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.

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.

K-Lowry

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.

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