Leader Profile: Leading with Wisdom & Insight

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 25, Number 1 (September/October 2020), pgs. 24-27.

Emily R. Florio assumed the role of president for the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) in July 2020.   According to AALL’s announcement, “Florio, whose term as president officially began at the conclusion of the organization’s first Virtual Conference on July 17, is currently senior research services manager at Hogan Lovells US LLP in Washington, DC. She has been a member of AALL for 14 years…Florio is a former president of the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, DC (LLSDC), member and former treasurer of the Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals Special Interest Section (PLLIP-SIS), and a member of the Professional Engagement, Growth & Advancement Special Interest Section (PEGA-SIS). Prior to becoming senior research services manager at Hogan Lovells US LLP in June 2019, Florio was director of library services/research & information services at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP.”

Emily R. Florio found herself on the path to law librarianship as many do, by accident. “My mom is a librarian, so I grew up familiar with public libraries and elementary school libraries,” notes Florio. “But when I was finishing library school, I was applying for a job—any, any, any job—and I ended up in a law firm and haven’t looked back.” She became a member of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) in January 2006 and has since been very active on committees, special interest sections, and within her local chapter. In her new role as president, she hopes to continue to move the legal information profession forward, to increase engagement with members, and to bring new librarians into the profession. She further plans to grow AALL’s eLearning platform, as well as to provide members with the right education and tools to become leaders within the profession.

In 2004, Florio received her BA in English from the University of Vermont before moving to Boston, Massachusetts, where she obtained her MLS degree from Simmons College. Her first official, though not professional, job was at a small law school in Boston doing interlibrary loan and document delivery, while she worked toward her degree. She began her career in Boston at Fish & Richardson, where she held various positions, resulting in the manager of libraries and library information systems role. “It’s funny, I think probably a year and a half in I was looking for other work because I was bored,” said Florio. “But my boss at the time started giving me other opportunities that were far more interesting and allowed me to learn and continue on. And that led to my first promotion. After a while it was time to move on from that firm and that’s when I moved to DC.” She then moved to Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP, an intellectual property firm, as the manager of library services, before expanding her role into directing all aspects of the research team, including budgeting, staffing, and training, along with leading the firm’s intranet redesign project. She then became director of library services/research and information services before moving to her latest role in July 2019. Florio is currently senior research services manager at Hogan Lovells US LLP in Washington, DC, a global top 10 law firm, where she leads the implementation of the global Research Services strategy within the Americas. She has been a member of AALL for 14 years and has served on several committees, including chair of the Appointments Committee and Executive Board Strategic Directions Committee, and as a member of the Executive Board Finance & Budget Committee. In addition, Florio is a former president of the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, DC (LLSDC), a member and former treasurer of the Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals Special Interest Section (PLLIPSIS), and a member of the Professional Engagement, Growth & Advancement Special Interest Section (PEGA-SIS). In 2015, she received AALL’s Emerging Leader Award. Here, Florio discusses her goals for the coming year, how COVID-19 has impacted her professionally, and how she stays engaged within the profession.

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Novel Responses: Helping Law Firms Answer Clients’ COVID-19 Questions

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 25, Number 1 (September/October 2020), pgs. 12-15.

By Cynthia Brown, Sr. Director of Research Services at Littler Mendelson and Allison Reeve Davis, Library Manager at Littler Mendelson

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought Littler Mendelson, a management-side labor and employment law firm, an unprecedented number of advice and counseling requests from clients. This work typically requires a client to speak directly with a shareholder who is an experienced attorney in a narrow area of law, and it does not initially sound like an opportunity for the library or a research team to assist. Indeed, client questions into novel areas of law rarely require heavy research, but rather rely on the experience and knowledge of the attorney. Littler’s first coronavirus question came in late December and was handled directly by a workplace safety attorney. In the early days of the pandemic, the library was not contacted with questions other than the occasional request to direct an attorney to the firm’s newly created Coronavirus Task Force.

By late February, however, the volume of direct client inquiries was beginning to overwhelm the shareholders. Library leadership was invited by the Chief Knowledge Officer to a strategic planning meeting to address the increased volume and urgent nature of these requests. Following this meeting, the needs of the Task Force attorneys were quickly matched with the unique skills of the firm’s librarians and legal information professionals. Littler’s Knowledge Desk and Knowledge Management Department were offered as key partners to meeting pressing client needs.

As client inquiries and concerns increased daily, the majority of their questions raised novel issues. A decentralized response process can sometimes lead to incongruous answers and to the frequent “reinvention of the wheel.” Providing consistency in the advice and counsel provided was paramount. The original Task Force grew exponentially as new areas of employment law were implicated in the situation, and transitioning from workplace safety issues to leaves of absence and compliance issues and matching the client’s need with the most focused subject-matter expert (SME) was critical.

Getting the Library Involved

With these issues in mind during the early stages of the strategic planning, library leadership offered to match the skills inherent in the research department with the needs of the Task Force. There was an immediate need to track incoming questions, assign the appropriate SME, and balance workloads among the Task Force members. In reviewing questions the Task Force received, it became clear that existing firm work product could assist in answering many of the repeated client requests. As documents were both identified and created, the information was categorized, curated, and stored for future use and easy accessibility. The Task Force needed better communication tools to share lessons learned with the firm, and there was both a need and opportunity to issue-spot and identify trends to enable the firm to provide proactive advice to clients. Finally, as the virus continued to spread, local, state, federal, and international laws were changing literally by the hour. The Littler Knowledge Desk and knowledge management (KM) department set up detailed monitoring of news and legal updates to keep the firm and clients informed. Each of these issues presented unique challenges and risks, but information professionals are well versed in averting such risks. We collect questions, answers, build repositories, and, with frequently needed information, create novel databases or tools for reuse. Applying these skills to provide much needed service to the Task Force proved invaluable.

Littler’s Knowledge Desk collaborated with KM attorneys and the KM Innovations team to build an internal SharePoint page of COVID-19-related resources structured with Littler’s taxonomy. These foundational resources provided a cataloging system that would be ready for the next wave of arriving materials supporting client counsel, as the pandemic and its employment law implications continued to evolve.

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Building a Digital Law Library: Information Professionals a Key Component

In a recent article on Above the Law, PLLIP member Jean O’Grady outlined 12 tips for building a digital law library. Since the current pandemic forced law firms and corporations to quickly pivot to remote work, Jean posits that now is the ideal time to more fully embrace the digital law library.  She emphasizes that a key building block for a digital law library is having strategic information professionals on staff to manage the transition and to create practice area portals and finding tools so attorneys and other firm professionals can easily access resources they need.  Information professionals can also help maximize the value of the firm’s online database contracts, and can continually assess the return on investment these research tools are providing.