AALL Executive Leadership Institute: Listening a Key Component of Leadership

By Maureen Burns, Research Services Manager, Godfrey & Kahn

I recently had the privilege of attending the recent American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Executive Leadership Institute, which was held on July 28-29, 2021, following the AALL Annual Meeting. Thank you to the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) Grants Committee for the opportunity to learn, grow, and connect at the Institute.

The Institute provided relevant and timely leadership-related sessions, covering topics such as inclusive communication, collaboration, driving change during transitional times, and the integration of wellness into leadership.  Communication was a common thread throughout the one and a half-day Institute, coming up both in the excellent presentations and in small group discussions.  The word that kept coming to my mind as I heard each of the presentations and participated in discussions with my fellow attendees was “listen”.

While discussing inclusive communication and how to move from conscious bias to conscious inclusion, Dr. Daisy Lovelace presented us with ideas to help lead us to an inclusive mindset, recognizing that teams diverse in identity, background, and experiences lead to better problem solving.  One element Dr. Lovelace talked about was listening to understand, validate, and offer support. As librarians trained in the art of the reference interview, we are accustomed to asking questions in order to solve a problem.  When someone we lead comes to us with an issue, we should validate their feelings and seek to understand.  Listening, without fixing, is important in today’s world where often stress-inducing change is a part of our everyday lives.

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AALL Annual Meeting Session Recap- Legal Deserts in America: What is Meaningful Access to Justice for All?

Stephanie Huffnagle, a faculty member at Erie Community College in Buffalo, NY, was one of this year’s recipients of a Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) grant for the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting.  Stephanie wrote the following recap.

“Legal Deserts in America: What is Meaningful Access to Justice for All” proved to be an informative and worthwhile session. The session not only provided statistics on the current state of affairs in terms of lack of access to legal services, but also highlighted the reasons behind this reality and presented concrete examples of programs aiming to fill the justice gaps throughout the country.  The presenters were all stakeholders in the battle for justice for all, and they provided their first-hand insight into the issue of legal deserts.  

Lisa Pruitt, Professor of Law at UC Davis, discussed her research, which served as the backbone to the legal desert information in the 2020 ABA Profile on the Legal Profession.  The findings of Lisa and her research team echo and expand on the idea of the justice gap, showing specifically where the gaps exist based on the number of attorneys at the county level.  Lisa explained that legal deserts are those counties where there are either no lawyers, or only one to two lawyers.  The research shows that 40% of counties have less than one lawyer per 1,000 people.

While Lisa focused on the why and some general tools to respond to the situation, her colleagues discussed ongoing recruitment and training programs designed to combat lack of access and legal deserts.  

Suzanne Starr, Director of Policy and Legal Services at South Dakota Rural Recruitment Program, outlined South Dakota’s response to the issue.  South Dakota initiated a rural attorney recruitment program back in 2013.  This is based on a financial incentive to get attorneys into rural areas.  It was interesting to hear how the program was started and to recognize the influence that one person/a small group of people can have by being change agents.

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AALL Virtual Conference Recap: Speakers, Panelists Highlight Inclusion and Diversity Efforts

See the link below for a wrap up of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) 2021 virtual conference, titled “Leading with Wisdom & Insight”.  Authored by Thomas Lang, Senior Legal Analyst at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory, U.S., the wrap up highlights some of the educational sessions and key trends you might have missed at this year’s AALL annual meeting.  Thomas hones in on some of the diversity and inclusion themes in particular, and provides a great summary of Tina Tchen’s keynote address.  Tina Tchen currently “serves as president and CEO of TIME’S UP Now and the TIME’S UP Foundation, overseeing the organizations’ strategic plans to change culture, companies, and laws in order to make work safe, fair, and dignified for women of all kinds”, according to the TIME’S UP staff page.  Prior to joining TIME’S UP, she worked in the White House under the Obama administration and worked as a lawyer specializing in workplace culture.  

Read Thomas Lang’s article–Strategic Perspectives:  AALL Virtual Conference Speakers, Panelists Outline Inclusion and Diversity Efforts in Workplace, Legal Profession (Wolters Kluwer, July 2021)

Announcing the 2021 PLLIP Summit–Hindsight is 2021: Responding to Chaos and Change

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) will be holding its annual meeting virtually this year (July 19-23, 2021), and the Private Law Librarians and Information Professional section will once again offer a pre-conference Summit (Friday, July 16).  This year’s Summit, Hindsight is 2021: Responding to Chaos and Change, will explore change, our response to change, change management, and finding opportunities and happiness in change.

The Summit Planning Committee has gathered an excellent lineup of speakers.  You can read more about each speaker below.  To register for the 2021 Summit, please visit the AALL registration page here.

April Rinne- Keynote Address

April Rinne has been weaving her own story about how to thrive amid flux, personally and professionally, for as long as she can remember.

Today April is an acclaimed speaker, thinker, advisor and writer. She is known for her many keynotes each year to business, industry, investment, policy and educational audiences around the world, and for her role as a bridge: between startups and governments, between developed and developing countries, between those excited about change and those resistant to it. She is also an impact investor, mental health advocate, yoga teacher and insatiable handstander. April’s handstands underscore her upside-down perspective on the world: they help her see differently, stay flexible, and bring joy (and occasionally amazement) to others. Earlier in her career she served as a global development executive, microfinance lawyer, and hiking and biking guide.

April holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School, an M.A. in International Business and Finance from The Fletcher School at Tufts University, and a B.A. in International Studies and Italian (summa cum laude) from Emory University. She is a Fulbright Scholar and studied at Oxford (University College; one full academic year), the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and the European University Institute.  April was a practicing attorney at Allen & Overy in London, UK and at O’Melveny & Myers in San Francisco.  Her practice focused in corporate, banking, international capital markets, development finance. Like many of our members, April has had an atypical legal career, harnessing legal skills in unconventional yet future-forward ways.

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Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals Group Releases New Resource Guides

Below is a re-post with permission of the same article by Jean O’Grady on her Dewey Be Strategic blog.

The Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals – Special Interest Section (PLLIP) of AALL released two new resource guides on strategic planning and intranets. They also re-issued a major revision of a previously published guide on internet research.The Guides are free and available to law librarians and legal information professionals as well as law firm administrators who are interested in learning about best practices for managing information services. These guides are “slick” professional publications which combine high quality content with a visually polished presentation. Steve Lastres, Chair of the PLLIP Communications Committee, Natalie Lira, Communications Committee Member and Chair of the Resource Guides subcommittee and Cheryl Niemeier, Chair of PLLIP deserve special credit for shepherding these guides from concept through publication.

Strategic Planning for Law Firm Libraries.” was written by PLLIP members Anna Irvin, Natalie M. Lira, Saskia Mehlhorn and Lindsay Carpino. Since 2007 the law firm market has been in a continuous state of reinvention. Firms are facing competition from alternative service provides, increased pressure from clients to control costs and offer alternative billing arrangements. Firms are exploring off-shoring, on-shoring, outsourcing and new types of partnership structures. It is more important than ever for information professionals to reassess their mission, goals, structure, and services to maintain alignment with the strategic goals of their organization. The resource guide highlights some of the non-traditional initiatives which information professionals are undertaking to improve strategic alignment including centralization, collaboration with other departments, embedding practice specialists, competitive intelligence, knowledge management, practice portal development, risk management and non-traditional outreach.

The strategic planning guide provides a step-by-step outline for the strategic planning process which can be used as a tutorial for newer managers and a checklist for more experienced professionals.

Law Firm Library Intranets was written by PLLIP members Julia Berry, Emily R. Florio, Catherine Monte and Nola M. Vanhoy. Law firm intranets have become important knowledge sharing platforms which provide access to key firm, client, administrative and staff data. As law libraries are going digital, intranets provide links to full-text treatise libraries, online databases, knowledge repositories, and educational platforms. The resource guide addresses key issues facing information professionals who want to develop the firm’s first intranet or enhance an existing intranet, Topics include: selection and design, collaboration, project justification, content creation, Sharepoint tools, alternatives to intranets, extranets and suggestions for continuous improvement.

The Internet as  a Legal Research Tool was revised by PLLIP members Andrea Guldalian and Cheryl Niemeier. According to an ABA study 50.8% of lawyers begin their legal research using free internet resources. Information professionals are uniquely qualified to assess the risks of free legal research resources. They are often the only professionals at the firm engaged in training lawyers on internet “hygiene” and creating resources and intranets which direct lawyers to the most cost-effective and reliable internet resources. The guide includes an important discussion on authority and guidelines for assessing reliability of resources. There is guidance on best practices for legal research on the internet as well as using mobile apps for legal research.

Earlier guides cover how to hire a law librarian, new roles for law librarians, competitive intelligence, collection re-balancing, negotiations and space planning.