Interview of Research Services Librarian Yael Rosenblatt

This post introduces Yael Rosenblatt, Research Services Librarian at Reed Smith in New York.

What was your path to law librarianship?

Law librarianship was a natural outgrowth of my 9+ years spent at Westlaw which brought me into contact with some of the largest firms in New York City.  I really enjoyed seeing what law librarians do and was so impressed by the wide range of projects within the law firm that they were involved with.  I believed my skill set would dovetail nicely with that and was excited when an opportunity presented itself.

Did you have a mentor or librarian who helped you and/or influenced your work style/ethic?

I was fortunate to work with so many smart and talented librarians at many firms and to observe many different work styles and many different work settings.  I think most of the librarians I had contact with have served as a mentor for me in his or her own way.  I have tried to adopt for myself some of the qualities I most admire.  Since moving to Reed Smith, Brian Blaho’s help and guidance has obviously been invaluable to me.  I have also kept in regular contact with many of my librarian contacts who have provided lots of advice.

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

My career really began when I served as law clerk for a judge in New Jersey.  Even then, I always loved research.  I even served as a research assistant for a professor in law school.  I transitioned to Westlaw and so my focus was exclusively on Westlaw , and eventually on the whole suite of Thomson Reuters’ legal offerings – and how those products can bring value and efficiency to lawyers and law firms.   Now my focus (in terms of research) is finding out how each product I have access to can bring value to the work I am doing.  It’s a learning curve – and it’s exciting to learn — in depth – about other resources.

What is your biggest challenge at work?

Currently my biggest challenge is still learning about all of the available resources.  I have so many great research tools to choose from.  It takes time to figure out what is available and then what is the most cost effective and thorough research platform to use in the particular instance.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy working with all different people in a law firm – and I enjoy learning about the diverse practice areas.  In my prior position, I always tried to meet attorneys in different practice areas.  I’ve continued trying to do that and enjoy working with corporate attorneys as well as litigators.  It keep things challenging and interesting.

How do you keep up with news and trends in law libraries?

I joined AALL and the local library associations.  I also follow popular blogs.  The librarians in my firm are also great about meeting regularly to keep in touch and keep each other up to date.

What job would you have if you had not become a law librarian?

I would be a private investigator.  I love the quest for information.  It keeps things interesting!

How do you reach out to your attorneys to let them know how the library can help them?

I am fortunate that I get a chance to meet with each and every attorney that starts – whether they are new associates or laterals or partners.  In this way, I can impress upon them the many ways the library can help them and show them what an essential resource the library team can be.

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.

Our Future is Bright!

sun
Time to celebrate!
In fact, it’s a double celebration. The Private Law Libraries-Special Interest Section (PLL-SIS) of AALL is now officially Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals-Special Interest Section (PLLIP-SIS); we also have a newly redesigned website for our SIS!
Our new name aptly merges our legacy of the past with our hopes and goals for the future, positioning us to forge ahead and continue to further define and promote our value as information professionals far into the future.
Also, today is the official launch of our redesigned website and logo! A great big and special thank-you to our dedicated Webmaster team – Linda-Jean Schneider, Kevin Miles, and Heather Williams! They rock!
Our future is bright, however, in the words of Bob Marley “in this bright future, you can’t forget your past”, for it is what brought us to where we are today and has equipped us to mold and embrace our future.

Connecting the Dots: Proving Our Value Throughout Time

connecting-the-dotsby Jeffrey Nelson, Research Services Manager, Squire Sanders (US) LLP

Connect, collaborate, and strategize. As information professionals look to the future, these themes are nothing new, but at this year’s SLA Annual Conference never have they made more sense to discuss. As we try to prove ourselves as invaluable assets to our firms, a pop culture reference immediately comes to mind. Fans of the television series The Good Wife will be familiar with Kalinda, the in-house investigator at the fictional law firm Lockhart & Gardner. Kalinda is often sent out into the streets to get the scoop, dig for dirt, or find anything she can get her hands on to help her firm win a case. She knows which sources are credible and she knows when information is actionable. She performs competitive intelligence research on other firms, background checks on individuals and corporations, and most importantly, she finds the needle in the haystack every time. With these skills and unstoppable determination, Kalinda’s ability to establish herself as an important asset to her firm’s partnership is commendable. Most of you will recognize these responsibilities as what we are asked to do each and every day.

Using Kalinda as a fictional role model, how can we prove our worth as she has done? My first step was realizing I needed to take advantage of the network of knowledge I had access to – the SLA community. Despite qualifying for the Veteran Member Travel Grant, I had yet to attend one of the Annual Conferences. If I truly want to prove my value to the firm’s partnership as a resource for delivering credible, accurate, and actionable information, then I need to embed myself in the discussions of the community at large. The SLA Annual Conference not only reinforced many of my existing best practices, but also gave me a renewed confidence to take what I learned to the next level.

To follow the Legal Division’s 20th Anniversary theme set out by Chair Tricia Thomas of looking to the past, present and future, we must continue to keep ourselves in the forefront of the information age. At the Bloomberg Law/Legal Division Breakfast and Business Meeting, I found myself in awe of the amount of SLA star power in the room, which included our division’s past leaders, current division and organizational board members, and many of the organization’s rising stars. With so many influential members in one room, it is not difficult to see why the Legal Division, despite its young age, has grown into one of the largest and most active in SLA.

Our past truly is the key to our success. When looking to our past members and leaders, I saw that a great many of them are still extremely active in the community and take great pride in being a part of the Legal Division. Personally, I found the speech given by Connie Pine, founder and first ever Chair of the Legal Division, to be quite moving and inspirational. She and the other founding members noticed the growth of law firms and recognized that law librarians lacked a forum to collaborate and develop professionally within SLA. I learned about her positive and negative experiences during the process of establishing a voice for the legal community within SLA. These experiences have helped shape our division into what it is today.

This brings us to the present. Since founding of the Legal Division, the digital age ushered in countless challenges and the role of the librarian has been deeply impacted. Have we learned all that we can from our predecessors? What are we doing now to take on to these challenges as a community? At the Legal Division’s Unconference, one of the standout conference sessions for me, a group of us discussed the pros and cons of embedded librarianship, the struggles with cost recovery in the age of alternative fee arrangements, and determining the return on investment of tools such as reference trackers. It is discussions like these that underscore our biggest challenge – the possible need to rebrand ourselves while simultaneously boosting the bottom line for our companies. Fortunately, we have the information and skills to take this challenge head on. In a society driven by connectivity and collaboration, we have the necessary access to critical market information which our community can analyze, strategize, and act upon. I appreciate that SLA still places an emphasis on gathering in person once a year to strengthen our communal bonds. Discussion and collaboration strengthens our group; we can use our shared information to prepare for the future. As librarians, we understand the pitfalls of certain sources and we encourage our users to be aware of the information they collect and how they use it. Now, more than ever, it is important to manage information and demonstrate our capabilities as we disseminate it to those who rely on us. The conference taught me that the benefit of successfully accomplishing this will be twofold – it will not only help us in our jobs but also will help us strengthen our professional community.

Conference keynote speaker Mike Walsh spoke a lot about connecting the dots between the present and the future. For example, he shared with us that the company Intel keeps anthropologists on staff; they serve as the bridge between the creators of their products and the consumer. I realized that we are positioned perfectly to assume the role as anthropologists in our companies. Mr. Walsh advised us to “think anthropology, not technology.” This highlights the importance of having experts who not only understand information and its medium, but also how it is used by the user. Mike Walsh also suggested that it is not necessarily how we collect information but also how we visualize it in real time. Let’s listen to him and stay ahead of the curve. We can accomplish this by developing relationships and learning from one another. We may debate the titles of our positions – “information professional” vs. “knowledge officer” vs. “librarian,” among others – but with regular collaboration with one another and our ability to use information in real time to our benefit (either for our companies or our profession as a whole), I am confident librarians will be relevant for years to come.

Prior to attending the conference, I had been well aware of the various hot topics that are so often discussed among our community, but nothing beats interacting with other professionals and exchanging ideas in person. I’m appreciative of the opportunity I had to attend this year’s conference, and I hope to be able to return in coming years. The conference highlighted so many challenges that we face as information professionals but also assured me that we are well prepared for these challenges. We can face those challenges doing what we do best – finding the actionable information and making something of it. The single greatest takeaway from the conference for me was that our organization’s past has inspired me to be proactive in the present in order to ensure my spot in the future.

(Note: orginally published on http://legal.sla.org/newsletter/lddv2n2/connectingthedots/)

For each library, a librarian. Preferably in it.

There has been a lot of comment in the blogosphere recently about embedding librarians into legal teams, whilst this might work well in bigger firms for the solo librarian in a smaller firm it’s not always practical or desirable.  This post by a member of the Scottish Law Librarians Group discusses this in the context of a library relocation. Continue reading