As AALL Convenes, A Look At The Increasingly Essential Role Of The Law Librarian

Reposted with permission from Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites

Yesterday kicked off the 2020 annual conference of the American Association of Law Libraries, which runs all this week through Friday. It is the AALL’s first virtual conference, and it comes at a time when legal information professionals, like so many in the legal profession, face challenges and uncertainty on multiple fronts.

Recent years have seen an unprecedented surge in the use of technology and artificial intelligence within the legal profession, and most agree the pandemic will only further accelerate that surge. What does that mean for the future of the law librarian?

In my opinion, technology will not diminish the role of the information professional. Rather, never has that role been more essential within the legal profession.

In my column this week at Above the Law, I detail four ways in which law librarians will become even more essential as technology evolves.

Read it here: The Increasingly Essential Role Of The Law Librarian.

Ten Ways to Add Value to Your Firm in a Pandemic

An action plan for law firm library managers and self-starters during a period of change and disruption.

By Patricia Barbone

Patricia Barbone is the Director of Library Services at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, and is based in lower Manhattan.  She has managed library services through 9-11, Superstorm Sandy, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the state lockdowns to stop the spread of COVID-19 occurred in March of 2020, law firm librarians have been focused on two primary goals:  maintaining quality reference service within a remote environment and managing within an economic climate of uncertain revenue and financial insecurity. Reopening our economy has its own unique set of challenges and provides an opportunity for creativity and resourcefulness for today’s law librarians.

Demand for library services is high even for firms that have implemented furloughs. It is more important than ever to stay visible and demonstrate value. Here are ten action tips to help you rethink your role within your organization and consider what you can do to contribute to your organization’s success.

Even if you weren’t able to implement anything new at the start of the pandemic, there is always an opportunity for improving library service and managing in a period of disruption. Even subtle changes can make a big impact for large and small firms alike, and my prediction is that many things will never be the same again. Can you identify what changes are underway and adapt or pivot accordingly? These ten tips may help.

1. Promote Your Existing Electronic Subscriptions

The day we began remote work, I sent out a number of targeted emails reminding people of the resources available to them with basic instruction on how to gain access. This had the dual purpose of informing our users, but also providing a general sense of comfort that being remote hadn’t cut our users off from library service or library resources. We continue to send emails with tips and training often directed to specific practice areas. The response was extremely positive. Users may be experts in a given practice area, but many still don’t know the leading resources or that a favorite print source is also online. It’s your job to let them know. Some of you may be thinking that you don’t have time to draft engaging emails or that your unsolicited email would be a burden on an already taxed email system. If firm culture is against you, perhaps you can post tips on an internal page, or target individual attorneys who you know would benefit and be receptive. Although drafting and communicating is time consuming, my advice would be to save and repurpose all of your communications. It is worth the investment in your time to take the lead as the experts in electronic resources.

2. Training, Training, Training

This is a perfect opportunity to get users up to speed on electronic resources. Create virtual office hours for vendors. Take advantage of your virtual screen sharing tools so librarians can work one on one with attorneys. Curate and promote webinars and CLE programs. Many vendors have been terrific about reaching out to provide virtual training, tap into them.

3. Read the Industry Landscape

Some of your best ideas can come from the legal and business press. Stay informed, you don’t operate in a vacuum. Talk to peers and vendors. What practice areas are seeing an uptick and what practice areas are slowing down as a result of economic and governmental forces? Consider how you can apply that knowledge to your own environment. This advice is intended for both managers and reference librarians.

4. Follow Trends – Gather and Curate Content

This is where librarian expertise can shine – we know how to follow news, trends, and legislative actions. We know which subscriptions have the best current awareness features and how to set them up. Like many of you, we set up a number of coronavirus news alerts for attorneys tasked with working on client advisories. Our librarians also send selective content that we notice in our daily screening of news. Your goal is to make it easy for lawyers and aligned legal professionals to stay on top of the latest changes in the law and to remind them that the library is the first stop in beginning any research project.

5. Review Your Contracts and Subscriptions

Do your subscriptions reflect the current information need in your firm? Can you get reductions based on the existing economic climate? Is there anything you can cancel? Do you need to add or drop content? While many vendors will work with you during this time period, others will try to upsell you, maintain unwarranted levels of increases, or be indifferent to the drop in either users or usage. This is the time to advocate on behalf of your firm. Continue reading

Connecting the Dots: Proving Our Value Throughout Time

connecting-the-dotsby Jeffrey Nelson, Research Services Manager, Squire Sanders (US) LLP

Connect, collaborate, and strategize. As information professionals look to the future, these themes are nothing new, but at this year’s SLA Annual Conference never have they made more sense to discuss. As we try to prove ourselves as invaluable assets to our firms, a pop culture reference immediately comes to mind. Fans of the television series The Good Wife will be familiar with Kalinda, the in-house investigator at the fictional law firm Lockhart & Gardner. Kalinda is often sent out into the streets to get the scoop, dig for dirt, or find anything she can get her hands on to help her firm win a case. She knows which sources are credible and she knows when information is actionable. She performs competitive intelligence research on other firms, background checks on individuals and corporations, and most importantly, she finds the needle in the haystack every time. With these skills and unstoppable determination, Kalinda’s ability to establish herself as an important asset to her firm’s partnership is commendable. Most of you will recognize these responsibilities as what we are asked to do each and every day.

Using Kalinda as a fictional role model, how can we prove our worth as she has done? My first step was realizing I needed to take advantage of the network of knowledge I had access to – the SLA community. Despite qualifying for the Veteran Member Travel Grant, I had yet to attend one of the Annual Conferences. If I truly want to prove my value to the firm’s partnership as a resource for delivering credible, accurate, and actionable information, then I need to embed myself in the discussions of the community at large. The SLA Annual Conference not only reinforced many of my existing best practices, but also gave me a renewed confidence to take what I learned to the next level.

To follow the Legal Division’s 20th Anniversary theme set out by Chair Tricia Thomas of looking to the past, present and future, we must continue to keep ourselves in the forefront of the information age. At the Bloomberg Law/Legal Division Breakfast and Business Meeting, I found myself in awe of the amount of SLA star power in the room, which included our division’s past leaders, current division and organizational board members, and many of the organization’s rising stars. With so many influential members in one room, it is not difficult to see why the Legal Division, despite its young age, has grown into one of the largest and most active in SLA.

Our past truly is the key to our success. When looking to our past members and leaders, I saw that a great many of them are still extremely active in the community and take great pride in being a part of the Legal Division. Personally, I found the speech given by Connie Pine, founder and first ever Chair of the Legal Division, to be quite moving and inspirational. She and the other founding members noticed the growth of law firms and recognized that law librarians lacked a forum to collaborate and develop professionally within SLA. I learned about her positive and negative experiences during the process of establishing a voice for the legal community within SLA. These experiences have helped shape our division into what it is today.

This brings us to the present. Since founding of the Legal Division, the digital age ushered in countless challenges and the role of the librarian has been deeply impacted. Have we learned all that we can from our predecessors? What are we doing now to take on to these challenges as a community? At the Legal Division’s Unconference, one of the standout conference sessions for me, a group of us discussed the pros and cons of embedded librarianship, the struggles with cost recovery in the age of alternative fee arrangements, and determining the return on investment of tools such as reference trackers. It is discussions like these that underscore our biggest challenge – the possible need to rebrand ourselves while simultaneously boosting the bottom line for our companies. Fortunately, we have the information and skills to take this challenge head on. In a society driven by connectivity and collaboration, we have the necessary access to critical market information which our community can analyze, strategize, and act upon. I appreciate that SLA still places an emphasis on gathering in person once a year to strengthen our communal bonds. Discussion and collaboration strengthens our group; we can use our shared information to prepare for the future. As librarians, we understand the pitfalls of certain sources and we encourage our users to be aware of the information they collect and how they use it. Now, more than ever, it is important to manage information and demonstrate our capabilities as we disseminate it to those who rely on us. The conference taught me that the benefit of successfully accomplishing this will be twofold – it will not only help us in our jobs but also will help us strengthen our professional community.

Conference keynote speaker Mike Walsh spoke a lot about connecting the dots between the present and the future. For example, he shared with us that the company Intel keeps anthropologists on staff; they serve as the bridge between the creators of their products and the consumer. I realized that we are positioned perfectly to assume the role as anthropologists in our companies. Mr. Walsh advised us to “think anthropology, not technology.” This highlights the importance of having experts who not only understand information and its medium, but also how it is used by the user. Mike Walsh also suggested that it is not necessarily how we collect information but also how we visualize it in real time. Let’s listen to him and stay ahead of the curve. We can accomplish this by developing relationships and learning from one another. We may debate the titles of our positions – “information professional” vs. “knowledge officer” vs. “librarian,” among others – but with regular collaboration with one another and our ability to use information in real time to our benefit (either for our companies or our profession as a whole), I am confident librarians will be relevant for years to come.

Prior to attending the conference, I had been well aware of the various hot topics that are so often discussed among our community, but nothing beats interacting with other professionals and exchanging ideas in person. I’m appreciative of the opportunity I had to attend this year’s conference, and I hope to be able to return in coming years. The conference highlighted so many challenges that we face as information professionals but also assured me that we are well prepared for these challenges. We can face those challenges doing what we do best – finding the actionable information and making something of it. The single greatest takeaway from the conference for me was that our organization’s past has inspired me to be proactive in the present in order to ensure my spot in the future.

(Note: orginally published on http://legal.sla.org/newsletter/lddv2n2/connectingthedots/)

Law Librarians Expand Into Tech and ILTA

ILTA Logo
Deborah Panella is Director of Library & Knowledge Services at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, and Information Management Track Team Coordinator for ILTA 2013.

The ILTA annual conference is now underway with a record number of attendees, a growing number of whom are from the law library community (including representatives from AALL). The International Legal Technology Association brings together law firm and corporate law department professionals from a wide variety of career tracks and disciplines, and members come from around the globe. Continue reading

“There’s a fly in my research” and other tales from the vendors’ kitchen!

by Alys Tryon, Lane Powell PC

I want to preface this by first acknowledging all the really awesome corporate partner representatives I’ve been lucky enough to work with. Your hard work has enabled me to provide my attorneys excellent support, and you’ve saved my butt more times than I’d like to admit. Your work is more dynamic and complex than I’ll ever know, and I hope your employers are just as committed to supporting you as you are to supporting us.

I’m guessing they might not be though, because there should be more of you. Continue reading