What’s In a Name?: Rebranded ALM Survey Reflects Law Librarians’ Evolving Roles

Last week, ALM released its Survey of Law Firm Knowledge Management, Library, and Research Professionals.  ALM renamed the survey, formerly known as the Law Librarians’ Survey and now in its 16th year of publication, to better reflect law librarians’ current roles and functions within their organizations.  Due to the shifting legal information landscape, law libraries and information centers have increasingly transitioned to digital resources, whether they be traditional legal research resources in online form, or newer resources capitalizing on the growing availability of data. Law librarians have utilized their organizational and analytical skills, along with their research abilities, to meet the demands of a data- and information-rich environment, where artificial intelligence, data analytics tools, and information discovery and curation products are claiming their place alongside more traditional legal research resources.  Titles for library and information center directors, managers, and staff have changed accordingly, with positions such as director of information services, chief knowledge officer, director of knowledge solutions, and competitive intelligence manager becoming more common.

Jean O’Grady, blogger at Dewey B. Strategic, and a long-time member of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals section of the American Association of Law Libraries, thought it was time ALM’s survey acknowledged the many changes law firm libraries have undergone, and last year she urged ALM to revise their survey to keep pace with law librarians’ real-world environments.  Lizzy McLellan’s article, From Providing Data to Providing Insight, quotes Lucy Dillon, chief knowledge officer at Reed Smith, on how the research and knowledge management function has now extended into more aspects of law firm management:

“While the traditional law librarian role has made way for more modern approaches to knowledge management, Dillon says that research roles are not dying out. But knowledge is becoming an administrative area that touches on more functions, including marketing, business development training, HR and even overall firm strategy.”

In another article accompanying the survey, “Law Librarian?  Try Chief Knowledge Officer”, Greg Lambert, chief knowledge services officer at Jackson Walker and incoming president of the American Association of Law Libraries, reiterates Dillon’s point about the increasing relevance of the library and research center to firm operations and strategy generally:

“Smart firms make sure that these information professionals have the ability to make decisions on what types of products and information processes the firm has that best fit the overall needs of the firm, and the ability to align these products and processes within the overall strategy of the firm.”

The article also states that librarians and information professionals “are increasingly working on matters such as business intelligence and competitive intelligence that are central to firm strategy.”  In her Dewey B. Strategic post on this year’s survey, Jean O’Grady notes, “The survey indicates that these intelligence responsibilities also include lateral candidate due diligence, research assisting with RFP responses, participating in client satisfaction research and pricing projects.”  Furthermore, for Lucy Dillon, a “major part of her role” now involves “finding new ways for the firm to serve clients”.

To further explore the expanded role of the law librarian and legal information professional, next week we’ll post some of a series of resource guides created by the Private Law Librarian and Information Professionals Special Interest Section.  Initially published between 2011-2015, these guides highlight the various functions performed by law librarians and information professionals within their firms, and provide more detail about PLLIP members’ roles in the current legal information environment.

Do Lawyers and Law Students Have the Technical Skills to Meet the Needs of Future Legal Jobs?

Editor’s Note: Reposted from Slaw.ca with author’s permission.  This seemed like a timely item to repost to On Firmer Ground since legal tech is currently a hot topic.  The American Association of Law Libraries recently announced the formation of a Teaching Legal Technology Caucus.  See the March/April 2017 issue of AALL Spectrum for an article, “Teaching Legal Technology:  A Critical Conversation on Legal Technology Skills and Training,” touching on some of the same points that Monica discusses and proposing some next steps to address the issue.  Also, the upcoming PLLIP Summit will focus on the Nexus of Knowledge and Legal Technology, and will be “a thought-provoking look at the high rate of change in the legal tech environment.”

By Monica Goyal, a Toronto-based lawyer and a softwarenology entrepreneur who founded My Legal Briefcase, a legal software company.

As technology is increasingly used within law practices to streamline legal processes and more efficiently deliver services to clients, an important question has arisen within legal professional and academic circles: Do lawyers and law students have the technical skills to meet the needs of future legal jobs?

If you have ever tried to innovate or introduce technologies to a law firm or to lawyers, then you know how challenging it can be to convince lawyers to use new technologies. Harder still is convincing them not revert to the old and outmoded way of doing things, but to persist in the face of what may be an initially steep learning curve: the problem of adoption

In the discussion surrounding the problem of adoption, one misconception stands out: that the problem of adoption is a factor of age within the profession. Senior industry professionals invariably believe that young new law school graduates are technologically proficient. These “digital natives”, as they have been termed, are tethered to their smart phones and easily and adeptly use apps such as Uber for ordering a ride, Tinder for dating, or SnapChat for social media engagement. It is, thus, not unreasonable that this new generation of law school students and lawyers are held out as bastions of hope for a new age of legal technology.  Continue reading

Online Legal Research Cost Recovery: Is it an Oxymoron?

Editor’s Note: Reposted from the Legal Executive Institute’s blog with permission.

By Grace Carr Lee, Executive Director at Hoge Fenton, a midsize, multi-practice firm with offices in the Silicon Valley and the Tri-Valley areas of Northern California.

For decades, law firms have billed their clients for “soft costs,” including online legal research charges. Clients have always hated seeing these nickel & dime charges on their invoices, believing they are more fairly considered part of a law firm’s overhead. Who hasn’t heard a client argue that since they aren’t charged for updating books in a firm’s law library, why should they be charged for online legal research? Annoyed clients have increasingly pushed back on these soft costs, and many law firms have capitulated by reducing or eliminating them.

And today, that has resulted in law firms being faced with decreasing soft cost realization — a direct impact to the firm’s bottom line. Consequently, some firms have taken a more aggressive approach, doggedly charging clients for everything they can think of, including copies, scans, prints, postage and secretarial overtime. Other firms have simply thrown up their hands, deciding that any attempt at soft cost recovery is just not worth the effort. Some firms even have increased their hourly rates to account for the lost revenue, while others have imposed an administrative fee (usually, a percentage of the legal fees) that essentially does the same thing.

For those law firms that believe soft cost recovery makes sense, regardless of the method employed, any pricing strategy they employ must be ethical, transparent, reasonable and justifiable. Their clients deserve nothing less. Continue reading

Is It Time For a Legal Research Component on the Bar Exam?

Editor’s Note: Reposted from The Ginger Law Librarian with author’s permission.

By Jamie Baker, Associate Director at Texas Tech University School of Law Library

The Wall Street Journal (sub req’d) is reporting on pushback against difficult bar exams (particularly California’s bar).

“One camp of law-industry watchers blames the drop in passing rates on the declining credentials of incoming classes. Others point to changing study habits of so-called millennials, who grew up with the ability to find information at their fingertips and aren’t accustomed to the intensive memorization and writing skills needed to pass a bar exam.” The article ultimately asks: Does the exam even test what incoming lawyers need to know?” It seems that, based on what a lawyer actually does, the test should be about spotting legal issues, research, and proper legal analysis.

  • A law school education prepares students to spot the multitude of legal issues to
  • Explore those issues using sound (efficient and effective) legal research methods
  • To do a proper legal analysis of the various issues (or the call of the question, as it were) with cites to relevant codified law and case precedent.

As a very basic example, if the test-taker spots a potential negligence issue, why should the test taker also have to memorize all of the elements (and sub-elements) of negligence? In practice, lawyers research the elements.

If the test taker was taught to perform effective legal research, the test taker would know how to easily look up the elements of negligence in any database. For example, all that the test taker has to do is set the jurisdiction in Westlaw and type: what are the elements of negligence in the search bar.  And the following answer is retrieved:

“To establish a prima facie case of negligence, a plaintiff must prove four elements: (1) a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) causation, and (4) damages.”
Quinto v. Woodward Detroit CVS, LLC
Court of Appeals of Michigan. April 29, 2014305 Mich. App. 73850 N.W.2d 642311213*
*Let’s ignore, for a moment, that this might not be the “best” case to cite.

The test taker then uses cases retrieved through the legal research process to do a proper legal analysis (IRAC or CREAC).

While this would require reconceptualizing the bar exam, it would more fully represent what a lawyer actually does in practice. It would also adjust the test to the digital age where the current crop of law students grew up with the ability to find (and USE?) information at their fingertips.




ABA Day at the Law Library of Congress

LOC - card catalogs

By Kelly A. McGlynn, Sr. Research & Knowledge Analyst, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

In conjunction with ABA Day festivities last month in Washington D.C., the Law Library of Congress (in coordination with the ABA Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress), hosted an afternoon program on April 27th.  Members of the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington D.C. (LLSDC) were invited to attend the event as well, and I jumped at the chance, as I had yet to visit the Law Library of Congress.  Here is a recap of what we saw and learned. Continue reading