Brief Analyzer Tools in Law Firms: Evaluation, Implementation & Attorney Adoption

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 25, Number 5 (May/June 2021), pgs. 22-24.

By Cara Henley Johnson, Library Manager for O’Melveny and Myers

The modern law firm library has a plethora of brief analyzing tools at the fingertips of librarians, attorneys, and staff. While the major vendors have created their own brief analyzers, they are not all the same, and some have qualities that may be better for different users within your firm. A survey of law librarians from the Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals Special Interest Section (PLLIP-SIS) was made available via their listserv for this article. There were 23 responders, about half from large firms and half from medium and smaller firms. Many of the respondents are not the managers of the brief analyzing tools within their law firm. Frequently, a knowledge management or attorney manager professional works with the attorneys to evaluate, implement, and even train on brief analyzer tools. It could be a growth area for law firm libraries to provide more assistance or manage this particular area as it is so tightly integrated into existing research tools.

Following is a short overview of four brief analyzing tools and how to help your firm appropriately learn and use the tools.

Westlaw Quick Check

Revealed at the 2019 American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting, Westlaw Quick Check is only available on Westlaw Edge. Law firms must subscribe to Westlaw Edge in order to get access to this brief analyzer, so the return on investment (ROI) calculation will vary from one firm to another. The majority of PLLIP-SIS responders to the brief analyzing tool survey use Quick Check and felt it was the most accurate.

If Westlaw Edge is a firm’s preferred platform, then adopting this product might be easier than with some of the other tools. Attorneys can drag and drop their briefs into the system after also having conducted research per their normal workflow. This could decrease training time, as they are familiar with the look and feel of Thomson Reuters products, including Westlaw and Practical Law. In this case, in-house training may be easy to implement, whether a firm is working remotely or in person. However, if implementing Edge and Quick Check at the same time with a new upgrade, vendor assistance may be useful. With Westlaw Edge being used in law schools, law students who may have researched within Edge, but not used Quick Check, could be trained just on this part of the platform.

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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.

Demonstrating the value of your legal research programme

by Pamela Stephens, National Training Librarian, Ashurst Australia.

Our articled clerks (graduates) participate in an intense programme aimed at building their legal research skills in the first three months of joining us. They attend a one hour workshop every two weeks on legal research method (that is, how to find judicial consideration, NOT how to use LexisNexis). Our passionate and creative training librarians try to make these workshops as engaging as possible, with games, competitions, video and lots of hands on participation. The feedback is always great! Continue reading