A Modest Proposal on the Future of Legal Librarians

Treading in to what is normally the Cheap Geek’s space, based on a series of conversation with Scott, Kingsley Martin and our library team, we developed an idea we think may bring high value to law firms and breathe new life into the role of the legal librarian.

We are faced with the challenge of deploying a next generation, analysis-level knowledge management (KM) project. I have previously posted on the evolution of legal KM, moving from Search to Collaboration and into Analysis. It’s this Analysis KM stage that I find very interesting. The challenge comes about in how to implement Analysis KM. This is no longer simply a system you implement and market to the firm. Following on Greg’s excellent post last week, this is not your pretty interface KM. Instead, Analysis KM requires a new kind of human participation.

Adding another layer to this thought process – the major difference between US and UK legal KM has always been focused on the role of humans. In the UK, KM is human centric via the use of Practice Support Lawyers (PSLs). In the US it’s been technology centric. My sense is that both sides have tried to co-opt the other’s approach into their own, but only with limited success. A nice middle ground would seem to be KM that leverages humans and technology in a new, higher-value way.

Enter the Legal Librarian.

In exploring the use of KIIAC (Kingsley’s wonderful, magical new KM tool), we struggled to find the right kind of owner within the firm. By chance, Scott and I presented to our Library Team this week on developments in the market. One question we received was “How can we help?” Which lead us to the epiphany in question: Why not use librarians in a quasi-PSL role to become the experts on Analysis KM applied to specific practices?

Our initial exploration of this idea is very promising. Librarians are very well suited to this role, both in terms of knowledge and skill-sets. Additionally, they are not as bound to the billable yoke and are therefore able to consistently participate in a project like this.

And the librarians? So far they love the idea. This puts them on the cutting edge of the practice of law. We’ll see how this evolves, but so far, so good.

Bookmark and Share



© 2014, All Rights Reserved.