Archive for July, 2009

2009 Keynote Comments

The room was full. The room was huge. As you walk in, the first thing you see are two gigantic screens with an animation show titled “We Think” by Charles Leadbeater. A variety of images scroll across the screens with statements and questions: —- How do we know what’s private? — How do we protect what’s private? — Everyone is talking — The web is mass conversations — Because new ideas come from conversation — In the past you were owned, now it what you share — It’s like a bird’s nest where everyone leaves their little piece…. and many more think sentences and questions.  After some information, thank you’s and an introduction of the keynote speaker  by President James Duggan, Jonathan Zittrain took the stage.

Jonathan expressed hope that his presentation would mash together the future of the internet and the future of the library. He said that when he thinks of the noun “library” he imagines this fortress protecting the crown jewels (books) against the forces which would want to steal the jewels. Inside the fortress were the custodians of knowledge where only special qualified people could manage and protect the jewels. He asked if anyone knew the percentage of materials in this fortress would actually be used, and someone responded 5 percent. Jonathan then said that he imagines these materials as boxes upon boxes of soda crackers stored up in a fallout shelter, and that an anology of a Potemkin village may be pretty accurate.

So the cost of housing these materials is expensive to keep, especially since such a huge percentage is seldom, if ever used, and that we are losing control of what we own and what we are purchasing. When he thinks of the word library as a verb, he conjures up the image of “Jeeves” on the webiste Ask Jeeves”– and he mentioned there is this weird tension between the librarian and the means by which users search electronically. He new corporate strategies which are farming out ways to harvest information in all kinds of methods, whereby they no longer need to deal with, say, a research and development division. The companies cast nets to people they don’t even know and pay them money to give them ideas they use. He mentioned LiveOps, Wikinomics, and WeThink. In this cast and pay model, you can “terminate” people instantly who aren’t performing.

When thinking of a library as an adjective, we might think of it as something that makes something more or less a value. He showed some “Core Statements” of various institutions and noted the confusion within and between them, some of them not even making sense, and the audience laughed several times at some of the core statements. He said he looked at AALL’s website for it’s mission statement and broke it down into a few words: society, central to, fair, educate, equitable and authentic, and said these are really good words for librarians.
He moved on to the topic of ethics, privacy and group policing; where we have information coursing around the internet, that we don’t always know the people implicated by a piece of data. The goal is not to regulate data on the internet, but to allow a kind of responsibility of the herd concept. Jonathan queried the audience by asking for those present to hum their approval for a few scenerios he had posed; one of them regarding if anyone in audience would forward on a piece of data which could harm the person who is named or having a photo of the person in a negative or damaging way, and the audience was silent. Then he asked the audience to hum if they would forward Dick Cheney’s memo about the CIA and torture, and the audience hummed so loud that it sounded like a single note chorus. His point was that he sees self-controlled values of the populous as being the agent that ensures authentication and dissemination spreading. He sees the possibility of the collective action of the good. Jonathan belongs to a project called “Verdicts of the Herd” and he sees patterns of good action in that project.

The way Wikipedia works is like a house on fire but there are no paid full-time firefighters, but everyone in the neighborhood sees the smoke almost instantly and rushes in seconds to come and help put it out. He mentioned Wikipedia’s administrators problems pages, and noted that Wikipedia is just 45 minutes away from destruction at any given moment, but that in seconds the Wikipedia counter-vandalism unit kicks in.

Another example about rules and values he sited was a Dutch traffic engineer decided to take away the signage at a busy intersection to see what would happen. To his delight, the statistics, over time showed fewer accident rates. Jonathan speculated that this may well be due to a human trait where when you allow freedom from rules, that people make more decisions about responsibilities for their own actions.

He sees other concept opportunities that can just “happen” if someone just goes ahead and puts it on the web, like open course sharing, where students collect syllabi and offer course notes from students who’ve taken a class. He mentioned Waybackmachine, the inventor of this saw the need and importance of it, and then JUST DID IT. We can just DO THINGS. The internet is the biggest copyright infringement ever. Anyone can instantly opt out of their commitment. Other examples Jonathan brought up is LII (Legal Information Institute), and Project Gutenberg, and OpenLibrary, where someone just started it. Google books just started “scanning books” in spite of copyright problems. Pacer movement petition to offer it services to libraries for free. We can change the dynamtic whenever we want by just doing it!

He spoke about a citation system open source schema as an idea, and that if we don’t do it, some .com will take it and hold it, and charge money for it. He brought up an idea for a concept to change casbooks; where they don’t need to produced by a single author or two; and that anyone or any group can just produce one. We can easily install collaboration mechanisms for various legal education elements if we want.

We can do menospanies (consumers come up with concepts that would force vendors to open up their holds on data access). Library digital copies as a counterbalance for libraries. The most important thing that impressed Jonathan about his experience in libraries is the face-to-face relationship with a professional librarian, where we have an actual human impact with our patrons.

It boils down to the sense of stewarding things for the future. We need to makes things encyclopedic. Release early—release often is important. Some questions to ponder: There are other cultures who have various values, how does this work with group policing? Can we produce/create a kind of value-neutral model?—where we offer the various values to the finder and they get to pick what value entity they want. He concluded his remarks by saying “see you on facebook.” More information on Mr. Zittrain’s book “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it.”

Blog Post submitted by: Brian Striman/Professor of Law Library/Head of Technical Services/Schmid Law Library/University of Nebraska

The 10 Minute Competitive Intelligence Report is an Oxymoron

Recently a panel of competitive intelligence (CI) experts held a webinar to discuss case studies and the successful collaboration of the library, CI, and marketing in a tough economic environment. Attendees shared their questions and comments throughout the event, in chat and via twitter hashtag #AALLCI, and the participants have responded with the following follow-up discussion.

1. Asking for a CI Report to be finished in 10 minutes is like asking a court for a continuance and declaring your case finished.

The phrase “10-minute CI Report” is an oxymoron. You simply cannot have both 10 minutes AND CI – it’s not possible. You can provide research and data in 10 minutes, and if you’re fast like lightning you might provide a note or two of your “analysis.” But CI is both the process and the product, and focusing solely on an output (a report, download, document, etc.) is not CI. It’s not even much in the way of research, really, as any harried law librarian/researcher will tell you. Producing documents on demand without providing insight or a summary or even conducting a reference interview is called “reporting” and should not be mistaken with an intelligence function.

2. Canned reports from vendor products (atVantage, West Monitor, etc.) are great, but are only ‘facts’ that contain no analysis.

Not only do they not contain any analysis, even general, but the facts presented in canned reports (no matter whether Thomson, Lexis, Bloomberg, etc.) are frequently incomplete or just plain wrong. Good intelligence starts with good data and good data requires good research. And it all takes time! Also, any analysis provided in a canned report is general and not at all tailored to your intelligence client’s (the decision-maker) specific question(s) as related to your firm’s strategic position. Simply because a statement is generally true does not mean that it applies to your specific firm, or that it true in all circumstances. To identify the correct answer for your firm, in your circumstance, requires custom analysis and coordinated effort with firm leaders.

Canned reports do provide some high-level analysis (i.e., break-outs of litigation by firm, causes of action) but do so without the context that someone familiar with the practice group’s focus and the firm’s strategic direction can provide. True CI is when the information/data is processed, filtered and analyzed through this prism, giving the end result high value to the requestor.

3. Your ‘clients’ (whether Lawyers, C-Levels, Marketing, etc.) need to be trained to engage the CI team early in the process.

CI Teams need to be proactive with their clients and find opportunities to engage in long-range planning by knowing what their clients are doing. There are a number of ways to engage with CI clients within the firm. It is good to attend practice group meetings, monitor new matter openings and closing, watch conflicts report, periodically audit client and matter data, and generally make a nuisance of yourself. This is the best way to keep a finger on the pulse of your firm.

We cannot emphasize enough the value of being at the table before the request comes in. By attending practice meetings, you are showing an ongoing interest in the operation of the practice group. This makes it much more likely that you will be approached when the need for CI arises. Monitoring the RFP and new client lists will allow you to prepare “quick & dirty” analyses proactively for the group which will show you are willing to help them succeed. Another great way to get the word out on your services is to prepare a 15 minute presentation with examples of your work and ask to get on the agenda for the next practice group meeting or retreat.

4. CI clients must learn the differences between a quick request and a full-blown CI analysis.

Like a presentation on the different CI services available, it is very helpful for CI clients to understand the different products and how each requires a different process, varying resources, additional time, etc.

It all comes down to managing expectations. The degree of comprehensiveness of each CI work product needs to be discussed upfront. Samples can help promote this discussion by giving CI clients a roadmap, or “menu” to assist in the early stages of shaping a CI request.

5. It is important to understand that 10 Minute CI requests are always going to be requested. Like a ready reference question in the library, CI clients will always make these very limited, “quick and dirty” CI requests. It helps to streamline the process, explain the limitations of the report, and inform your CI client of what could be accomplished if given more time. This manages the client’s expectations in the immediate and hopefully opens the door for more thoroughly-thought out CI requests in the future.

These “CI” requests are arguably not “CI” at all, but regardless of what you call them, we will always have “ready-reference” work and there will always be limits to what can be provided in minimal time. It is key to manage expectations and automate as much as possible. Also, empowering and educating users as to resources that they themselves may use for quick research can help to relieve some of this burden on your research and intelligence staff.

10 minute CI is possible (quick news scans, Google searches, etc.) but cannot be considered comprehensive or exhaustive. It is important to communicate to CI clients that things may be missed and the end result may not be as easy to assimilate when responding to this type of request.

 

The above answers were written and compiled by Greg Lambert, Laura A. Walter, Mark Gediman, and Emily Rushing. For information on the recent webinar, please see this Spectrum post. We are already looking forward to “part 2” of this presentation, details coming soon!

Greg Lambert, Library & Records Manager, King & Spalding LLP, twitter: @glambert, email: glambert@kslaw.com

Laura Walters, Director of Practice Group Management, Foster Pepper PLLC, twitter: @LauraAWalters, email: WaltL@foster.com

Mark Gediman, Director of Information Services, Best, Best & Krieger LLP, twitter: @mgediman, email: Mark.Gediman@bbklaw.com

Emily Rushing, Competitive Intelligence Specialist, Haynes and Boone, twitter: @emily_rushing, email: emily.rushing@haynesboone.com

Book Review: The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips & Checklists

Haserot, Phyllis Weiss.  The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips and Checklists.  Eagan, MN.  Thomson West, 2008.  221 pages.

In today’s economy, marketing your business is essential to the success of your venture.  Ms. Haserot, the President of Practice Development Counsel where she counsels firms and individuals on business development strategies, has created a handbook for marketers filled with tips and checklists that can be used by seasoned law firm professionals or sole practitioners to market their law firm. 

 

The Table of Contents of The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips and Checklists, is divided into seven topics, which in and of itself is a marketing plan from start to finish.   The book starts with a chapter on planning your marketing strategy and concludes with strategies to use when hiring a marketing professional to work with you.  In between, Ms. Haserot provides information on communicating with clients, business development techniques, selling your services, providing quality services to your clients, and managing a law firm.  Each checklist is clearly titled so that the reader knows the subject matter of the checklist, making it easy to decide whether the list is applicable to your project or situation.  Another helpful strategy used by the author are the do’s and don’ts lists she provides.   Furthermore, the list the author provides are very detailed and account for all contingencies.   

 

Ms. Haserot is obviously very knowledgeable on the subject.   This book would be ideal for any law firm library or marketing department.  It would also be useful for academic law libraries and every graduate from law school considering the start of their own firm should own a copy.

 

Christine Hepler is associate law library director at the University of Maine Donald L. Garbrecht Law Library in Portland.

Success Story in Troubling Times

Recently one of our colleagues, MP, not only saved a position but got asked to propose a plan for improving and coordinating research and information use in the firm.

Background: like many firms MP’s firm had laid-off attorneys and staff, including librarians.  X years ago MP began applying ideas learned at a PLL sponsored workshop in DC and more recently from a Spectrum article on communicating with C-Level people. Armed with statistics and a narrative tailored to the Cs attending the meeting MP forcefully defended the need for the position and informed the Cs of the wide range of services provided by the library, the high customer satisfaction levels etc.

In short, MP did what librarians do best when we think about it: solved an information problem.

The take-away:  During difficult and trying times slipping into complacency and self-doubt comes easily.  Accept the grief and work through it – find the opportunity in the crisis to demonstrate your value.

An action item(s) please share:

  • your vision of improving and coordinating research and information use in your organization;
  • ideas of how AALL and we as individuals can create a new vocabulary that helps librarians control their own destiny, prepare for the future ( and the present), gain the proficiency with the tools to communicate and a new framework for analysis of the ROI of a law library.

LEVERGING the SYNERGY of the LIBRARIAN and the VENDOR

Much has occurred in the year since SPECTRUM first published PIERCING THE VENDOR VEIL, an article comparing the past days of vendor relations with the realities of today’s information selling. While law firms continue struggling to rethink the business of law, librarians have found themselves creating new processes to address these new times and future tomorrows.  The legal industry has always consisted of a relationship between consumers and providers.  The challenges affecting today’s legal research industry should be a shared responsibility between those partners.

“THIS TIME”

Changes in the legal research industry have been subtly occurring for over a decade.  Recognizing the new economic times, librarians have responded well, often times reinventing themselves. In recent years they have striven to become part of the revenue stream, taking a leading role in the in the business research of the firm’s sales initiatives and recruiting.

As law firms struggle with the realities of today’s highly competitive market place, client demands for reductions to costs has dramatically impacted firm management.  Cost containment has given way to dramatic slashes in budgets and administrative staff.  More and more, firm content choices are becoming short term reactive financial decisions. Many senior librarians question how to best demonstrate to firm management, the librarian’s value as an integral part of collection strategy.

CONSUMERS

Legal practice departments are the corner stone of a solid law firm, and both the C suite and librarians pivot themselves around the leaders that run those business units for a variety of reasons. As the primary revenue drivers in the firm, Practice Heads should be seen as strong advocates for information professionals and potential “library –champions”.

It is a librarian’s responsibility to provide financial analysis to Practice Heads so that they may make educative resource choices, proving to senior management that they, and therefore we, are adhering to firm budgetary goals.   This is an opportunity to reestablish our value as knowledgeable professionals of firm resources and the legal marketplace.

PROVIDERS

 

It is evident to resource providers that in the 2009 law firm economy, flat to declining billing growth is a fact of life and cash is the lowest common denominator guiding all investment decisions, including the shape, breadth and depth of the firm’s assembled knowledge base.

In enlightened firms, the library continues to be a center of knowledge and a tungsten-carbine-edge in revealing potential new business and in executing legal research rapidly and (cost-) efficiently. In less comfortable reactions to market pressures, some firm libraries are downsized and talented strategic librarians displaced in favor of a more transactional capability.

In this harsh economic light, vendors that spend quality time in the firm, understanding a librarian’s pressures and reflecting those growing pains in their own businesses, can work with librarians as partners.  While the major vendors are pursuing their own margins, they are also generating and building better products and services to survive in this economy of commoditized web-based information. Recruiting vendors that listen to business needs and who  respond with pragmatic options that deliver value at a reasonable price, will succeed best in this competitive cost-conscious environment.

A true business partner will work with librarians to audit and professionally reshape the “library” to match both future vision and budget, and not simply load them up with a high volume of branded product.  Competent vendors share this philosophy and will partner with information professionals, for joint success.

 

“TOMORROWS”

 

Both Librarians and the producers of information have a responsibility to the legal profession, to transcend the “old way” that they have traded and hoarded information.  Collaboration, invention and fluidity, are the critical need to create our tomorrows.

When is a vendor not a vendor?  When they are an effective business consultant or partner, who develop and grow the impact of a library, while reflecting and enhancing the firm’s business strategy.

Linda Will, WILL REOURCES, a law firm consulting service
Michael Orrick, VP, Law Firm Markets, West North America

Meet the AALL Editors in Washington, D.C.

While you browse the Exhibit Hall during the upcoming 2009 AALL Annual Meeting & Conference in Washington, D.C., take some time to meet Law Library Journal Editor Janet Sinder and AALL Spectrum Editorial Director Mark Estes at the AALL Member Services Booth. Ask questions, discuss article ideas, or simply let Janet and Mark know what you think of Law Library Journal and AALL Spectrum.

Stop by and meet Janet Sinder on:

  • Sunday, July 26, 9–10:15 a.m.
  • Monday, July 27, 1–2 p.m.
  • Tuesday, July 28, 10:30 a.m.–12 p.m.

Mark Estes is available on:

  • Sunday, July 26, 9–10 a.m.
  • Monday, July 27, 1:15–2:15 p.m.
  • Tuesday, July 28, 1:15–2:15 p.m.


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