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.

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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.

 

With Thoughts of Spring, Come Thoughts of Training

The March/April 2017 AALL Spectrum is now available online from the American Association of Law Libraries, and it looks like baseball players aren’t the only ones focused on training this spring!  The issue features some great articles on training and on teaching legal technology, including some contributions by the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) Special Interest Section members.

Check out the articles below to see what PLLIP members have to say on best practices for effective training and education. Continue reading

ILTACON: An Opportunity for Information Professionals

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By Emily R. Florio, Director of Library Services at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP

From August 28 through September 1, ILTACON, the International Legal Technology Association’s annual conference, took over National Harbor, Maryland.  The conference filled the immediate area with close to 200 educational sessions, presented by more than 350 speakers, on topics such as information management, business management, applications/desktop and technology operations.  Just from this small sampling of topics that are of interest to ILTACON attendees, it is clear that there are opportunities for law librarians and information professionals to be involved with creating and attending programming during this event.

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Keeping the Conversation Going: Session Summary from AALL 2015, In the Wake of the Kia Audit

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As we get to the end of fall, it seemed timely to revisit associate and law student training topics discussed at this summer’s AALL Annual Meeting and see if anyone had implemented new associate training initiatives or new approaches to legal research classes this fall. The post about the Attorney Research Skills session is available here

By Debbie Ginsberg, Educational Technology Librarian at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Library

“In the Wake of the Kia Audit,” a 2015 AALL session, focused on the importance of technology skills and training programs for law students and new lawyers, and on how librarians can be a part of the process. 

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