next-generation online catalog system. Chief among them is the ability to offer attorneys seamless access to the entire universe of resources in your library’s collection. The benefits of doing so far outweigh the time and effort needed to make it happen.

 

A 360 View: Essential Steps for a Successful Next-Gen Online Catalog Upgrade (Part 1 – System Selection)

By Cheryl Niemeier, Director of Knowledge & Research Services, Bose McKinney & Evans, LLP, and Michayla Sullivan, Knowledge & Research Services Specialist, Bose McKinney & Evans LLP

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A mere thirty to forty years ago, albeit light years ago in terms of technology, most law firm libraries were converting from card catalogs to online catalogs. The records contained in those old online catalogs were largely bibliographic records for print titles. However, the balance of records in today’s online catalogs has shifted to primarily records for electronic titles. Due to this change, many law libraries may be contemplating upgrading to next-generation online catalog systems. Doing so entails several considerations and steps. Continue reading

Conference Recap: Best Practices and Management Strategies at 11th Annual Ark Group Conference for Law Firm Libraries and Research Centers

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By Alicia Navarro, Electronic Resources Manager, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

I had the opportunity to attend the Ark Group’s 11th Annual Conference on Best Practices & Management Strategies held on February 23, 2017.  It was my first time attending, and there were many takeaways for me in terms of best practices to apply. Below are some of the programs that stood out for me and what was discussed.

The program kicked off with Robert DeFabrizio, Manager of Library Services at Goulston & Storrs. He reviewed the steps to develop a plan for reintegrating the library into the business of law and discussed how to align the library with the firm’s mission.  Robert mentioned we should always “start with a goal and a strategy.” Often we tend to focus on the goal, when we should also be on the “lookout for what changes may be happening in the industry” and “be adaptable to changes.” My takeaway from this session is that we should consider letting go of things that are no longer relevant, challenge ourselves, and avoid plateauing in the performing zone and not growing in the learning zone.  We must always review to see where we are and where we are going. Continue reading