Experience at AALL’s Course: “Managing Your Work Environment”

by Janet Peros, Senior Research Analyst, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

Editor’s Note: We are happy to post two takes on a recent course on “Managing Your Work Environment” offered by the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), and facilitated by Judith Millesen, Ph.D.  Both authors were recipients of grants from the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) section of AALL.  Thank you to Connie and Janet for taking the time to share their thoughts on their experiences and takeaways from the course.

In September, AALL offered a four week online course, Managing Your Work Environment. I was able to attend this rewarding program facilitated by Judith Millesen, PhD, Director of Strategic Planning, Fundraising, and Capacity Building, Association Options, thanks to a generous PLLIP grant.

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Better Team Development and Interpersonal Skills: AALL Course on “Managing Your Work Environment”

By Connie Chang, Knowledge Management Research Analyst at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt

Editor’s Note: We are happy to post two takes on a recent course on “Managing Your Work Environment” offered by the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), and facilitated by Judith Millesen, Ph.D.  Both authors were recipients of grants from the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) section of AALL.  Thank you to Connie and Janet for taking the time to share their thoughts on their experiences and takeaways from the course.

Thanks to a grant from the Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals Special Interest Section (PLLIP-SIS), I attended the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) course, “Managing Your Work Environment.”  The course focused on team development and interpersonal skills.  It was held over three weeks (Sept. 13 to Oct. 4, 2022).  There was also some pre-course work on the importance of having a growth mindset and taking time to reflect about work experiences.  I am so grateful to PLLIP members for supporting the PLLIP-SIS grants through your dues.  I am also very grateful to the PLLIP-SIS Grants Committee for managing the grants program on behalf of our section.

There were 18 learners in the course, half at law firms, three in government law libraries, and six at law school libraries. The course format was virtual and mostly asynchronous, concluding with a synchronous group discussion via Zoom.  Our instructor was Judith Millesen, PhD, Director of Strategic Planning, Fundraising, and Capacity Building at Association Options.  Her experience includes teaching as a professor for 20 years and advising nonprofit organizations throughout the United States.  Through recorded video lectures, carefully selected course materials, and insightful feedback on each learner’s discussion board posts, short reflective essays, plus a short video that each learner made, Professor Millesen skillfully guided us in our quests to be better team members (or team leaders).

During our Zoom meeting at the end of the course, it was clear that the course enriched learners with information and suggestions we could employ immediately to help improve our work (and personal) lives.  The coursework helped us to identify areas where we wanted to become stronger.  Some common themes that also came through in our discussion board posts and in our final meeting were: learning from our mistakes, becoming more mindful and more comfortable with discomfort that can lead to growth, and keeping in mind what we can and cannot control.  Though I learned many things from the course that I plan to explore further and implement, I share below only one key takeaway from each week in the course.

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Fastcase 50 Honorees Include 4 American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Members     

Congratulations to the four American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) members below who were named to the Fastcase 50 Class of 2022. Lindsey Carpino and Clanitra Stewart Nejdl are also members of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) Special Interest Section.  Lindsey teamed up with Annie Mentkowski on the “Review-It” legal tech tool that won the 2021 AALL Innovation Showcase Awards in three categories.

Jean O’Grady, another AALL and PLLIP member, wrote about the Fastcase 50 class on her Dewey B. Strategic blog, https://www.deweybstrategic.com/2022/07/fastcase-50-announced-congratulations-to-class-of-2022.html.  Bob Ambrogi wrote about Lindsey and Annie’s Review-It tool on his LawSites blog in August 2021, https://www.lawnext.com/2021/08/one-project-sweeps-first-ever-aall-innovation-showcase-despite-my-participation.html.

Thanks to Fastcase for recognizing the efforts and achievements of these four dedicated individuals, and for Fastcase’s continual support of the law librarian and information professional community.

View the full Fastcase 50 Class of 2022: https://www.fastcase.com/fastcase50/

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How Law Firms Succeeded During the Pandemic

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 26, Number 6 (July/August 2022), pgs 18-20.

By John DiGilio, Firmwide Director of Library Services, Sidley Austin LLP

Communicate meaningfully, set boundaries, celebrate successes, and be empathetic.

For most of us in the law firm library world, the response to the pandemic felt a like a fire drill that we have been preparing for our entire careers. We have long talked about electronic resources, serving clients at a distance, virtual learning, and so much more. Conference after conference and through innumerable articles, we have been lamenting the slow pace of change among firms when it comes to fully embracing these possibilities. Yet wise was the person who said that necessity is the mother of invention. All that hesitation ended abruptly when the world went into lockdown under the rapid spread of COVID-19. Not only did we successfully make that transition from office to remote, but we did so almost overnight. Rising to the challenge, however, came at a price. Staff reported being overwhelmed. Some even burned out. Currently, we are in the midst of a chaotic job market and what is being dubbed “The Great Resignation.” As a manager, I knew from day one that a big part of my job was going to be making sure that my team had the space, flexibility, and respect necessary to not only pull off a successful transition, but to do so in good health and good spirits.

Communicate Meaningfully

We knew immediately that electronic communication was going to be one of the keys to successfully move from in-office to remote working. But even when we were in the office, one of the biggest issues we faced was the ever-growing glut of emails, texts, and instant messages we were already receiving. “Email overload,” for example, was already a very real and pressing problem. Now that communicating was no longer as simple as walking down the hall to talk to colleagues and co-workers, we expected this issue would compound itself exponentially—and it did. Within weeks of going remote, we were all using at least three virtual meeting platforms and two instant messaging programs in addition to what we already had on both our computers and smartphones as well as tablets. We were wired for speed and confusion!

For my team, I made the decision that while anyone was free to make use of any of the tools being offered by the firm, there would be certain base expectations. Everyone was asked to stick to one of each of these communication platforms. This way we could easily see who was available, everyone was guaranteed to see important messages and announcements, and we did not have to do a lot of jumping between applications to connect with our colleagues. This helped reduce some of the communication fatigue that was evident early on. Everyone was also asked to attend one monthly all-department meeting in which the various service directors talked about projects completed and those underway.

I also decided to encourage a meaningful approach to virtual meetings. I knew we would be adding a good number of online social events to make up for our lack of in-person gatherings, so I wanted again to make sure that heaping those on top of an already busy schedule of administrative and work-focused meetings did not overwhelm our staff. We needed to reduce unnecessary meetings, or what I call “meetings for meetings’ sake,” and ensure that the ones we were scheduling were kept tight and efficient. Everything of importance would be recorded to take pressure off those with conflicts, pressing projects, or who were not even on the clock at the time of the meeting. Not only did I preach this gospel of efficiency, but I also had to lead by example. Entire schedules were rethought and redone. But it was worth it. With remote working likely here to stay, this practice is going to serve us well going forward.

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