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

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.”

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

KLEW

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

OPAC

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