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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AALL Annual Meeting Session Recap- Legal Deserts in America: What is Meaningful Access to Justice for All?

Stephanie Huffnagle, a faculty member at Erie Community College in Buffalo, NY, was one of this year’s recipients of a Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) grant for the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting.  Stephanie wrote the following recap.

“Legal Deserts in America: What is Meaningful Access to Justice for All” proved to be an informative and worthwhile session. The session not only provided statistics on the current state of affairs in terms of lack of access to legal services, but also highlighted the reasons behind this reality and presented concrete examples of programs aiming to fill the justice gaps throughout the country.  The presenters were all stakeholders in the battle for justice for all, and they provided their first-hand insight into the issue of legal deserts.  

Lisa Pruitt, Professor of Law at UC Davis, discussed her research, which served as the backbone to the legal desert information in the 2020 ABA Profile on the Legal Profession.  The findings of Lisa and her research team echo and expand on the idea of the justice gap, showing specifically where the gaps exist based on the number of attorneys at the county level.  Lisa explained that legal deserts are those counties where there are either no lawyers, or only one to two lawyers.  The research shows that 40% of counties have less than one lawyer per 1,000 people.

While Lisa focused on the why and some general tools to respond to the situation, her colleagues discussed ongoing recruitment and training programs designed to combat lack of access and legal deserts.  

Suzanne Starr, Director of Policy and Legal Services at South Dakota Rural Recruitment Program, outlined South Dakota’s response to the issue.  South Dakota initiated a rural attorney recruitment program back in 2013.  This is based on a financial incentive to get attorneys into rural areas.  It was interesting to hear how the program was started and to recognize the influence that one person/a small group of people can have by being change agents.

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AALL Virtual Conference Recap: Speakers, Panelists Highlight Inclusion and Diversity Efforts

See the link below for a wrap up of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) 2021 virtual conference, titled “Leading with Wisdom & Insight”.  Authored by Thomas Lang, Senior Legal Analyst at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory, U.S., the wrap up highlights some of the educational sessions and key trends you might have missed at this year’s AALL annual meeting.  Thomas hones in on some of the diversity and inclusion themes in particular, and provides a great summary of Tina Tchen’s keynote address.  Tina Tchen currently “serves as president and CEO of TIME’S UP Now and the TIME’S UP Foundation, overseeing the organizations’ strategic plans to change culture, companies, and laws in order to make work safe, fair, and dignified for women of all kinds”, according to the TIME’S UP staff page.  Prior to joining TIME’S UP, she worked in the White House under the Obama administration and worked as a lawyer specializing in workplace culture.  

Read Thomas Lang’s article–Strategic Perspectives:  AALL Virtual Conference Speakers, Panelists Outline Inclusion and Diversity Efforts in Workplace, Legal Profession (Wolters Kluwer, July 2021)

PLLIP Summit 2021 Recap: Think Positively About Change and Embrace Flux!

By Theresa Greco, Library Services Manager, HBR Consulting

There’s no denying that the pandemic spurred quite a bit of change and uncertainty for everyone in 2020; what we knew about our work life, home life and our social engagements changed overnight. People needed to quickly adapt to what was being termed the “new normal”.  Fast forward to 2021 and although the stay-at-home orders and most mask mandates have been lifted, the world is still in complete chaos. Change and how we handle it will continue in the now “never normal” world. 

This year’s PLLIP Summit, “Hindsight is 2021: Responding to Chaos and Change offered attendees the opportunity to hear from experts about how to perceive change differently, and about the skills needed to survive and thrive in this new chaotic world.   The Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) hosts the Summit prior to the start of the AALL Annual Meeting each year to give legal information professionals at law firms and other organizations a chance to engage with their colleagues on new developments and on challenges they’re tackling in the legal information world.

Keynote speaker, April Rinne, author of the soon-to-be-released book “Flux”, kicked-off the day-long symposium by leading attendees through an exercise exploring their current relationships to change and offering alternative ways to consider change. Not all change is negative, Rinne assured us. As professionals we need to rethink and reconsider what really matters when things change. Rinne suggests that as information professionals we need to take advantage of the “flux” we’re experiencing and use it to reshape our future. Everything we do is rooted in mindset. If we can think positively about change, it will become a positive in our life.

Another interesting conversation occurred during the PLLIP Fireside Chat with David Lat. Lat shared his unique perspective on change as he took us through an intimate discussion around his three weeks on a ventilator after contracting COVID in early 2020. This and other life experiences have helped Lat realize that he needed to make personal and professional changes happen at different points in his life.  He recognizes change as an opportunity to enrich his life and make it more fulfilling.

The summit ended on a high note with an energetic workshop led by Brie Leung, a seasoned facilitator and change agent.  Brie offered attendees what she called her “4 Truths to Change”, basically four new ways to think about change. 

Leung’s 4 Truths to Change are:

  1. Change is a process.
  2. People have an emotional, human reaction to change.
  3. Successful change creates great leaders.
  4. Change is constant and it isn’t going away.

While 2020 was a year of “reacting” to change; 2021 needs to be a year of “rethinking” change.  As knowledge professionals we are positioned within our firms to provide information, offer solutions, and assist in navigating the ever-changing landscape of the legal community. As Rinne pointed out: this time of flux has given us an opportunity to embrace the new “never normal” and to rethink and reinvent everything we’ve known up until this point.

Are you up for tackling the new “never normal”?

Looking Forward to the PLLIP Summit: Full Agenda Now Available

The Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals Special Interest Section has prepared a timely and thoughtful program for Friday, July 16th, open to both members and non-members.  The theme of the program is Hindsight is 2021: Responding to Chaos and Change, and the Committee has secured engaging and dynamic presenters to share their insights with attendees.  Breakout sessions will allow for attendee participation and interaction with colleagues.  Please see below for more details on the Summit agenda.

To register for the 2021 Summit, please visit the AALL registration page here. Please note Registration deadline is July 2, 2021, **with zero exceptions**

Hindsight is 2021: Responding to Chaos and Change

 8:30 am Pacific / 9:30 am Mountain / 10:30 am Central / 11:30 am Eastern
Keynote Address – April Rinne

2020 saw more change and uncertainty than most people were ready for. The world was in flux: changes at work and at home, schedule changes and school changes, ever-changing plans and expectations. It was a lot! And yet, one year later in July 2021, the world is in just as much flux — it simply looks different, and it’s here to stay. What does “hybrid work” really mean? What new skills will be required? And of course, how can law librarians harness this uncertainty to their own and their organizations’ advantage? 

We’ll kick off this year’s summit by zooming out — beyond any one change management strategy, tool, or technique — to explore our relationships to change, period. When everything is in flux, what does it mean to have a “Flux Mindset?” You’ll learn practices to boost your self-awareness and see change differently. April Rinne is both a lawyer and a futurist. She’ll help us look back and look forward. This isn’t about any one change or any one year, but rather preparing for a future in flux — and thriving in it!

9:45 am P / 10:45 am M / 11:45 am C / 12:45 pm E
Facilitated Discussion Groups in Breakout Rooms

Join one of the topics below and discuss these current issues with your colleagues. Multiple rooms will be available per topic, and participants will be able to move between rooms.

The future of print. What is your organization doing with print?  Share your successes and failures with removing print from your collection.  How to deal with training attorneys, working with vendors, and utilizing creative solutions.

Training, marketing, and engaging attorneys. How to reach out to attorneys in an online or hybrid environment.  What tools have you used to facilitate adoption of online tools?  Share your tips, tricks, successes and failures – and learn from your colleagues. 

Technology tips. Applying Online Tools in the Library – ex: Gannt Charts and Project Management; Excel Pivot Tables; SharePoint for statistics, FAQs, request tracking; Winning internet designs and strategies. Share your best kept secrets and learn from the group.

New employees. Can new hires be remote or hybrid?  How to onboard new library employees in a remote or hybrid environment.

Team members, training and building relationships. How can you participate in team training or social opportunities while working from home.  Do you want to be in the office for evaluations? Share your tips and learn from others about how to build relationships in the evolving new environment.

Preparing to go back. Is your firm considering hybrid schedules?  How can we help employees that won’t be allowed to work from home?  Will there be new safety measures?  Will the library be providing new hours for your patrons? Are we ready for the next pandemic? 

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