Remote Work Proves the Firm Library Is More Than a Physical Space

By Marshall Voizard, Reference Supervisor, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP

When I started my career as a librarian approximately 15 years ago, I worried I was entering a profession in decline, but I liked the field enough to give it a shot anyway.  Between increasing online access and shrinking print resources, it’s no secret that the traditional library model had been under pressure for decades.  Old timers spoke to me of bygone times of larger staff sizes and law firm libraries that took up entire floors.  There was a feeling of fighting a rearguard action, always losing ground, just trying to slow the loss of staff and print.  An unsaid thought was, when the library finally winked out of existence, would librarians disappear too?

In a sense, the COVID-19 pandemic and our forced work-from-home experience has finally answered this question.  For most firms, print and the physical library location was out of reach for at least a year, and yet in my career I’ve never seen as many job postings for law librarians as I have in the last 12 months.  Correlation may not equal causation, but adding in a number a recent legal news articles on this trend along with many anecdotal stories from colleagues, I’m happy to say I think we can all feel confident that we stand on stable ground.

“The expectation that an attorney would have intimate knowledge of dozens or more legal research or technology products, in addition to their full time job as a practicing attorney, is simply unrealistic….we librarians are well positioned to act as product guides, trainers, and even marketers.”

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This question was posted to the PLLIP MyCommunities page on September 16, 2021. 

We’re Open!

  • We opened up on September 3.  Before that secretaries were coming in 2 days a week.  Associates are encouraged to be in the office, some partners are not coming very much.  I, the librarian, have been coming in 1 day a week for the last 16 months and I can continue with that schedule.  We are a firm of about 30 attorneys.  Most of the large firms in the area are not back in full time.
  • We have been asked to be in the office at least 2 days a week since July 6.  They had expected to change that to 3 days per week after Labor Day, but we’re still on 2 days a week because of the increase in cases.  This isn’t a hard mandate (I don’t know if they’re checking), and we’re not required to select the days and stick to a schedule.
  • Our offices are open, and we are welcome to work in the office if we want to, or need to, but we’re not currently required to be in the office.   There are no incentives for coming in, but they were rewarding those of us who are in with lunches or special afternoon snacks.  I think the lunch ordering became problematic, because that has stopped.  But, they did issue gift cards to local food places as a thank you for those who have been coming in. Nothing has been said about when we would be re-opening, or what the options would be once we do.
  • The office reopened after the July 4th holiday with a hybrid schedule.  They request 3 days on site and 2 days remote per week. This change is supposed to be permanent going forward.  They also relaxed the dress code so that we can wear jeans every day, and have been bringing in free lunch on Wednesdays. As far as I can tell it is working well.  The office is quiet and half full any given day, which is good for social distancing.  They’ve recently asked that we wear masks in hallways and common areas, but not at our desks, due to the unfortunate continuing wave here in the state.
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Ask a Director: Implementing Data Analytics

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 26, Number 2 (November/December 2021), pgs 28-29.

By Patricia Barbone, Director of Library Services, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP and John Digilio, Firmwide Director of Library Services, Sidley Austin LLP

Last week, we posted an article from AALL Spectrum on How Data Analytics Can Change the Way Law Firms Do Business, as well as an article highlighting how some law librarians have made use of internal and external data repositories to launch their own data projects, DIY Analytics:  Beyond Excel.   This week’s posts from AALL Spectrum complement those articles.  One illustrates how law library directors and their teams are currently implementing analytics solutions.  The others encourage law librarians to further embrace their data scientist skills and to look into the “black box” of technology, so they can understand and present data and analytics in ways that will best benefit their firms and organizations. 

PATRICIA BARBONE

For the past three to four years, as analytics research tools have proliferated, we have familiarized our lawyers and legal staff with the concept of legal analytics by introducing them to the data analytics features in our existing legal research products. We currently subscribe to many products for litigation and transactional research that contain analytics tools. Some of the most popular products include Bloomberg Law Litigation Analytics, Lexis Context, Lex Machina, and Westlaw Litigation Analytics. For transactional lawyers, we frequently instruct them to use Bloomberg Deal Analytics, Lexis’s Intelligize, and LexisNexis Market Standards.

Analytics training for lawyers has been gradually taking place over the past few years as these tools have increasingly become an integral part of the research platform. Originally, when a database had a data analytics component, it was highlighted in training if it illustrated a typical legal problem that our lawyers were trying to solve but was cumbersome to tackle using traditional research techniques. In our current general orientation, we let lawyers know that analytics research tools may help them get to a better understanding of the legal issue, a better assessment of the strategy, or a better way to retrieve relevant precedents. ­The results will be presented in a tabular or graphical format that provides a different perspective than a list of case citations. We highlight a couple of tools when they begin, but we don’t overstress them because we find a relevant use case is needed for lawyers to fully appreciate the power of analytics. ­Therefore, we showcase the data analytics tools all year round, not just as part of the onboarding process.

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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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PLLIP Diversity Summit 2021: Using Personalized Experiences to Apply DE&I Initiatives in Your Library

By: Ana Ramirez Toft-Nielsen, Research Attorney; Jill L. Kilgore, Research Librarian; and Autumn Collier, Assistant Librarian II, at Littler Mendelson, P.C.

Our experience attending the virtual 2021 Diversity Summit was unexpected and invaluable. Each of us left with surprise takeaways, including some that hit close to home. In particular, the panel and breakout sessions provided us with more than one perspective or dialogue on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We agreed that these personalized sessions made this a reflective experience. The personal stories were affecting—whether allowing us to relate to someone else’s experience, or by showing us a glimpse of what marginalized groups experience regularly. Being aware is a priority, but what’s next? As individuals, we should evaluate how to apply our experiences from the 2021 PLLIP Diversity Summit. What actionable steps is your workplace taking? What actionable steps are you taking? Let this be one phase in your progress toward change.

Leading where you are

We can lead in this work from where we are by identifying the initiatives and commitments made to DE&I at our institutions. We all work at Littler, where leadership supports Diversity, Inclusion and Equity opportunities for our library department. Examples of opportunities include attending conferences such as this Diversity Summit, internal initiatives, and organizational involvement. For this Summit, our director provided the team with the program’s information, supported the registration costs, and provided us with coverage for our daily work, enabling us to focus solely on the conference. When a call to write was sent out, we were urged to write about our experience. With other conferences, such as the AALL Leadership Management Institute, we were encouraged to attend, and offered guidance and assistance with alternative ways to reimburse our costs or help in applying for grants. This encouragement and financial support made us feel empowered to learn and grow. We have the latitude to reflect on these experiences and bring back what we learn to our team.

Within the “walls” of our library, opportunities for open dialogue and professional development abound. We can subscribe to newsletters, including a Littler library-curated weekly newsletter with a DE&I section. We have round-table discussions on a rotation of topics in our book club; this month we are taking time to discuss our experience at the Summit and share with our colleagues.

Our leadership wants us to take an active role to further Littler’s overall Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals. Many of our team members are involved in special interest or other professional organizations. Given the uniqueness of our library department, we have the option to attend development opportunities offered not only by AALL, but also by the American Library Association, local chapters, the International Legal Technology Association, and many other professional organizations. These experiences allow us to bring back new knowledge to team members who might not make that step. We can increase awareness and open discussions in our team meetings, book clubs, and newsletters. The work is ongoing. We will continue to explore DE&I initiatives and continue the conversation that brought us to the Diversity Summit.

Additionally, firm initiatives such as Littler’s Volunteerism Program provide a means for employees to voluntarily participate in social justice opportunities. Employees donate their time, and in exchange, Littler will make a monetary donation to an organization of the employee’s choice. Messages of support flow from the Managing Director and are always accompanied with personal growth and learning opportunities.

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