Leader Profile of Andre Davison: Champion of Diversity and Innovation in Law Firm Libraries

Three Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals were honored this year as part of the 2020 Fastcase 50 —Cynthia Brown, Andre Davison, and Diana Koppang. Thanks to all of them for being such great representatives of law firm librarians. Over the next week, we will be publishing profiles on each of the honorees. The first profile is on Andre Davison, Research Technology Manager, Blank Rome LLP.

Fastcase 50 profile:

Andre Davison
Research Technology Manager, Blank Rome LLP
https://www.twitter.com/andreldavison 

“If we have finally come to the realization that our colleagues with superior technical skills can also be colleagues with exceptional interpersonal qualities, it is in large part because of people like Andre Davison…In 2019 Andre was honored as the winner of the Third Annual American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Tournament for his project on “Seamless Access to Secondary Sources.” Beyond technology, Andre is active in the area of diversity and inclusion within Blank Rome, as evidenced by his selection for the firm’s prestigious Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones Diversity Award. He was recently elected Vice Chair/Chair-Elect of the newly constituted Black Law Librarians Special Interest Section of AALL. On a broader scale, Andre has generously served as President of the Houston Area Law Librarians (HALL) for the 2019-2020 year, and is a current member of the Executive Board of AALL’s Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) Special Interest Section. The legal information and wider world are both better off because of those who build, lead, and serve like Andre.”

Answers compiled by Kevin Miles, Manager of Library Services, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP

What has been the biggest single change you have seen in the industry? And what changes do you see ahead? 

Technology is changing the legal industry at a rapid pace. The changes from 2010 to 2015 were eye opening. The pandemic has forced us to be collaborative.

What role will knowledge management professionals play going forward?

KM professionals are key to the firm as we move into new roles as facilitators of information, research and efficiencies.

Name one thing that you or your team is doing this year to meet the challenges ahead.

My team is involved in an initiative to help identify industry-specific information so we can address clients’ needs. We’re also working on ways to highlight the work our department does to keep leadership aware of our contributions.

What was your path to law librarianship?

My high school started a program in criminal justice. I worked with a law firm during the summer and in a co-op program in the law library. There I learned I like technology and research. Later, I continued to work in the law library through college and later my MLS.

How has your job evolved from the time you first began your career?

I started out as a paraprofessional, copying cases from books on a cart. That took about an hour. Now, I have a tool that will download the cases in 5 minutes. So, technology is making our lives easier, and more efficient.

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Providing Career Growth at All Levels of the Library

By Allison C. Reeve Davis, Library Manager, Littler Mendelson

Reposted with permission from PEGA-SIS Blog.

Three years ago, we started discussing ways to provide career growth opportunities in Littler Mendelson’s library. As our library grows, new positions are often entry-level. Promotions to more advanced positions come along less frequently, even when a dedicated employee has learned, grown, and proven their skills for advancement. Here, we provide tactics for retaining valued employees and offering career growth, even without the availability of senior librarian positions.

The Problem

Over the years, law librarians have expressed concern and discouragement with the lack of senior librarian positions available in the job market. The danger for managers and directors is that they will lose their best talent to senior positions open at other institutions. Effective leaders provide their staff with professional development opportunities, challenging projects, and rewards for succeeding in career growth. Finding a solution to the conundrum of limited promotional opportunities for rising star librarians requires creativity and assessment of the library’s goals in advancement of the firm’s mission.

The Solution

Career advancement opportunities will look different at every institution. Our project may not fit everyone’s needs exactly, but the foundations hopefully provide all library leaders with a jumping off point.

Evaluation of current roles and the skills and tasks necessary to complete them is the first step. We looked at projects and tasks completed by all of our Assistant and Research Librarians and listed out the requisite skills employed. This was accomplished thinking in terms of job descriptions. For example, familiarity with legal research databases allows librarians to pull requested documents and train users on using the tools. Expertise with legal information sources expands the research and analysis capabilities necessary for a librarian to perform advanced legal research projects.

With all of the library’s work laid before us, we identified projects that wouldn’t necessarily require the expertise of a Research Librarian but that need expertise beyond an early-career employee. Those we designated as mid-level, or transitional skills: ones attained after an Assistant Librarian has mastered more than entry-level skills, but when they do not have enough experience to move into a more senior position. We also evaluated the extraordinary projects and contributions of Research Librarians, asking ourselves what it looks like when a Research Librarian has performed beyond their job description.

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