Law Librarians are Data Specialists

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 26, Number 2 (November/December 2021), pgs 42-43.

By Diana Koppang, Director of Research & Competitive Intelligence, Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP

To continue to lead, librarians must build on their existing expertise by gaining data science fluency and proficiency with new data-driven tools.

In the 2021 AALL State of the Profession report, 52 percent of private law library respondents stated that they did not have an AI/Machine Learning Initiative and had no plans to start one. I may have been among those 52 percent (honestly, I can’t remember that far back). If so, then I too fell into the common habit of downplaying my technical expertise as a librarian. We must stop doing that. 

Law librarians have been among the lead users of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology in law firms since the advent of this technology in law ‑rms. Early machine learning in legal tech appeared in legal research platforms and e-discovery software. It’s only recently been expanding into the fields of process optimization, contract review clause analytics, and other knowledge management solutions. So, because librarians are often not part of those new initiatives (even though we likely should be) we think we are not promoting advanced technology within our organizations. But we have been promoting it—and at times necessarily pointing out the flaws in developing tech. 

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