AALL Annual Meeting 2019 Recap: Summit X: The Path to 2030

Kristen Perez and Janet McKinney received grants from the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals Special Interest Section to attend the PLLIP Summit occurring on Saturday, July 13, before the AALL Annual Meeting. Below are their conference recaps.


By Kristen Perez, Research Specialist at Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough in Charlotte, NC

Jordan Furlong of Law 21 started off the day by delivering the keynote address, “How Law Librarians and Legal Information Professionals Can Redefine Law Firms in the 21st Century.”  Mr. Furlong took us on a tour of the climate change that has occurred in the legal industry in recent years and provided a map to the future and our changing roles.

Mr. Furlong outlined the factors at play in the legal industry that can provide opportunities for legal information professionals as we navigate these changes:

  • Law firms have traditionally operated under the billable hour model, letting young associates ‘train on the job’ at the expense of clients.  This business model is being called into question by big law firm clients, many of whom have negotiated alternative fee arrangements.   Clients are increasingly unwilling to pay for research expenses and the training of new lawyers.
  • Legal work is becoming divided into commodity-level versus complex tasks.  Alternative legal service providers have begun to assume work previously done by junior-level associates, leaving firms to handle tasks that involve more expertise.
  • The technology of legal work has evolved, as artificial intelligence and analytics providers have emerged.
  • Overall, client expectations are changing and are forcing law firms to adapt.  Alternative legal service providers are creating competition for law firms.  Clients demand value and want law firms to ‘know’ them and their industries, and to anticipate their needs.

This invites opportunity for we, as legal information professionals, to redefine our roles.  Our profession has not only embraced and promoted the use of technology in legal research, but has also kept pace with the various incarnations of legal research platforms.  We are neither unfamiliar with, nor adverse to, change.  As a service department, we are also accustomed to working with other departments within our organizations to achieve institutional goals. Continue reading

AALL Annual Meeting 2019 Recap: Grant Recipient Conference Report

As we reach the end of summer, we wanted to share some highlights of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting that took place this year in Washington, DC.  Over the next week or so, we will be posting recaps from this always productive and inspirational conference.  As our fellow law librarians and information professionals prepare for fall, we’re sure they will be applying the insights and ideas they took away from this year’s annual meeting to move their libraries and research centers forward.

By Sabrina A. Davis, Research Librarian, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP

The Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals Special Interest Section of AALL offers grants so members can attend the AALL annual meeting, as well as conferences hosted by other associations.  Sabrina received a AALL Conference Registration and Travel Grant, and below is her conference report.

This was my first AALL Conference since 2016 and my first time going as a firm librarian – the previous three times, I was in academia. I would like to thank the PLLIP-SIS Grants Committee for giving me this opportunity to learn, network, and have a little bit of fun in D.C.

Learning:  Using Web Archives in Legal Research

By far, the most valuable program I attended was “I Know It Used to Be There: Using Web Archives in Legal Research.” The session focused on three products: Wayback Machine (from Internet Archive), the Library of Congress Web Archives, and perma.cc (from Harvard University).  I’ve used the Wayback Machine multiple times, but this session highlighted useful features, such as a new checkbox to “Save Outlinks” (i.e., pages internally linked on URL); browser extensions that intercept 404 errors and redirect, and iOS and Android apps. Also highlighted were other Internet Archive resources such as the TV News Archive with closed captioning and OCR, and the not yet publicly available Voice of America (VOA) radio recordings.

The Library of Congress Web Archives content focuses on Library of Congress collections, such as the US Congressional Web Archive (collected monthly).  Other content includes Blawgs (monthly, 228 followed); Federal Courts; International Tribunals; Foreign Law; State Government websites (targeted for state-published documents), and Indigenous Law (being released in 2020).  Browsing and faceted searching of records is available at the collection level, but full-text searching is not available, and even though they use the Wayback Machine for web crawling, the Library of Congress Web Archives are not part of Wayback Machine results.

The third resource covered was perma.cc, created by Harvard’s Library Innovation Lab to address legal link rot. Per their website, perma.cc “helps scholars, journals, courts, and others create permanent records of the web sources they cite.”  Based on user-driven captures (not web crawlers), perma.cc allows users to copy and paste a URL to perma.cc to create a permalink. Potential law firm uses include citation in briefs, internal born-digital documents, and blawgs. One cool feature of perma.cc is it includes hi-fi captures and playbacks (Webrecorder), as well as captures of carousels of images.

Networking

Davis_JusticeOne of the best things about the AALL Annual Meeting is reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. There were plenty of opportunities for networking throughout the conference, even for those (like me) who didn’t have the stamina to make it to the many evening receptions. The Opening Reception Saturday evening and the Exhibit Hall breaks offered time for casual conversations and introductions to new people, while the PLLIP-SIS Annual Business Meeting & Lunch provided a more formal time to conduct section business. Aside from being a typical business meeting though, we got to meet Justice, our new gender-neutral dinosaur mascot. Justice will be passed from the outgoing to the incoming PLLIP-SIS chair annually, to remind us to not get stuck in the past and to learn lessons for the future.

I also attended the PEGA-SIS (Professional Engagement, Growth & Advancement-Special Interest Section) Beer and Edits Scholarly Networking event and the introductory meeting for the proposed Critical Legal Research Caucus, to try to make additional contacts with similar interests in writing and empirical research.

Fun and Swag!

The best swag award goes to Thomson Reuters for their awesome, sturdy laptop backpack and the fun “Trust me, I’m a Librarian” t-shirt. The therapy dogs that made appearances on Saturday and Sunday were the highlight of the exhibit hall for me though.

Davis_therapy dog

Combining Innovation & Technology for Real Change

As director of practice services at Baker & Hostetler LLP, Katherine Lowry reports to the CIO and provides strategic leadership and governance of the firm’s information technology deliverables and services to five core practice areas. While her role oversees knowledge management, training, and integration of business applications, business process improvement solutions, and the delivery of information and research services, it also includes management of the newest legal innovation group, IncuBaker, focused on the integration of three major advancements: blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytics. Katherine obtained her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Stetson University and her law degree from the University of Dayton School of Law.

The below article “Combining Innovation & Technology for Real Change” by Katherine Lowry was reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 23, Number 3 (January/February 2019), pgs. 30-32.

Setting the Foundation 
Technology is often referred to as an innovation, but most agree that just buying technology, such as new AI-enabled software, may only serve as a Band-Aid to a problem or make matters worse. Real innovation happens when the underlying processes are examined and transformative new ways of solving a problem or creating a new service are identified. Either way, selecting technology as a solution comes later in the process.

Innovation appears to be all the rage these days, but many already believe it is an overused term. Arguably, many are getting lost in the semantics. The real question is whether the legal industry is a legacy industry so addicted to the benefits of its legacy
that it inhibits its ability to innovate and adapt. In examining the role of innovation, there is no better place to start than to reflect on the teachings of economist Joseph Schumpeter. He promoted the term “creative destruction” to describe a theory of economic innovation in which technology and innovation replace older means of production/services—one where innovation can replace or completely displace
existing companies or entire markets. Thus, either innovate on a daily basis or run the risk of becoming obsolete. In his book Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, Schumpeter declares:

The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from craft shop and factory to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation … that incessantly revolutionizes the economic
structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.

Schumpeter placed a heavy emphasis on entrepreneurs and their ability to create a new good or service, a new production technique, or open a completely new market. Entrepreneurs are a main catalyst for change that causes the most disruption by modifying our current process for delivering goods and services or by creating entirely new services. Change is constant under the creative destruction model and culture is a main component to change. Both are viewed as being critical to economic growth. Continue reading

AALL Annual Meeting Session Recap: Powered by AI, Built in the Law Library

By Kristen M. Hallows, Bricker & Eckler LLP

Fastcase CEO Ed Walters has had enough with the magic and the unicorns and the hype surrounding artificial intelligence, or AI.  He urged attendees at the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) session, “Powered by AI, Built in the Law Library,” to think of AI like pivot tables in Excel:  they’re just tools.  They’re not magic, but they can be to those who don’t understand them.

He began by sharing a few hilarious examples of the limitations of AI.  Is it a Shar-Pei, or is it soft serve?  AI doesn’t know!  It can’t differentiate between the two.  And, whatever you do, don’t expect appealing names for paint colors from AI.  Stoner Blue might seem appropriate for your teenager’s room, but can you imagine taking home a color sample by the name of Bank Butt?  How about a light brown named Turdly?

So, AI is good at some things and not good at others.  When it works, we stop calling it AI.  You may not identify it as such, but AI is “baked into” some very common tools law firms and libraries probably use every day, such as spellcheck and Google Translate.

Ed refers to the first wave of AI, where we are currently, as “read only” AI.  What’s coming is the second wave, which he calls “read/write” AI.  It’s a much cooler phase in which we get to go from consumer AI to maker AI.  Maker AI presents a new suite of tools that information professionals can use to provide more customized and actionable information to attorneys and firm administrators.  Whereas traditional legal research services offer the same data to all users, maker AI lets information professionals create their own datasets and extract results unique to them.  These results can provide insights to help structure alternative fee arrangements or to help inform litigation strategy or settlement decisions.

Take the Fastcase AI Sandbox.  The AI Sandbox was designed to empower people.  It’s a set of secure servers with datasets and metadata from Fastcase, coupled with an extensive suite of AI tools.  Law firms or law schools can combine the Fastcase data with in-house data.  Once you have your desired dataset, you can query it and get results out.  For example, you can load a set of judicial opinions and get personality insights out–a judge’s preferences or tendencies.  Using Docket Alarm’s new tool, you can create your own analytics on a subset of documents, such as mandamus petitions in Texas.  Upload your own data and crunch it!  And you can build your own apps with Neota Logic, rules-driven software with built-in decision tree logic.

Legal information professionals can drive this new read/write AI.  Law librarians can build things with AI now, not just create reports, and some librarians are already doing it.  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