Leader Profile of Cynthia Brown: Collaboration is Key to Creative, Innovative KM

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. This week, we have been publishing profiles on each of the honorees. This profile is on Cynthia Brown Senior Director of Research Services, Littler Mendelson

Fastcase 50 profile:

Cynthia BrownSenior Director of Research Services, Littler Mendelson

“It’s no overstatement to say Cynthia Brown is the epitome of a forward-thinking librarian leader in BigLaw’s ever-evolving push to stay ahead of research and knowledge management technology. As Senior Director of Research Services at Littler Mendelson, Cynthia’s impressive track record includes starting the firm’s legislative tracking project, as well as a digital “Knowledge Desk” that helps the firm’s many attorneys easily interface with expert librarians and the vast knowledge management resources at Littler’s disposal. In response to COVID-19 Cynthia and her team pivoted to develop a vast array of constantly-updated and public-facing employer fact sheets that have been used by businesses across the country. Cynthia has demonstrated that legal services can be more than billable hours, and that information professionals in the firm can create new, data-driven legal services for clients”

Profile by Linda-Jean Schneider, Manager of Digital Access, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP

In these uncertain times with threats to a stable personal and professional existence, we in the legal information profession can often look to our colleagues for support and inspiration. I highly recommend spending time finding out what makes others in our field ‘tick,’ and how they found their way; much like reading biographies of others, it can inspire and motivate us to find our own path. The interview I recently conducted with Cynthia Brown of Littler Mendelson for this OFG profile provided such an occasion for me. She shared numerous insights and experiences that have created and solidified her role as a leader in the profession. Her experience is an example of how elevating our levels of service to not only meet, but to exceed expectations, can expand our ability to thrive and survive.

Cynthia is Senior Director of Research Management at Littler–a position she assumed early in 2020 after 13 years in various positions in the firm’s Library and Research operation, now part of its Knowledge Management Group. In this role, Cynthia continues to lead an exceptionally focused effort to provide essential KM support for the major labor and employment-focused firm, and to motivate and lead her staff to exceed their own expectations and those of the firm. She considers this responsibility to be the rewarding culmination of her career.

Why did you pursue a career as a legal information professional?

Cynthia’s early years in the field — first as a law student and then as a legal information provider representative — drew Cynthia toward her specialization in law firm legal information management. She discovered that the private law firm provides the environment where she feels she can have an impact and be most effective. The chance to be engaged and involved in a profession dominated by talented, collaborative colleagues, with opportunities to excel while learning and contributing to advances in legal research, was irresistible to her.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Some professionals when asked this question will focus on opportunities for advancement, the chance to expand their network, or even acquiring specific skills that could take them into another field. Cynthia names the opportunities for collaboration, flexibility, and mutual support among the firm’s administrative levels to be high points for her. She has been encouraged to identify new ways to directly integrate the research and content her team uncovers into the firm’s work-product, which provides a sense of being directly engaged in the success of the firm.

Continue reading

Leader Profile of Diana Koppang: Data Enthusiast and Passionate Advocate for Law Librarians

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. This week, we have been publishing profiles on each of the honorees. This profile is on Diana Koppang, Director of Research & Competitive Intelligence, Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP.

Fastcase 50 profile:

Diana Koppang Director of Research & Competitive Intelligence, Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP

“Diana Koppang is a law librarian made to lead. It’s not just her encyclopedic knowledge of legal research services and techniques, it’s her passion for them. In addition to leading a team of research analysts at Neal Gerber, Diana has held numerous board and chair positions at the AALL, Ark Group, PLLIP, PIUG, and other legal technology groups. Most recently, she and her team led a group of researchers to create the most comprehensive analysis of legal analytics platforms available. Analytics services vary widely, and comparing them can be like comparing apples and oranges in six dimensions, but the survey Diana led for AALL admirably compared the services across all of them. Diana also dedicates countless hours to providing technology to legal aid agencies in Chicago advocating for tenants’ rights.”

Answers compiled by Megan Moltrup, Librarian at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Washington, DC.

What is your role at your law firm? 

Director of Research & Competitive Intelligence; I manage the research team who handle legal and business research, competitive intelligence, due diligence research for conflicts, and knowledge management.

What do you believe is the value you and your team bring to your firm? 

Our flexibility and creativity in finding solutions to problems and working as a team both within our department and with other departments and practice groups.

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

The development of competitive intelligence and knowledge management roles – these will continue to grow, especially in the KM space. But like with CI, we have to fight for those roles so that they aren’t assigned to marketing or I.T. That being said we need to find a way to explain why we are best suited for those roles while fully collaborating with those departments whose expertise is also needed to bring the fullest value of CI and KM to our organizations.

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

We’ve made a lot of changes to our contracts in the last few months, especially given the lack of access to print while the firm works remotely. We’re taking advantage of a captive audience to bring more training to the attorneys – for both new and current products – to help them change the way they work.

Continue reading

Legal Information Professionals: The Next Generation

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 25, Number 2 (November/December 2020), pgs. 13-14.

By Toby Brown, Chief Practice Management Officer at Perkins Coie, LLP

Change, change, change. Blah, blah, blah. How many times can we hear that the legal industry is going through dramatic changes? Frankly, I lost count about five years ago.

For your convenience, I will not drag you through the typical recitation of how things are changing. Instead, I want to talk about how you can actually be an effective agent of change.

What is emerging in the industry are new roles for law firm information professionals that actually enable them to participate directly in the delivery of legal services to clients. By that, I mean that these are client-facing roles involved in reducing the cost of delivering legal services to clients.

Now that we’ve set the focus of the story, let’s step back to where it begins so you can look for ways to get involved in this new world.

It All Starts with Conversation

The pricing function at law firms can and should be focused on meeting client needs. At its highest level, this means talking with clients about their pricing pains and goals. Many times, these conversations are explorations, helping the client better understand which pricing approaches will bring them more value and make them look better internally.

Over time, these new pricing approaches have led firms to realize that investments in efficiency-driving processes and technology accrue to the firm’s bottom line.

Guess what? We have already arrived at the point where it becomes obvious that legal information professionals are in a great position to help meet these challenges. Let’s walk down a path for how this all might come together in a practical fashion. We will of course, start with a client.

Continue reading

Voices Across the Spectrum: Combating Systemic Racism

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 25, Number 2 (November/ December 2020), pgs. 29-31.

By Andre Davison, Research Technology Manager at Blank Rome LLP

Compassion, empathy, and reaching out to others are key to addressing discriminatory implicit bias.

The tragic incident this summer with George Floyd in Minneapolis brought back memories of my experience with law enforcement 26 years ago that could have dramatically changed my life and the trajectory of my career. My two uncles, my best friend, and I were headed to the beach for the day after my younger uncle’s high school prom. As we made our way through the beach entrance, we were pulled over by the Galveston beach patrol for suspicion of an open container violation.

Unbeknownst to me, my best friend, and my younger uncle, my older uncle had a joint in his possession and was reaching to hide it as the officers approached the car. The officers immediately drew their weapons, and I immediately feared we were going to get shot. Only 16 years old, I was terrified as we were ordered out of the car and placed in handcuffs. Fortunately, my younger uncle was able to diffuse the situation through a conversation with the officers. We were able to leave the beach without any repercussions.

I learned two valuable lessons that day: always keep your hands where police officers can see them and always address police officers with respect.

As I reflect, I realize how fortunate we were to leave those circumstances alive. As our nation saw with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and others, so many African American men and women don’t live to survive similar encounters with law enforcement.

Continue reading

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

“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.

Continue reading