2/11/16

The AALL or ALI Vote is In... And It Is Loud and Clear

A few minutes ago, AALL President, Keith Ann Stiverson, made the announcement that the members of AALL voted down the proposed name change to Association for Legal Information:
The proposal to change the name of American Association of Law Libraries to the Association for Legal Information has failed by a vote of 1998 (80.11 percent) opposed, to 496 (19.89 percent) in favor. A record number of members voted on this proposal, with 59.51 percent casting a ballot.  
The fact that 60% of the members took the time to vote, showed that the issue was important, and the fact that 80% of those votes were a "no" to name change, drove home a point that I've heard from the members over the past few months. It is clear that the ALI name was not the one members wanted. It was also clear that many of the members were open to the idea of change, but that members wanted much more of a voice and the ability to comment and bounce ideas before an up or down vote is made.

While there are a very small number of members that felt that AALL as "American Association of Law Libraries" was just fine, most of the people I talked to made a comment similar to this:
I am fine with rebranding the association and even changing the name... but just not this name.
I am happy that the members made their voices heard. I am happy that the AALL Board took the initiative to put this challenge out to the members and get the conversation started. This is not the end of the conversation, by any means. This is the beginning of a longer conversation, and a chance to look at the good and bad of what's happened over the past couple of months and how to move on in a respectful way to the next step in the process.

This is still fresh in my mind, so there are a few ideas that I'm bouncing around in my head, and would like to discuss as we move forward:

  • I think members are still receptive to a name change (AALL (alone), changing Libraries to Librarians, adding "Information Professionals" to AALL, or adding Professionals to ALI. But, I don't think anyone has the stomach to try this right away. Let's put a pin in this one for now, and move on.
  • Rebranding goes on. No one is standing still. Members, Board, Stakeholders, etc. We all know that the association needs to adapt to serve its members and to increase awareness of the stakeholders in what we all bring to the table within our organization, and the overall value of our profession. That discussion moves forward.
  • I think the Board "heard" the members when it came to involvement and discussion prior to voting. I, for one, as an incoming Vice President/President Elect, heard that message loud and clear.
  • I think most of the members understood what the Board was attempting to do, and even when they disagreed with the Board's actions and ideas, did so respectfully. There was no evil intent. If you think there was, I suggest that you re-evaluate the situation and give the board the benefit of the doubt here, and move forward.
  • There will be no running to the doors. AALL is the association for those of us that call ourselves law librarians. No other organization focuses more on our profession. We can face the future together, we can argue and debate the path, but at the end of the day, we come together for the greater good of our profession.
  • That said, our profession is changing. Librarians, Lawyers, Analysts, Writers, Researchers, and other professionals within the legal field have many things that we can learn from each other. Looking to bring in non-traditional roles into the ranks of the Law Librarian association does not make us weaker, it makes us more diverse, and stronger as a whole. Law Librarianship is still the pivotal function of the association, but narrowly defining who fits that role is a disservice to all who can benefit from the association.
Although this was a record number of people that turned out to vote, there were still over 4 in 10 of us that didn't vote. That, to me, is a red flag. As I move forward over the next couple of years and move from Vice President to President, I would like to find ways to reach out to those other 40% and find ways of motivating them back into the ranks of active and contributing members. I also want to make sure that the other 60% also remain active and seek out ways that we can help ourselves, each other, and the profession.

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2/10/16

Lex Machina Releases the Attorney Data Engine

One of the best features that Lex Machina provides for Intellectual Property attorneys is their increased accuracy of information pulled from PACER. The improvements that Lex Machina has made on Cause-of-Action (CoA) and Nature- of-Suit (NoS) codes entered into PACER make it an invaluable resource to clearly identify relevant matters and weed out irrelevant cases. By improving the data, Lex Machina reduces the "garbage in - garbage out" effect that exists in the PACER database.

Now Lex Machina has turned its focus on cleaning up another annoyance found in PACER data, as well as many of the other platforms that pull data from PACER. The Attorney Data Engine analyzes the PACER information and identifies the attorneys that are actually associated with the case, even if those attorneys do not show up on the attorney list via PACER.

I talked with Karl Harris, Vice-President of Products at Lex Machina, a couple weeks ago, and he gave me some insights on the new Attorney Data Engine, and how they are increasing the accuracy of identifying attorneys and law firms that are actually working on the cases filed through PACER. Karl mentioned that in New Jersey and Delaware, two very important states when it comes to Intellectual Property cases, only about 54% of the attorneys that work on the cases, actually show up in the PACER information. That means that nearly half of the attorneys are missing from the metadata produced by PACER. When accuracy is important, missing nearly half of the attorney names can cause quite a problem.

For those of us that ever put on a demo for an attorney of docket information, we know that one of the first questions the attorney asks is "can you find 'X' case, which I represented 'Y' client?" If you cannot find that information, the demo may as well end right there. Attorneys are issue spotters. If you cannot get accurate information, they will not trust that the product actually works.

With the new Lex Machina Attorney Data Engine, you should be able to find the attorney information, even if PACER missed it.

Here is an overview of the three components of the Attorney Data Engine:

  1. The PACER metadata itself: Every time Lex Machina crawls PACER data, they keep a historical record and can identify when attorneys are added or removed from a case over time. This makes the PACER data better by itself.
  2. Pro Hac Vice Extractor: Docket entries will mention when attorneys are added Pro Hac Vice to a case. Lex Machina also keeps a record of attorneys associated to law firms (over time.)
  3. Signature Block Analyzer: Lex Machina analyzes the documents attached to the docket entries and identifies the signature blocks for each attorney. Even if the attorney's name doesn't show up in the Docket entry, if they have a signature block, they are then associated with the case. 
Karl Harris states that the Attorney Data Engine makes Lex Machina "the best source for reliably figuring out which attorneys are involved in which cases." 

It will be interesting to watch Lex Machina grow over the next couple of years, and to see how its new parent company, Lexis, assists in advancing its progress through access to additional data points. It is not a far jump to see how the Attorney Data Engine processes can be turned into a Company Data Engine using Lexis' company information databases. Lexis has the content, and Lex Machina has the analytical resources to make that content better. It should make for some interesting results as the two companies learn how to adapt processes to the different products. 

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2/8/16

Teaching Technology: Deans’ Roundtable at Tech Show

[NOTE: Please welcome guest blogger, Michael J. RobakAssociate Director/Director of Information Technologies, Leon E. Bloch Law Library, University of Missouri - Kansas City.]

This year’s ABA Tech Show is from March 16 – 19, 2016. (http://www.techshow.com/ )   It is also the 30th anniversary of the Tech Show.  This year, for the first time, an academic specific event is going to be tied to the Tech Show.  The half day conference, on the morning of March 16, 2016 is an opportunity for law school faculty and administration, law students and practitioners to discuss the “how and what” of teaching technology as well as develop a framework for adding an academic track to the 2017 program.  Law students are particularly encouraged to attend the event and the show.  Pricing for law student admission to the 3 day event is $100. (Registration link here: http://www.techshow.com/pricing/ )

Below is the program description – if you are planning to attend the ABA Tech show, this will be a great way to start the event!


Teaching Technology in the Academy:  Are we finally at the Tipping Point?

A Law School Roundtable discussion held in conjunction with the 2016 ABA Tech Show
Hosted by IIT-Chicago Kent School of Law
March 16, 2016
9:00 – 12 noon
No charge for registration

Roundtable Description

2016 marks the 30th Anniversary of the ABA Tech show.  In 1986 the idea of “micro-computers” in law practice, to quote Jeff Arresty, one of the show’s founders, “was at its complete inception”.

Much has changed in those 30 years when it comes to legal technology.  But law schools have not yet fully embraced the importance of technology competency for law students.  Even though law schools have begun to bring technology courses to the curriculum and to experiment with innovative concepts like legal hackathons, much remains to be done. 

In July, 2014 and again in April, 2015, the University of Missouri – Kansas City hosted two conferences on Law Schools, Technology and Access to Justice.  These conferences were supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and brought together academics, legal technologists and members of the Access to Justice community.  One of the stated goals of the conferences was to produce a specific direction for the teaching of technology in law schools.  A set of principles, referred to informally as the Kansas City Principles, were developed and state as follows:


Fundamental Principal #1: 
In their role of ensuring that the lawyers of tomorrow have the core competencies to provide effective and efficient legal services, law schools have the responsibility to provide all students with education and training to enable them to understand the risks and benefits associated with current and developing technologies and the ability to use those technologies appropriately.

Fundamental Principal #2: 
In order for lawyers to fulfill their professional obligations to advance the cause of justice, it is essential that economically viable models for the delivery of legal services be developed that allow all members of society to have access to competent legal representation or effective self-representation regardless of income, and law schools should assist in the development of technologically-supported legal marketplaces that help identify available alternatives and, where legal representation appears most appropriate, to empower those seeking the services of a lawyer to identify and retain a competent lawyer of choice at reasonable cost.

Fundamental Principal #3: 
As part of their responsibility to assist in providing access to law and justice, law schools should use their legal knowledge and technological capabilities to make the law more comprehensible and readily available to the public so as to empower people to use the law and, where appropriate, lawyers, to improve the quality of their lives, and should include in this endeavor, among other initiatives , working with national, state, and local governments to provide the public with free on-line access to statutes, regulations, cases and other primary law at all levels of government.  

Fundamental Principal #4: 
In order to encourage community economic development and contribute to a strong global economy, law schools should educate lawyers who can stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation and assist in developing technology that can support economically viable means of providing affordable legal services to small businesses, social ventures and start-up enterprises.

Fundamental Principal #5: 
Because technology has the potential to reinvent the processes of law in ways that can help achieve access to justice, law schools should encourage their students, faculty and graduates to research, teach and implement non-traditional, technological approaches to legal innovation that will maximize the ways in which individuals and entities can achieve the benefits of law and legal process.

The explicit goal of this half day event is to not only continue to drive the discussion that led to these principles, but to develop an agenda for how to proceed, including how to involve the ABA Law Practice Management Section and leverage the opportunity provided by the ABA Tech Show.
In addition, there has never been a better opportunity for practitioners to help influence law schools on the best directions in which to proceed with technology training.  It is expected that the roundtable audience will include not only members of the academy but also practitioners, law students and vendor representatives, and the participation of all these segments in the conversation will be beneficial to determining next steps.
Agenda
8:30 – registration
9:00 – 10:15 - Moderated Panel Discussion:
Meeting Technology Competencies for the 21st Century lawyer: The Role for Today’s Law Schools
     Moderator:            Dean Ellen Suni – University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) School of Law
     Panelists: Professor Ronald W. Staudt          - IIT Chicago- Kent School of Law
                        Professor Oliver Goodenough      - Vermont Law School
                        Professor William Henderson       - Indiana University Maurer School of Law
                        Dean Andrew Perlman                   - Suffolk Law School

10:15 – 10:30 – Break

10:30 – 12 noon – Discussion Forum
The panel will lead a discussion with members of the audience to move toward consensus regarding the next steps for advancing the teaching of technology in law school and examining how the ABA Tech Show can be part of these efforts going forward.

12 noon – boxed lunch






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1/28/16

The Rise of the Tech-Savvy Unicorn...err...Laywer

I received multiple forwards of this article entitled "The Rise of the Tech-Savvy Lawyer."

Apparently, I can't just enjoy things anymore. I thought it was a good article. I found much in it that I liked. A properly balanced individual would simply recommend it and move on. I, however, am not properly balanced and the siren call of being a blowhard is sometimes too hard to resist.

First, let me offer up an emphatic Amen! to the opening paragraphs:
As a profession, we’re haunted by the specter of our incompetence with technology. We should be. For too long, we’ve clung to our Dictaphones, been duped by elementary phishing attacks, and failed to understand the meaning of “reply‑all.”
These “goofs” of the technically inept are becoming increasingly dangerous in both our businesses and our client representations. You hardly need to mention the threat of data breaches or e‑discovery sanctions to send chills down most lawyers’ spines. And the problem won’t be solved by an influx of younger attorneys who exchanged their pacifiers for iPads. In my personal experience, I’ve found many tech dunces actually to be in the ranks of the younger lawyers.
It was like the author, Jeff Kerr, was writing me a personal love note. Extolling the importance of tech competence while also puncturing the myth of the digital native. I got goose bumps. But...and you know there has to a but...he lost me:
What are we do to? Who is going to save us from our troubles with technology? The answer is simple: Hire lawyers with technical smarts and reward them for their contributions. The tech-savvy lawyer need not have the ability to write programs in assembly language or understand x86 chip architecture. The main components of tech savviness are curiosity and accrued knowledge on how to get the most out of computers.
But I emphasize that these tech saviors must be lawyers; part of our technology problem stems from pervasively outsourcing solutions to vendors and consultants rather than developing skills ourselves. Even partners must grasp the importance of tech issues and understand the methods by which we’ll achieve the best results.
I yield to no one in my commitment to lawyers developing better tech skills. But that commitment in no way detracts from my affinity for the growing importance of allied professionals. Indeed, one of the objectives of improving lawyer tech skills/comfort is to help them appreciate the role allied professionals can play in delivering superior legal service. While I support the call for lawyers to take ownership of their technical ineptitude, I am loath to endorse anything that would seem to diminish the potential contributions from allied professionals. I want more, not less, diverse teams.

My last couple of columns have made mention of the growing importance of legal operations. I'll write my legal ops post someday. Then again, I am being beat to it. Yesterday, the ACC released their CLO Survey, which found that law departments had doubled their legal ops headcount. The cover of this month's Legaltech News featured Mary O'Carroll, the head of legal ops for Google, and one of the leaders of CLOC. Mary is amazing. She has awards coming out the wazoo for her achievements in the legal industry. Mary, however, is not a lawyer. Apparently, Google doesn't care. Then again, what could they possibly know about tech.

As some of you may have seen, I transitioned from writing a monthly column in the ACC Docket on legal technology to writing a monthly column focused on legal sourcing. My co-author on my new column is not a lawyer (making me guilty by association). But he is the Global Sourcing Officer for Shell Legal. While he does not have a JD, he does have an MBA, a Masters in Technology Management, and experience at three AmLaw 50 firms. Did I mention he is the global sourcing officer for legal services at the third largest company in the world despite not having a JD? It's almost as if he possesses a skill set that would be very hard to acquire while also being a practicing lawyer.

For me, this is a yes and situation. Yes, I am for more tech-savvy lawyers. And, yes, I am for increased utilization of allied professionals. I see them as complementary and mutually reinforcing.

That brings us to Mr. Kerr's definition of "tech-savvy lawyer." I am on record as stating that our baseline is too low. Mr. Kerr, however, sets the bar really, really high:

What are some characteristics of the truly tech-savvy lawyer? To begin with, this lawyer is fascinated with and passionate about technology and the role it plays in our profession—both as an instrument of greater efficiency and a paradigm shift in the ways we litigate cases and think about evidence. She has no fear of tech, enjoys experimenting with new tools and technologies, and solves computer problems with a Google search rather than a call to the help desk. (In fact, this lawyer probably is the help desk already.) She is a magician in Word and Excel. (If a lawyer can’t get the most out of these tools, then good luck with more complicated ones!) She has written some code. She has a strong tech vocabulary and probably knows about things like metadata, encryption and relational databases.
There is probably already some fierce competition for all 17 lawyers who fit that description. The number is likely larger. But my own empirical analysis suggests that less than 5% of lawyers are at baseline competence in Word. The number who are baseline proficient in Excel is an order of magnitude lower. Finding a lawyer who is a magician in both and has done some coding narrows the population down to an extremely small subset. These unicorns exist (one of them is my business partner and best friend). But they are exceedingly rare. Though, like Mr. Kerr, I am all for creating more of them.

I welcome the rise of the tech-savvy lawyer. I also welcome the complementary rise of allied professionals. I'm not sure Mr. Kerr and I even disagree. He wants lawyers to get serious about their own tech competence and not take evasive maneuvers like the delegation dodge. I enjoyed his column and the foregoing is meant in good faith and good fun. Still, words matter. And there are some inartful implications for the role of allied professionals in the words selected.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Casey Flaherty is the founder of Procertas. He is a lawyer, consultant, writer, and speaker focused on achieving the right business outcomes with the right people doing the right work the right way at the right price. Casey created the Service Delivery Review (f.k.a., the Legal Tech Audit), a strategic-sourcing tool that drives deeper supplier relationships by facilitating structured dialogue between law firms and clients. The SDR is premised on rigorous collaboration and the fact that law departments and law firms are not playing a zero sum game--i.e., there is more than enough slack in the legal market for clients to get higher quality work at lower cost while law firms increase profits via improved realizations.
The premise of the Service Delivery Review is that with people and pricing in place, process offers the real levers to drive continuous improvement. Proper collaboration means involving nontraditional stakeholders. A prime example is addressing the need for more training on existing technology. One obstacle is that traditional technology training methods are terribleCompetence-based assessments paired with synchronous, active learning offer a better path forward. Following these principles, Casey created the Legal Technology Assessment platform to reduce total training time, enhance training effectiveness, and deliver benchmarked results.
Connect with Casey on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter (@DCaseyF).









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1/12/16

In the Age of Google, Law Librarians Manage Your Time, People, and Money

image [cc] Alex Proimos
I saw mentioning of The Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Steve Barker, “In the Age of Google, Librarians Get Shelved,” this weekend, but didn’t actually read it until this morning. I found the opinion piece to be a little bit lazy, and playing up the old fear of “everything is on the Internet,” and that “the public library of the future might be a computer center, staffed by IT professionals and few books or librarians.” I usually just roll my eyes and move on about my daily business, but the fact that the WSJ would run this, and that a number of my colleagues within the legal industry would possibly read it, I thought I would chime in with some feedback.

First and foremost, I want to remind my colleagues that a public librarian plays a very different role from what a law librarian does. I’ll let public librarians defend their own, and I’ll start by stating what I see as the number one role of a law librarian, regardless of if that law librarian is in government, academia, or private legal environment:

Law Librarians manage the risk within the organization they serve, ensuring the organization’s mission is met through the acquisition, management, distribution, and analysis of legal information needed for the organization to perform its mission in a timely manner and at an appropriate cost.
Our job isn’t about pointing people to the nearest bathroom, or locating lost keys. It is about positioning lawyers, educators, judges, administrators, and the public, in the best possible position to fulfill their responsibility within the legal framework they represent. If we do help you find the bathroom or your lost keys, we do so because we tend to be nice people and want to help. Don’t view that as a weakness, view it as a strength in that we feel empathy for your current situation, not that we have nothing better to do.

It’s not about knowing how to do a Google search; it is about knowing how to interpret a Google search and the knowledge to know when that is enough, or it is time to dive deeper into specialized tools vetted, obtained, and managed by the law librarians. It’s not about understanding technology; it is about understanding how technology can be applied to increase the availability of resources and the knowledge rejecting technology when the rewards do not outweigh the risk/costs/effectiveness of that technology.

I’ve always heard that any problem can be solved given the unlimited supply of three things:

  1. Time
  2. People
  3. Money

None of us have unlimited time, people, or resources. That’s why the law librarian is such a valuable resource, in that he or she reduces all three of these things by applying our expertise and experience of managing the risks associated with time, people, and money.

If you think that a law library is about Google and books, or even Westlaw and Lexis, then you truly do not understand what’s really going on. Thinking that just anyone can run a law library because they have technology skills is like thinking anyone can drive a Formula 1 car because they can replace the oil in their car.

Law Librarians manage risk.
Law Librarians save you time.
Law Librarians save you money.
Law Librarians reduce your headcount.

We make sure that you have the resources when you need them, and within the needs and budget of the organization. If you confuse technology for knowledge, you’ve just increased your risk substantially. Be prepared to tap into more time, money, and people.

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