5/24/10

And She's Not Just Online Folks ...

This past week-end, the Houston Chronicle released its Chronicle 100--a list of the top 100 businesses in the city.

Apart from the Chron 100 list, there are news items that feature various industries. One of them included "the law".

Well, I am pleased to inform you that little old me was featured in the story, "Lawyers Use Web to Stand Out".

We work hard to make things happen here and it is no small feat. Lots of hands and eyes.

And, no, I'm not giving away my secrets ;)

But Toby and Greg asked me to post, so here it is!

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WestlawNext Access Automatic With OnePassID Starting June 1st??

Tamara Acevedo from Moore & VanAllen alerted the law-lib listserv about a new 'feature' that will be available to everyone with a OnePassID starting June 1, 2010.
Good morning,
I am writing this message to give a heads up for those who may not be aware of what Thomson Reuters is now doing with WestlawNext.  I attended a First Look session in Eagan this past March and was told there that our attorneys would not have access unless we agreed to let them have access.  On Friday I spoke with a representative and was informed that everyone with Westlaw.com access would also have access to WestlawNext with their One Pass ID starting on June 1st.
Last week our users logged on and saw this "gem":
 "Search WestlawNext Now: Improve your research efficiency by 64% with WestlawNext. Your organization has access to the advanced search engine and improved design of Westlaw Next. Go there now and begin increasing your productivity!".  (emphases added)
At my request, they have removed the "gem".
Clicking on that link took the user seamlessly into WestlawNext.  Great huh?  I guess it is if you do not mind your attorneys knocking around in WestlawNext without a contract.   Once I attempted to run a search, I did receive a message that WestlawNext was not included in our Westlaw.com subscription and there would be extra charges if I choose to continue, etc.  It is great that they have warnings, but I believe this is different than going outside of our contract from within Westlaw.com.  After speaking to my local rep, I was informed that my thinking was not correct.  They will treat WestlawNext usage as "auxiliary" and charge as such.  I was also told that subscribing to WestlawNext would be no different than adding a database and would be done with an LOU [Letter of Understanding].  That's weird because at every other turn, I had been told it is a seperate contract.
After expressing that I would like all access to WestlawNext blocked, I was told there is no way that it can be done because the two products link in together.
Now that the "gem" is gone, I realize it is unlikely that any of my attorneys will stumble upon the fact that they have access but, at this point, it's really more about the principle.  I really wish they would pick a story and stick to it.

I know that the WestlawNext folks view librarians as the gatekeepers that are preventing them from pushing this product to the desktops of the attorneys, but this type of end-run tactic causes much more problems in the long-term than it solves for WestlawNext in the short-term. Remember that most of the law libraries have already budgeted for 2010, so there's not a lot of options for them this year. All of the sales and marketing folks at Thomson Reuters need to just throttle this campaign back a few notches. WestlawNext is eventually going to go in to most (if not all) of the firms over the next couple of years. Why in the world is there such a big push right now to shove the new platform down the throats of every user this year?? Perhaps to offset those 33% decreases in revenue the first quarter of 2010?
Unfortunately, this is probably not the last time that you'll find the little "gem" of accessing WestlawNext without a contract... so stay vigilant, my friends!!

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5/21/10

A Fresh Look at IntelliConnect

Wolters Kluwer's (WK) product IntelliConnect is one in which they are really wanting to have a second chance to give you a good first impression. When the product was initially launched in the Fall of 2009, many law librarians and legal researchers gave it negative reviews and found a number of problems with the interface. Because of the initial launch didn't go the way WK had hoped, they asked a few law library bloggers to come up to New York to view the interface, look at some of the advances that have been made since the launch, and to give feedback, suggestions, criticisms, etc. to a group of WK trainers, marketers, developers and executives. To my FTC friends out there, WK flew me to NYC, put me up in a hotel room (see the bathtub in the window blog), bought me lunch (and some breakfast bagels), and I got a per diem for taxi ride (which, by the way fell about $20 short of the actual cost!!) So, with that bit of legality out of the way, let me tell you about my experience with WK's IntelliConnect.

Best Thing About IntelliConnect - The People Behind It
Before I launch into the product itself, let me tell you about what impressed me the most about my visit wasn't the product, but rather the people behind the product. All of them were very excited to have us up there, proud of the product itself, but willing to have an actual conversation about it, and accept the critical views we gave them without becoming defensive or deflecting the problem back at us. It is not easy sitting in a room where people are pointing to your past errors, current problems, and where we think they need to put their future efforts. But, take it they did, and in return they pointed out things they had fixed; things they are working on, and; reasons why IntelliConnect was designed the way it was. It was a great roundtable type discussion where everyone walked away a feeling like we were all moving in the right direction.

Other Reviews to Look At
My fellow law librarian blogger, Jason Eiseman, gives a pretty good description and review of IntelliConnect over at his The Content Librarian blog, and WK actually has an informative and kind of entertaining overview video of the product. I agree with a lot of the points that Jason makes, and rather than rehash what he's already covered, let me point out a few additional observations. You may want to read Jason's Eiseman's post before continuing... go ahead, I'll still be here when you get back.

Built for the Needs of the Power-User
The consistant phrase I kept hearing throughout the day was "this is what our `POWER-USERS` asked us to do." So, for all of you that complained when WestlawNext launched its product and you said that they were "dumbing down" or "Googlizing" legal research, then you'll love the fact that IntelliConnect falls on the other end of that spectrum by creating a product that is designed for "experienced" or "power-users". I, on the other hand, feel that developing your product based on what the power-users demand may not be the best approach. I'd rather have something that is initially designed for simple searching and navigation, with the option to go to an advanced version if I so choose. But for those of you that like having powerful search and navigation features built into your research tools, then you'll like the lay out of IntelliConnect.

Problems with Frames
To me, however, the look brought back memories of CD-ROM products, especially with the use of webpage frames where the search bar, navigation, and results page are in their individual frames. Frames have too many problems associated with them, and although the power-users that WK worked with on setting up the design said they like the frames, it may also be one of the primary reasons for some of the biggest complaints from some of these same users. When you have frames, the webpage URL's aren't dynamic, and can be a headache when the user hits refresh and gets sent back to the start page. My dislike of frames was not universally held by the bloggers, however. Jason Eiseman thought that the frames were fine and had no problem with how it looked.

Some "Problems" Fixed
Before I went up to NYC, I asked some of my law librarian cohorts to give me a list of questions, or problems they were having with IntelliConnect and I would relay those while I was there to see if I could get an answer. As I started going through the list with the WK people, I noticed that some of these problems were corrected but there seemed to be a disconnect between WK and the users. WK needs to have a simple place to go to that details any known problems, and when it was fixed, or an ETA on when the fix is going to be rolled out. The other problem is that some users got a bad first impression of the product, and just assume that the problems still exists. For this, the user needs to do two things... 1) try it again, see if it works now, and 2) contact your WK rep and let them know this is important to you. Although they probably won't be able to fix it on the spot, they did tell me that they take user input very seriously, and would make sure that those making changes, corrections or updates to IntelliConnect would get that message and would see what they could do to fix it.

The Future For WK/CCH/ASPEN/LOISLAW is IntelliConnect
IntelliConnect is here to stay. Wolters Kluwer is moving away from its concept of simply being a holding company and letting its subsidiaries operating in their own little silos. The impression I got leaving the meeting at WK was that IntelliConnect is the platform they are banking on to consolidate all of their products. This will be a long, long process, and one filled with a lot of obstacles trying to get unrelated databases to work together. I'm excited about the fact that it looks like they are eventually going to integrate LoisLaw's information into IntelliConnect and finally leverage all that primary law information against the wealth of information from all their other products. I was told that LoisLaw will continue as a stand alone product in order to compete with some of the low-cost research tools out there. So, my "total guess" is that if they integrate the primary law data, it will go in under a new brand. The LoisLaw integration will also reduce the large amount of duplication that WK companies are doing, and should streamline the overall process.

IntelliConnect Needs a Second Chance to Make a First Impression
I again point back to my previous statement that I believe that those in charge of IntelliConnect want it to be a great product. It has a way to go, but you get a feeling that they are willing to listen and adjust to what their users want. One of the best comments I got from a fellow librarian about WK and IntelliConnect was this:
CCH's [WK's] content and reputation are their greatest assets. They should create a database that capitalizes on those while making it more intuitive and simpler to search and organize results.
I think that WK is trying to do this. So, I suggest that if you're using IntelliConnect that you start relaying what you want IntelliConnect to become. Wolters Kluwer says they are willing to listen, so now's the time to start the conversation.

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Spokane County Law Library Needs Bailout for Westlaw Bills

Seems that the Spokane County Law Library (SCLL) has found itself in a bit of financial difficulties in paying its Westlaw (Thomson Reuters Legal) bills on time. According to an article by John Craig of the Spokesman-Review, SCLL "has $75,129 in past-due bills on a contract for legal research materials that officials say is too expensive and unpredictable – and can’t be canceled." Craig reports that the library has a Westlaw annual bill of approximately $144,000.00, which accounts for its overall budget of $220,000.00. So, SCLL spends nearly 2/3rd's of its annual budget with Thomson Reuters Legal, leaving them $76,000.00 total to pay for all other materials, building costs, and salaries. To make matters worse, the Westlaw bill is expected to go up by over $25,000.00 as an annual increase in the contract.

Reading this article makes me wonder who the heck signed this contract in the first place? Back in my previous position, I managed 75 of Oklahoma's 77 county law libraries, and one of the good and bad things about county law library budgets that are tied to filing fees (like SCLL is), is that there usually isn't a huge swing up or down in the budget each year. So, signing a contract that puts in an annual increase of 17% smacks of insanity both on the part of Thomson Reuters and SCLL. Did anyone think that court filings were going to increase 17% a year?? Of course, I'm basing this on only reading Craig's article, so perhaps there are additional circumstances involved in this situation that justify a 17% increase, but I'm really scratching my head on what that could be.

SCLL Librarian Cynthia Lucas is scrambling to explain to the county commissioners that the library needs to renegotiate the law library contract with Thomson Reuters, and that she claims that SCLL is paying three times the price that Piece County (Tacoma area) in 2007 for the same exact services. If this is true, then someone at Thomson Reuters Legal needs to step up immediately and make this right. If it is a matter that SCLL simply acted carelessly and bought too much product and now can't pay, then someone at Thomson Reuters needs to get in there right now and renegotiate by trimming down the subscriptions and getting the payments back to a reasonable amount. Lucas said that she fears that Thomson Reuters might not negotiate a debt-payment plan without SCLL signing a new contract. I hate to be blunt here, but SCLL needs to negotiate a new contract!!!! The one you have is horrible!! Get someone from Thomson Reuters on the phone today and start working out a deal to get your payments under control.

I hope that the Washington Association of  County Law LibrariesWestPAC and AALL are ready to step in to help Lucas get control of this situation. Whatever happened to get SCLL to this extremely bad situation (and contract) needs to be resolved in a way that both Thomson Reuters and SCLL share the pain, but get a better contract that gets costs to a more reasonable amount for SCLL to pay.

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Lexis Strikes Back: The New Lexis

The team at LexisNexis was kind enough to give me a preview of what's coming. As one might expect, they have been working on their response to WestLawNext. Response is not actually the right word, since they have obviously been working on this for some time.
The service is yet to be branded, so for now I'll refer to it as The New Lexis (Lexis 2.0 sounded too cliche).
Impressions
The new interface has some similarities to WestLawNext. I attribute that to Google though, not West. Lexis did the right thing and 1) Asked the customer what their pain is, and then 2) Listened. The result is a simple search box, with a few easily understandable search options below it (think 'Advanced Search' on Google). Below the search box is "My Workspace" with a box for saved info (currently in a folder view) and a box for search history. Both of these functions have a persistent presence in the upper right hand mini-navigation, just like ... you guessed it - Google. Once you get into search results, they have taken a KM approach to presenting information. Being a KM guy, this makes sense to me. The filtering and tabbed browsing options make navigating intuitive.
The Real Differences
This product will come out in a phased roll-out starting in the Fall. The product will be rolled out by market segment and each iteration will be slightly different to meet the needs of that market segment. This obviously recognizes the fact that a 30 year old solo practitioner will have different practice needs than a BigLaw partner. Score one for Lexis.
The BIG question is always pricing. Although they couldn't give me numbers yet (understandable) they did say 'predictability' will be the theme. The team actual read Greg's Open Letter posted here on 3 Geeks. Just like law firm clients, lawyers don't like surprises when it comes to a bill. So their service will be priced on a subscription basis instead of per search.
My 2 Big Questions
  1. Are you guys going to finally integrate all the cool stuff you own so the cool new functionality in Patent Semantic Search (future blog post) will be in The New Lexis? Good thing I was sitting down for the demo. They have already experimented with that tool and it's on the road map. Say What? So much for stumping them on that one.
  2. When are you going to get your marketing $#!+ together? I pointed out that I found the Patent Semantic Search and iPhone apps by accident. Their reply: Why do you think we're showing this stuff to you? Ouch. Another point for Lexis.
I see strong potential in the direction Lexis is taking here. The New Lexis and the eye towards integrating their various services makes a lot of sense to me. Time will tell, but at this point I'm seeing definite progress.

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5/20/10

THE Answer to Lowering Legal Fees

Watching Greg present to HALSM and participating in the lively and thoughtful dialogue, I came up with THE answer to lowering legal fees.
First some back ground - Greg was presenting on how "Efficiency" is finally becoming vogue in the legal market. He then went on to showcase how that trend can be and is being applied in the e-discovery realm. This lead to an engaging dialogue on the subject of lowering the costs of e-discovery. Greg pointed out the relatively recent article from Craig Ball on how e-discovery costs are 5 times higher than they should be. This discrepancy exists for a number of reasons, but a big one is the fact that selling the restructuring of legal processes for efficiency and lower costs has been falling on deaf ears. Not that in-house and outside counsel don't care about costs. It's just that the fix for this problem means doing things differently (a.k.a. outside the paradigm of precedence), and not just a getting bigger discount on rates.
So - here comes THE answer. There is a group inside the company that is very focused on lowering costs. This department is called purchasing or procurement. The problem this group has been having is a lack of understanding of how legal services are consumed. As they try to unitize legal costs they invariable go to hours and rates, which is doing things the same way and not currently working well for lowering costs. However, if purchasing actually understood the problem and knew about the fix, they would force the issue and get the in-house counsel department to drive the change.
That's THE answer. Go to purchasing with effective legal cost savings ideas. If this group actually figures this problem out, then change will quickly ripple through the system. In-house lawyers will be pushed to change, which will in turn drive the same with outside counsel.
It's not that these lawyers don't want to lower costs - the problem is that they don't know how. This e-discovery case study is just an example. Imagine if purchasing realized they could deconstruct numerous legal service approaches and restructure them for cost savings. We would quickly find ourselves in Enlightenment 2.0.
I'm just sayin ...

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5/19/10

Meet The Lexis Librarian Relations Consultants - What's Left of Them....

I've always said that the law firm world is one of "Monkey See... Monkey Do." Turns out that the big legal publisher world follows that same mantra. If you look at a cached list of Lexis Librarian Relations Consultants, you'll see the list has six names on it that don't appear today. Seems that Lexis is following Westlaw (AKA Thomson Reuters Legal) in cutting the number of staff they have that work as library liaisons between the clients and the company. We reported on the cuts in the Westlaw Library Relations team back in January of this year.

Alright... this sort of cut doesn't really surprise anyone (other than it took Lexis five additional months to pull the trigger trimming the group.) Times are hard... subscriptions are being cut... overhead is being reduced as needed... since these folks are considered overhead, it was probably inevitable that they would be given the ax just like their counterparts at West did a few months back.

I've got an email out to some of the remaining Consultants to see if they can put out a statement about the apparent layoffs.  One other little thing that caught my eye was the fact that on the "old" list of Consultants, Lexis didn't list the Team Leads, but do on the "new" list. Perhaps to offset the length of the list as to not make it look so drastic?

UPDATE: Here is the response I received from Lexis on the re-alignment of Librarian Relations Consultants:

Carol Lyons Weber, Vice President of Customer Consultants at LexisNexis:

“As part of an overall re-alignment of resources to meet the changing needs of customers, LexisNexis has streamlined its team of Librarian Relations Consultants. 

The company remains committed to law librarians, and has expanded its diverse set of tools and resources to provide product training, continuing education and on-going customer support. We recently introduced a new Librarian Innovation Team, comprised of law librarians to provide feedback on development of new products and services for librarians, and the LexisNexis InfoPro online site offering educational programs which conveniently update, inform and interact with law librarians on an ongoing basis.

We are supporting affected employees as they pursue new opportunities – both inside and outside the company. Customers who will work with a new LRC will hear from our team within the next week.” 

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5/18/10

Legal Project Management software emerges: The Onit Beta


Thanks to a tip from Jim Hassett, I had the opportunity to see a demo of the new beta version of Onit Project Manager. This system fits nicely with Jim's "low hanging fruit" approach to Legal Project Management (LPM). Eric Elfman, a founder of the company, was nice enough to come by our offices and show us this new application.

First impressions: Simple and easy to use. Per my low hanging fruit comment, this is not your overkill project management software system. Instead it's designed to fit within the existing work-day of a lawyer. As such, it has good potential to provide the first step into LPM for a lawyer or firm.

As a SaaS application, it also has a low threshold for adoption. As a free application, it's something even Greg would use. So if you are looking for an easy, obvious first step into LPM, take a look at Onit.

Going forward, Onit will introduce an enterprise version with more administrative capabilities. Onit will also introduce a spend management system to complement the LPM offering.

Eric, as a founder of Datacert, understands this market and appreciates the needs of lawyers, firms and corporate legal departments. The application has some room to grow, so I will definitely keep an eye on it. Per Paul Easton, Onit is also looking for input from users, if you want to dive in even deeper.

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Are Law Firm Library Directors Passé?

As ageing Baby Boomer law firm library directors retire, there seems to be a growing trend to eliminate the Library Director position and either run the department by committee, or move responsibility for the law library to the Chief Information Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, or to existing Directors of other departments such as Knowledge Management. So far, I've seen very little reaction from the associations that represent law librarians (whether it is AALL, SLA, or local associations) in protest of these moves. I now know of at least three AmLaw 100 firms that no longer have a Library Director, and have no plans to rehire those positions because they do not see the value that this position brings to their firms. So, are law firm Library Directors passé? If we don't start doing something about this trend right now they sure as hell soon will be.


How many law schools are out there that do not have a law librarian as director (usually with an Associate Dean title) running the library? Zero! One!! Why?? Because the ABA guidelines specifically say there must be a director, and even goes further to suggest that the Director hold a law degree and a library degree. Here are the standards for Law Library Director that the ABA places on all law schools:
Standard 603. DIRECTOR OF THE LAW LIBRARY

(a) A law library shall be administered by a full-time director whose principal responsibility is the management of the law library.
(b) The selection and retention of the director of the law library shall be determined by the law school.
(c) A director of a law library should have a law degree and a degree in library or information science and shall have a sound knowledge of and experience in library administration.
(d) Except in extraordinary circumstances, a law library director shall hold a law faculty appointment with security of faculty position.
Interpretation 603-1
The director of the law library is responsible for all aspects of the management of the law library including budgeting, staff, collections, services and facilities.
Interpretation 603-2
The dean and faculty of the law school shall select the director of the law library.
Interpretation 603-3
The granting of faculty appointment to the director of the law library under this Standard normally is a tenure or tenure-track appointment. If a director is granted tenure, this tenure is not in the administrative position of director.
Interpretation 603-4
It is not a violation of Standard 603(a) for the director of the law library also to have other administrative or teaching responsibilities, provided suf cient resources and staff support are available to ensure effective management of library operations.
For law firms, even those in the AmLaw 100, 200 or NLJ 250, there is no such requirement or suggested qualifications for someone managing the firm's law library. Therefore, law firms have absolutely no pressure put on them to place qualified professionals in charge of their libraries. The only thing that law librarians seem to have is the American Lawyer's annual Law Librarian Survey, but that has no effect upon any of the AmLaw 100 or AmLaw 200 rankings.

The simple fact is that even large AmLaw 100 firms have absolutely no requirement to have a law library director position. And as far as I know, there is no movement within the ABA, AALL, SLA, American Lawyer, National Law Journal, or any other organization to set a requirement similar to Standard 603 for law firms. Is it time to push for such a standard for large law firms? Or did law librarians miss the opportunity to solidify their roles within law firms and are now watching as the top library positions disappear forever?

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5/17/10

Bookmark and Track Webpage Changes Using Diphur


When I'm asked what I do all day, I usually answer that I monitor changes in information and relay those changes to the appropriate people, at the appropriate time. Perhaps I could put an anagram on this process and call it JITI (Just In Time Information). The key to JITI is a combination of human knowledge and creativity combined with automated resources designed to capture, filter and format the information in a way that makes clean-up, organization and dissemination easier. One of the newest resource I've discovered is the webpage bookmarking tool called Diphur.

For years now, I've been using WatchThatPage.com (WTP) as my go-to resource for monitoring changes in websites. In fact, WTP is still my favorite resource because of its simplicity, and how I can get great results compiled in a single email. However, WTP does not have the ability to set up RSS feeds of those results, and as far as I can tell, has no plans to do so in the immediate future. When I came across Diphur last week, I thought I'd give it a go to see how well it compares to WTP for monitoring changes in webpages. So far... it looks pretty promising.

Diphur allows you to bookmark webpages, and 'tag' those webpages with bookmarks that you define. For example, I monitor changes in AmLaw 100 firms' client alerts and news pages, so I find the page I want, enter the URL into Diphur, and then tag it with Law Firm>>News, and now I have an ability to upload these tagged pages into an RSS feeder, or get email alerts that monitor the changes. When there is a change in one of the webpages that Diphur is monitoring, I can see those changes in one place. This morning, for example, there was a change in one of the Dechert law firm pages, and I received an update that looked like this:

Something changed on the website your bookmark is monitoring, please see the changes below.
> 7% change via dechert.com for the day Mon, May 17, 2010 


Nice and clean looking update, with the changes in the webpage clearly displayed for easy reading and dissemination. Although Diphur doesn't compile all of the pages I'm monitoring into one update like WTP does, the RSS feed option can kind of work as a one-stop place to monitor the changes.
Diphur allows you to set the percentage of change that needs to occur. This prevents a lot of the minor changes (changes in dates, etc.) from being sent to you every day. Depending upon the page you're monitoring, you can adjust the percentage of change that needs to occur before an update is sent to you. It will probably take some tweaking to get the page results just right, but tools like these sure make monitoring hundreds (or thousands) of webpages a whole lot easier to do.

Diphur is a brand new resource (launched on April 5, 2010), and is still working out some of the kinks. They have blog that discusses some of the issues (read: bugs) that they are dealing with, as well as following up on their ongoing philosophy "to listen to users and implement what they want". You got to like a philosophy like that!

So, if you have to monitor changes in webpages, go give Diphur a try. Let us know what you think about it, and how it compares to resources that you may already be using.


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5/14/10

Two Things I Didn't Know... But Now I Do - PACER & CourtCall

It seems that I'm finding out lately that "the more I know... the more I know I don't know". Yesterday was a prime example of how I learned about two things that I probably should have know about well before yesterday.

New PACER "Look & Feel"


First up... PACER is launching a new "look and feel" for its website. You already knew this?? Well, I sure missed the memo on this change. I rechecked my RSS feeds, and sure enough... turns out that my buddy Joe Hodnicki over at the Law Librarian Blog tried to clue me in way back on April 30th! (That's like a year in "Internet Time"). One of the things that didn't make me feel too bad about missing this piece of information was the fact that almost everyone I talked to seemed to have missed it too. So, in case you also missed that little piece of information, you can go today and look at the preview of the new PACER site (http://pcl.uscourts.gov). You HAVE to go today to see the preview, because the new site launches tomorrow!!

Well have a review of the new PACER site early next week, but in the meantime, here's a brief overview of some of the new changes that come with the new "Look & Feel":
The Case Locator replaces the U.S. Party/Case Index and provides enhanced search and display capabilities including the ability to:
  - request lists of cases for a specified date range by court type;
  - conduct searches based on chapter, discharge date and dismissal date for bankruptcy cases;
  - access case information for the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation;
  -choose result formats, including HTML, delimited text, and XML which can be easily imported to other programs for analysis;
  - change the sort order of the results displayed; and
  -conduct refined searches within the results of a previous search.
CourtCall - The "Not Quite Virtual" Telephonic Court Appearance Resource

I kind of convinced myself that missing the PACER changes was forgivable... but, this next item seems to point to my being completely ignorant of a resource that has been around for over 15 years. I had someone call me asking if we had access to a product called "CourtCall". I responded quickly with "What the Heck is CourtCall??"  Which was my not-so-intelligent way of saying "I don't think we subscribe to that service." Well, I had to listen for five minutes while the person on the other end of the line raved about how this service allows you to schedule a telephone appearance with a court rather than having to drive or fly to make the appearance. This sounded eerily like a low-tech version of Lisa's virtual courts post from a couple of weeks ago. I jumped out on the web and started doing some quick research on the service and then immediately started kicking myself for not knowing about this years ago.

Here's a brief overview of the product from CourtCall's website:
CourtCall created the turn-key telephonic court appearance system that has become the industry standard. Our mission is to educate Judges, court staff, lawyers, and clients about the time and money saving advantages of CourtCall Appearances and provide such services with innovation, diligence, and courtesy.
The CourtCall Telephonic Appearance Program is an organized and voluntary way for lawyers to telephonically make routine civil, criminal, probate, bankruptcy and other appearances from their offices, homes or other convenient locations at no cost to the Court. Unlike common practices, neither Court staff nor lawyers are required to coordinate the time or logistics of the call. Instead, by simply paying a reasonable fixed fee and filing with CourtCall the Request for CourtCall Appearance form in advance, a lawyer may make a CourtCall Appearance.
I haven't used this before, but the amount of coverage that CourtCall has looks to be amazing! Here's a PDF list of the courts and judges that participate. I did do a quick check of some other blogs to see what the reviews are, and most were positive, with one posted yesterday by Cheryl Meril being a little more hesitant on giving a stamp of approval to CourtCall, but mostly on the idea that the calls are impersonal, and could cause issues of missing important visual clues that only come from actually being in the courtroom. I also found it a little interesting that CourtCall has a revenue sharing program (PDF of press release) with the courts. Perhaps I'm being a little oversensitive, but courts, private business and revenue sharing tend to raise red flags (even if everything is on the up-and-up.)

If you've ever used CourtCall, give me some comments of what you think about it. I'm wondering how long it could be before Lisa's virtual courtroom could become a reality. If courts are willing to do telephone appearances, then it seems logical that with access to video communication over VoIP lines should be the next step in CourtCall's future.

So there's the two things I learned yesterday. I'm sure there are a bazillion other things I should know about, so I'll keep my ears open, my RSS feed flowing, my Twitter account active, and my listserv reading up-to-date in order to learn more of what I should have already known.

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5/13/10

Will You be Outsourced?

We all to think we are 'special' and bring high value to our jobs. However, the past two years have made pretty much everyone (except maybe the Chinese) nervous about their prospects. Even lawyers are thinking about the possibility that they are not as 'special' as they once thought. In the words of one colleague, "The Guild has been broken."
A recent NY Times article on this issue helped bring my thoughts into focus on this topic, especially since my dang economics background keeps creeping into my brain. The article uses an admin worker in Florida to demonstrate how some US jobs are now obsolete. In a recent conversation with Greg, I had made a an eerily similar comment about how the Great Reset has accelerated the globalization trend of moving US jobs to cheaper labor sources, be they computers or foreign laborers.
The subject of the article states: "I know I'm good at this. So how the hell did I end up here?" This is one counter example, where "good enough" is no longer good enough or more specifically, no longer cost effective. Although this worker "can anticipate people's needs" technology has allowed people to anticipate their own needs - and do it better, faster, cheaper.
Adding 2 and 2 together - the legal profession is sailing in to the perfect storm of obsolescence. At the same time of accelerating change and a powerful recession - the guild has been broken. With the profession's tendency to lean on precedence for decision making, we are in for one seriously rough ride.
My advice: The people who figure out to make themselves obsolete will be the winners. Think on that one for a while.

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Woopra Web Analytics - Excellent (And Addictive) Tool

When you've looked at all of the great things that the web analytics tool Woopra does, you'll probably never go back to Google Analytics again (and I really like Google Analytics). I've been monitoring the traffic on 3 Geeks for the past few months using Woopra, and I have to tell you that it is very addictive.

Woopra allows you to watch what visitors to your site are currently reading (yes, LIVE STATS!!), as well as how they found you, what links they clicked on while on your site, where they are from, and much, much more. Woopra also allows you to view a live map of where your visitors are from, run reports, set up filters and notifications, conduct live chat with visitors (which I haven't tried because it sounds a little creepy), and view a calendar of visits and page views.

Woopra is free (for up to 30K page views a month), and there are subscription plans starting at $4.95 a month if you want to track >30K. I've embedded a great (and short) video from Trey Ratcliff over at Stuck In Customs where he goes through a few (just a few) of the great things that Woopra does to analyze your website traffic. If you have a website... you have to try Woopra!



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5/12/10

Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants - Who's Better Prepared for a 2.0 World?

One of the comments that I hear tossed around these days is how those entering the workforce now (AKA "new associates", "new paralegals", "new project assistants") will be "computer savvy" or "better equipped" for things like online research, Web 2.0, or the virtual workplace. I try to chime in with my opinion that those that believe this are mistaking "comfort and familiarity" with "skill". For example, a new associate may have great skills when it comes to driving a six-speed Ferrari on the mean streets of "Need for Speed", but can he or she transfer those skills to an actual Ferrari on the mean streets of Los Angeles? The skills are not automatically transferable, and you'd probably end up with either a few scratches and dents or a blown transmission than someone that can parallel park the car by sliding it in with a 180 degree slide.

Andrea DiMaio over at the Gartner Blog Network penned a great post on "Why Digital Immigrants May Be Better Off Than Digital Natives" where she eloquently states:
The common wisdom says that they [Digital Natives] are better at socializing and crowdsourcing, but are they? Do they gather their collective intelligence when they realize that they cannot solve problems alone, or do they just do so, outsourcing their individual efforts to the power of the collective, living the dream of a world where nobody is really accountable because everybody else is?
I think that we [Digital Immigrants] have been celebrating and cocooning digital natives for too long. What lies ahead of us are very uncertain times, where the ability, willingness and courage to tackle problems individually is as important as the ability to engage others (the “collective”).
Well said! DiMaio goes on to point out one of the biggest differences between Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives is the fact that we grew up with the understanding that even in the computer and online worlds, there was a scarcity of resources and we had to adapt and deal with the limited resources we had at our disposal. Digital Natives on the other hand do not have the same insights into the scarcity of resources. Digital Natives do not seem to see the shadow of the future where success is determined by what they know and how well they socialize and crowdsource their way to a solution, rather than by the coolness of "how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers they have."

President Obama deflated the egos of the tech savvy graduates at the University of Virginia when he pointed out skills learned through entertainment do not always transfer to skills needed in the workforce today:
'With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations - none of which I know how to work - information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.'
 I should point out that Digital Immigrants were told by President Reagan that their PacMan skills could transfer into usable work skills:
'I recently learned something quite interesting about video games. Many young people have developed incredible hand, eye, and brain coordination in playing these games. The air force believes these kids will be our outstanding pilots should they fly our jets.' (Aug 8, 1983)
We soon learned that just because we could storm the castle and save Princess Zelda from her dragon captor all day long, but those skills weren't very useful when learning to fly a jet. It's nice that the current President doesn't seem to be confusing technology and entertainment with knowledge and work skills.

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On Being An Outlier in a Social Network

I am thinking about social networking. I know. You say, aren't you always thinking about social networking, Lisa? Well, no. I also think about fashion, friends and my latest celebrity crush. (BTW, did you know that there are only 4 degrees of separation between me and @aplusk??? My apologies; I digress. I wonder if he's on LinkedIn??) But all of that aside, I was wondering: can you cause a mood to pass along a social network? Like trending topics, can we start an online social swell of emotion? For, as you know, the underpinning of any good marketing campaign is the evocation of an emotion, be it fear, covetousness or admiration. Just think iPad and you get what I mean. So just how do you accomplish that feat in a social network? If what Nicholas Christakis says is true during his TedTalk, then we are highly influenced by our social network's level of happiness, anger, sadness or depression. We saw it happen when Facebook announced its new terms. Angry networks buzzed. We saw it when Michael Jackson died. Memorials were held online. So how can legal marketers manufacture a feeling over an online social network? How can I get that wave going? Say for instance, I want to impress upon my law firm clients and professional colleagues that they should call my firm when the long arm of the law reaches out for them. I must impress upon them long before that event happens that I am ever-ready and ever-vigilant to come to their aid. I want to invoke a feeling of trustworthiness and safety; in a word, Rambo (a nod to my Greek friend, Chris). So for me, it means sending a steady stream of useful information on a daily basis across all social networking channels. It means being engaged in the stream of things, writing strong copy, being responsive. It means re-tweeting info that I might think is helpful to my followers. In these small ways, I am hoping to engender positive feelings. Its not easy; law firms (and I) are natural outliers. So to inject them into a social networking setting is awkward, at best. And lawyers, by the very nature of our business, are reactive so we cannot create legally-charged situations. But as any lawyer knows, a lawyer and his firm become important when the authorities start asking hard questions. They are designed to take the heat for everyone. We can become subject matter authorities, speaking on relevant topics. So law firms may seem like the strong, silent types. But we serve a good purpose. You wouldn't want your lawyer to act like they are at the law-law-pa-loosa, would ya?

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5/11/10

E-Discovery, Business Goals and Best Practices

I was discussing some of the issues raised by Craig Ball in his article “Are We Paying Five times too Much for E-Discovery” with some friends of mine when I realized how lucky I was to be in the law firm’s Library/Research department rather than attempting to manage an E-Discovery department. Listening to some of the stories and reading blog posts discussing the reactive strategies that firms adopt when addressing e-discovery projects made my head start to spin (actually, it was more of a slow shaking of disbelief.) Electronic Discovery is not exactly a new phenomenon in the legal industry, but while listening to some of the stories, it was like every attorney that found themselves with an e-discovery case had no idea how to handle it, yet was determined that he or she knew better than the e-discovery experts that were employed by their firm.

Now, I’m sure there are folks out there that have outstanding e-discovery programs, great relationships with their attorneys and clients, and a stable of proficient third-party e-discovery partners they can depend upon for consistent pricing and accurate results. However, from the folks I’ve been talking to, that sounds like the exception and not the rule. What I’m hearing is issues of attorneys submitting data in a hodge-podge fashion; attorneys and clients working out deals with e-discovery vendors on matters without discussing it with those in the firm that are supposed to be the go-to people for e-discovery; vendors charging one price on Monday, and a different price on Tuesday for the same work; pressure to conduct in-house e-discovery work with unobtainable deadlines using inadequate resources, and; the only consistent questions being asked is “how much is this going to cost?” quickly followed by “why does it cost that much?”  It would be like me trying to run a law library and having each attorney negotiate separate Westlaw or Lexis contracts on a per-matter basis.

In fact, just like with research, e-discovery really fits that definition of an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. When legal research is conducted using improper search queries, or wrong databases, or even wrong research tools, it results in extra costs that are either passed along to the client or eaten by the firm. The same results happen with e-discovery processes. Heading down the wrong path on e-discovery processes results in backtracking and having to start the process over and all the time and money spent turns out to have been wasted. When I conduct orientation for new associates, I stress to them that the research staff in the library has a wealth of knowledge and experience that they need to leverage when conducting research on issues that  the associates are unfamiliar. Same applies with e-discovery experts. It's not saying that the attorney can't understand how to do the work... it's just that we've hired experts that can make sure that they are focused on doing what they do best, and that is working as a lawyer and finding legal issues surrounding discovery... not working as a technologist and attempting to figure out the best manner to extract data from hard drives.

I went back and re-read Toby’s post last week on reducing price and cost, where he presses for a “business goal” when it comes to handling e-discovery. However, this exercise seems to assume that there is some sort of stability in how firms handle their e-discovery matters. The only way to fight the "Wild West" effect, and move toward a stable e-discovery process is through the establishment of best practices. Law firms have to create best practices for their e-discovery processes that:
  • specifically that lay out how  matters are handled each and every time;
  • define exactly who is in charge of processing the data;
  • that clarify to the attorneys and clients the cost involved, and;
  • identify what can be handled in-house versus what has to go to predetermined third-party vendors for processing.  
My suggestion was that regardless of how long the E-Discovery Best Practices guide turns out, that there should be a one to two-page cheat sheet that is distributed to every attorney that works on matters that involve e-discovery. The faster you can get everyone on the same page, the faster you can get away from the Wild West approach and start working toward those e-discovery business goals.

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5/10/10

How much will you save by going to one legal research system?


Continuing my exploration of the economics of the practice of law, I listened in on a presentation that included a segment on how law firms may be moving to single providers for primary law access. Although a perennial topic previously noted on 3 Geeks, the rising pressure from clients not to pass on these types of costs is making this decision more of a real option.
Going through a mental exercise of what it likely costs per year, per lawyer for primary law access, I suggest the following math (This excludes the 'free' access providers such as Casemaker or Fastcase since they are only available in certain states):

$500 / month: average cost per lawyer for online research services.
$250 / month: 50% of that, to glean out all the high cost, practice specific stuff.
$125 / month: 50% of that, to filter out the secondary resources and editorial content attached to primary law.

The Solution: $125 x 12 months = $1500 in savings per year per lawyer per system for access to primary law.
My experience is that most legal research centers on primary law, so 25% should be a pretty conservative estimate. For a law firm, you could take that number and multiply it by the number of primary law access services you have (minus the one you keep) to come up with the ultimate savings of going to a single provider.
Yes - there are issues with going to a single provider, such as the links between secondary and primary law in a given setting. However, many of those issues can be resolved in negotiations. There will likely be some practice groups who need to retain access to certain primary law services, but it won't be something the entire firm needs. So a decision to go to a single primary law access service will include a bit of work, but could lead to significant savings.
The real question: How much would your firm save?

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Spokeo Is Only `Spooky` In Its Inaccuracy

I've been hearing that there is a new "spooky" website out there called Spokeo that is freaking people out about how much information this site can find about you using just your name or email address. According to the website Smarterware:
Spokeo is the new people search engine that's freaking users out, because when you "spokeo" yourself there's a good chance you'll find your home address, phone number, interests, gender, occupation, wealth level, marital status, photos, and more. 
So, I jumped out there and attempted to search on my name, email, and phone numbers and it was creepy to find how awful the results were. Apparently, I don't exist on any of these social networks that Spokeo indexes. This really surprised me, because I'm not exactly very protective about my identity on social networks and I expected at least something back. But what I got was NOTHING!! I even tried to see if any of my co-bloggers showed up... again, NOTHING!!

As someone that has written about the wealth of personal and company information that is out there on social networks for competitive intelligence research, I'm highly disappointed in the hype behind Spokeo that doesn't seem to be warranted. If you want to find information on someone, leave Spokeo off your resources and do a simple Google search instead.

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5/7/10

No Such Thing as a Professional Librarian?

Joe Hodnicki, over at the Law Librarian Blog, pointed out post from Ryan Deschamps blog (The Other Librarian) where Ryan challenges librarians to personally rebut the 10 reasons he lists why librarians cannot claim professional status. Ryan's list of ten reasons is thought provoking, and meant to be a little over-the-top, but does note some of the challenges that librarians face when defending their profession. He's received nearly 100 comments on his post (some of which go through a point-by-point rebuttal), so he's definitely hit a nerve with librarians. As many of you may remember, I recently modified a Will Rogers' quote and said that "I'm not part of any organized profession... I'm a law librarian."

Perhaps the biggest challenge that librarians face is that we are such a diverse profession that it makes it very difficult to throw a rope around what we do and how we are defined. The term "librarian" has been watered down so much that it could mean one hundred different things to one hundred different people. It would be like defining the term "teacher" and placing everyone from "Sunday School Teacher" to "College Professor" under that term and asking everyone to justify "teaching" as a profession. I almost hate to reprint the list of ten reasons here, but here they are.... I'll discuss a few of the "professional librarian" issues following the list:
  1. Librarians Have No Monopoly on the Activities They Claim
  2. There are No Consequences For Failing to Adhere to Ethical Practices
  3. Librarianship is Too Generalized to Claim Any Expertise
  4. ’Librarian’ Assumes a Place of Work, Rather than the Work Itself
  5. Peer Review in Librarianship Does Not Work Because There is No Competitive Process to Go With It
  6. Values Are Not Enough
  7. The Primary Motivation for Professionalization is the Monopoly of Labor
  8. Accredited Library Schools Do Not Adequately Prepare Students for Library Work
  9. Competing Professions Are Offering Different Paradigms to Achieve the Same Goals
  10. Nobody Can Name a ‘Great’ Librarian
When Ryan says "Professional Librarian", that narrows the field down, at least in my opinion, to those who have a Masters' Degree in Library Science (MLS, MLIS, etc.) and work in a specific area of librarianship. I'll take specific issue with reason number three above that Librarianship is too generalized to claim expertise. My expertise is "law librarianship"; I have a MLIS and a JD (as do about 1/2 of those who are members of the American Association of Law Libraries - AALL); I work as a law librarian in a law firm, and; my expertise is in legal research and knowledge management. However, all of these are 'voluntary' skills and accomplishments, as there are no laws, regulations, or ethical requirements that prevent anyone that happens to work in a library, regardless of qualifications, to hold themselves out as a librarian.

Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this discrepancy is the fact that the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington does not have a Library Degree, nor was he ever trained as a professional librarian. Billington has done wonders for the Library of Congress since his appointment in 1987, but the fact that he's done great things does not diminish the fact that the highest post in the country with "Librarian" in the title is held by someone that is not a professional librarian. This would be like appointed someone that has never been a lawyer to the US Supreme Court. There's no law preventing a non-lawyer from becoming a US Supreme Court Justice, but it has never happened. I could be wrong here, so correct me if I am, but I believe that the Librarian of Congress has always been a "political" position and has never been held by someone with a library degree.

I'm being a little unfair in this example, as Billington's position is primarily one of obtaining funding and essentially being the equivalent to a Chief Operating Officer (COO) of a large organization. To be a COO in a law firm or accounting firm does not require you to be a lawyer or accountant. But on the other hand, COO's of law firms or accounting firms don't take on the title of 'lawyer' or 'accountant' either. Therefore, this tends to advance reason number four above that 'librarians' assume a place of work (the library), rather than a profession.

There are a number of valid issues raised by Ryan and his list of ten reasons, so I'm only scratching the surface with this post. I'm pretty confident that I could personally defend why I hold myself out as a professional librarian while admitting that the profession (especially through its professional organizations) needs to do more to enhance the reputation of the profession. Although it is frustrating to work in a profession that is constantly being asked to defend why it is still relevant in the age of Google, I still love being a law librarian and continue to do my part to keep the professional relevant and vibrant in this exciting time of ever expanding access to information.

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5/6/10

Vendors, Bathtubs, and Conversations

Today's my last day in New York and I'm ready to get back to Houston where the bathtubs don't sit in the middle of my living room, surrounded by two walls of plate glass windows, overlooking a park full of joggers. As I mentioned earlier this week, a few bloggers were asked to come to NYC to take a fresh look at Wolters Kluwer (WK) IntelliConnect product and give them some feedback about what we thought about it. I'll give a more in-depth review later, but I did want to make some comments of what I thought about the people I met with yesterday. 

The meeting was held on the WK training floor, there were four bloggers including me, and about eight or nine WK folks. After a short introduction and an overview of the product, we started having a real conversation about what was good, what needed fixing, and where the product and market were heading in the future. All of us seeded to have had some lightbulb moments throughout the day where some of our preconceived notions were challenged and most of us walked away at the end of the day a little better understanding of each other. 

Wolters Kluwer is going through a transition right now where it is attempting to move away from being a 'holding company', to one that is integrating all of its different acquisitions into one platform.  As many of us remember, WK's IntelliConnect had a number of problems on its initial launch last year, and has been scrambling to regain its footing after stumbling out of the gate. I specifically  asked them if they understood the image problem they had from some of its users, and they all said that they do understand that, and that was one of the reasons they asked us to be there.

One of the notions I had to overcome was the fact that IntelliConnect is not a legal research tool in the same way that Westlaw or Lexis is designed. IntelliConnect is designed for 'power users' in specific legal practices. It was interesting listening to the conversations between the bloggers telling WK that they need to make changes in the interface to work in a way that younger associates expect their online research to look and feel. At the same time, WK kept coming back at us with the fact that the product was developed to work the way that their advanced users wanted... And that was to make it more like using the books than using online research. That brought up the question that none of us could find a simple answer to, and that was how do you balance the needs of researchers that on one end of the spectrum are traditional treatise-in-the-books kind of researchers versus the incoming Google 'give me a search box and let me go' type researchers? That seems to be the $64,000 question... Which is probably how much this bathtub in my hotel room costs.

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5/5/10

Reducing Price and Cost - The REAL Exercise


Tom O's post on "Proportionality" solidified an idea I've been contemplating. Tom's post is on reducing the cost of ED. He quotes from Craig Ball, who says the market may be paying 5 times too much for ED.
So here's where my idea comes in. What if you went to a law firm or ED company and said, "How can you deliver a service for X% less?" First off, the answer can not be "We Can't." This is an exercise to see how you can. Of course, there's a chance you might not be be able to, but the point is going through the exercise.
Further to my idea - what if a law firm asked the same question about one or more of their services. I think the exercise would be very enlightening. It goes to Bruce M's post on Quality and what is "good enough." The exercise will highlight 1) What doesn't need to be done, 2) What needs to be done "good enough," and 3) What still needs to be done the same way (e.g. excellent or superior). Another consequence of this effort will be the focusing of technology resources towards a business goal (versus addressing yet another tech need). Ultimately this approach should reduce the price to the client and the cost to the law firm. If done right, it will also improve the margin for the law firm.
This exercise - IMHO - will lead to the hard questions about law firms restructuring. Instead of talking about leverage, billables, alternative fees and compensation as if they are the ends, they will become the means to a successful business model.
It's way past time for law firms to engage in this exercise. What have we been waiting for?

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5/4/10

Maybe Listservs Aren't As Dead As I Thought...

A year and a half ago, I wrote a post that discussed all the benefits that Twitter had over traditional listservs. I'm still a big advocate of Twitter and how much information I can gather in a short period of time, but listservs still may be the King of social networks when it comes to communicating with a professional network. I learned this first-hand this week when I asked for some help from my fellow law firm librarians.

I'm flying up to New York this afternoon to meet with the programmers, sales reps, and marketers for CCH's IntelliConnect product. CCH, part of the mega-legal-vendor Wolters Kluwer (WK), has asked a few law bloggers to come meet with them, review the product, give them some feedback about their product. [note: WK is paying for the flight and hotel room, and six-months subscription to a couple of IntelliConnect databases ... and hopefully dinner!!] I'll blog about the experience next week and let you know about my meeting with this group, and what I think about the product. The biggest problem that I had was the fact that I'm really not a power-user of IntelliConnect (although I do use it, and my firm has a significant subscription with the product in the Health Care area). In order to bone up on my ability to come to New York prepared to ask the tough questions, I turned to the Private Law Librarians listserv for help... and the help poured in!!

Within minutes of my sending an email to the list explaining what I was doing, I received about a dozen or more responses listing out problems and suggestions that my peers would like me to bring up while I'm there. Some of the issues were simple requests, while others pointed out significant issues that they had encountered with the product. Thanks to the folks on the listserv, I go to New York better prepared to discuss the product as a representative of not just a blog... but as a representative of a community of professionals that still monitor the 20th Century social networking tool called a listserv.

The experience reminded me of why I loved listservs years ago, and why they are still very relevant today. So listservs, please accept my apology for thinking that your importance in the professional social community was coming to an end. Although other social networks may try to replace you, you are still one of the best resources out there for gathering feedback from a network of people with a common interest.

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5/3/10

Buyer's Market? No - Just a Market

As recently as last Friday, I made the claim that the legal profession is in a Buyer's Market for legal services. I've even made the same statement here at 3 Geeks. Pondering over the weekend got me re-thinking that assertion. After an enjoyable dialog this morning with Jordan Furlong on a range of topics, I mentioned this concept to him. Talking over it further solidified the idea in my mind. We're not in a Buyer's Market right now. Lawyers are in a plain ole Competitive Market.
In its simplest definition, a Buyer's Market is one that has more sellers than buyers. Looking at the legal services market - has there been some big shift in the number of buyers or sellers recently? No. There has been a downturn, but that's not the same as a shift in the basic equilibrium. Numerous reports have shown that the seeds of the current situation for law firms were sown a few years back, but only recently came to roost. For a number of reasons firms have for years been able to raise prices without much regard to the market. This is no longer the case.
My main point is that since we are not actually in a buyer's market, instead of tactics focused strictly on price competition, we should be contemplating survival in a competitive market. My prior blog post noted above on Change Happened, argued that we are in the 'New Normal.' For law firms this new normal means that in addition to dealing with rapid technological change, we must now learn how to function in a competitive market. This means being innovative, efficient and effective, pricing competitively (hourly or AFA) and focusing on the right markets and service lines. This is, in the words of Karl Polyani, the time for The Great Transformation of the legal market.
My suggestion: Keep you hands inside the car at all times. This is going to be one big thrill ride.

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What Will Virtual Conferences Lead to Next?

I am sure that by now that all of you have at least checked out a virtual conference. Yeah, they are kinda goofy but it is an easy way to learn about vendors and hear some great webcasts without leaving your desk chair. Well, the other day I was being interviewed for a news story--okay, sorry for the little bit of self-promotion but hey if I don't toot no one will (err ...)--I started going off on one of my new favorite riffs: virtual court rooms. I was telling the reporter that I could envision a time, maybe in a 100 years, when we will have virtual court rooms. Juries will log into the courtroom. The lawyers will present audio, video and documentary evidence virtually. Judges will be able to preside without having to wear those black robes. Just think of the ramifications: jurisdictional issues, jury selection, proving up evidence. The technological issues of cross-examination, objection, recording and preserving a record. Would it eliminate the need of court reporters? Would create a need for court room technologists? Which raised another thought for me today: if we could have virtual court room, why couldn't we have virtual law firm partner retreats? Frankly, I don't think the large law firms would go for it. They love seeing each other and swapping war stories. The golf games, the spa time and the clay shoots. But it is already happening on the corporate side. Investor Relations reported that more and more companies are choosing to hold virtual annual meetings. So maybe it will happen in my life time.

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4/30/10

Thomson Reuters Legal COO on New Philippine Office: "it's not legal outsourcing. We're hiring and training them as our employees"

Well, at least now we can assume we know where a lot of those 132 jobs at Banks-Baldwin are going to wind up. According to the Philippine Business Mirror, Thomson Reuters Legal (TR Legal) is using its 275 employee Taguig City, Philippines office as a launching pad. According the article, the Filipino office will be where the "data are processed, codified, proofread, analyzed and validated by Filipino employees and packaged as products for the customers in print, digital or online format."

Outsourcing to India and the Philippines is not new, even for TR Legal. I did find it interesting to see the wording that TR Legal COO Vin Caraher used when describing what they are doing.  Caraher said that this office is "not legal outsourcing. We're hiring and training them as our employees." Granted, this is not legal outsourcing, but the semantics of the discussion are probably pretty hard to hear from those at Banks-Baldwin who are watching their jobs go to overseas offices. It's also got to sting when they also read from Caraher that TR Legals expansion in the Philippines "reflects our commitment to growing our capabilities in the Philippines. The work being done at this site by our highly skilled and talented team is critical to our global content operations, and in supporting legal professionals around the world."  John Elstad, Senior VP of Legal-Editorial Operations, seemed to go a little further in his comments than TR Legal usually does when discussing the work performed at its off-shore operations by saying that they don't just gather data, but analyze the data and "add value to it."

It seems that legal editorial work has gone the way of manufacturing and is making its way out of the United States and off to India and the Philippines. Again, not a shocking statement... we've all watched this trickle away for years now. This is just one more chapter in the ever shrinking legal publishing market, and the race to find the cheapest labor pool. Perhaps the good new will be that will all the savings that TR Legal is getting through moving positions overseas, perhaps we'll see a drop in the price of their products?? If not, then how are we, the customer benefiting??

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Libraries and KM: Can't We All Just Get Along??

This week has seen a great string of blog posts that discuss the relationship between Librarians and Knowledge Management professionals. I'm going to give you a reading list below (read them throughly, there will be a test!). As I read through these posts, a slightly morphed quote from Will Rogers kept popping into my head... "I'm not part of any organized profession. I am a Law Librarian." Let's face it, the term "Librarian" can bring up a range of legitimate categories that others place us in...  from "book shelvers" to "catalogers" to "researchers" to "collection development'ers'" along with a dozen or more other categories. As Mary Abraham states, "Consider that 25 years ago, an information professional was a librarian and during the last 15 years, knowledge managers have become the information professionals du jour."

The title of "Information Professional" or "Knowledge Worker" is no longer owned by the library, and I think this frustrates a lot of librarians (myself included) whose talents for managing information bleeds over into the area of what is perceived now as Knowledge Management. The area that Nick Milton's graph identifies as the "Explicit Knowledge" (that information that is created and organized within the firm) is where the battle seems to be taking place. But, I agree whole-heartedly with Nick and Nina Platt that KM and Libraries either stand together with a common goal and take advantage of the talents we each bring to the table, or we all get marginalized.

KM and Librarians are all under the pressure of "taking the human out of the process." The biggest strengths for both of us is the human analysis we bring to what we do. Many of the powers-that-be think that they can slap a Google Search Engine on some huge internal database and magically organize all the data that flows in and out of the firm. Both KM and Librarians are walking on the edge of a very sharp sword where we have to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of how we organize and manage information (external and internal), while at the same time being asked to look for ways that automation basically reduces the number of people we need to do our jobs. That's a tough job to do when you're working together... fighting over that sliver of turf in the middle makes it that much harder.

Reading List:
  • Reflection on KM and Libraries in Law Firms
    When the library is under the KM folks, the library tends to be marginalized.
  • Librarians vs Knowledge Managers?
    How much [library marginalization] was due to difficult personalities or bad management?
    Is there something in the law firm “caste system” that makes it challenging for lawyers and non-lawyers to work together?
    Do librarians respond differently than knowledge managers? If so, is this due to personality type or training?
  • KM and Content Management, The Turf War
    Either [KM & Libraries] sit in one team...or we have two teams but with a common framework and aligned strategies. We don't fight each other, as this puts both content management and KM equally at risk.
  • Content Catalysts
    [I]n an effort to shift the conversation, I’d propose to expand the roles available for information professionals.   What if we were to add a new category:  Content Catalysts?
  • Musings on the Librarian’s Role in Knowledge Management in Law Firms
    I have always said that librarians will be employed in law firms for a long time to come and have never been too concerned with those who have been painting a darker picture.  Lately, I’ve been doubting my stand on this topic and have been become more and more concerned with our future.
  • Catalog Content Not People
    At the end of the day, it’s critical to know what work needs to be done and then assign the right people to the task based on their talent, experience, temperament and inclination.  That is a far better approach than to match people to tasks on the basis of labels or stereotypes.
  • Knowledge Managers, Librarians, Practice Support, and Business Analysis
    My guess is that in a decade, BigLaw will have more clearly defined business process experts and analysts and a range of practice support professionals. Some of the them will do KM and library work; some will be KM professionals or librarians.

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