7/19/10

2010 AALL Conference is Over... Time to Submit for 2011!!

I'm just getting back from by extended conference / vacation in Denver, where I enjoyed the AALL conference, and especially enjoyed the Private Law Libraries Summit (pre-conference). I know there was a lot of fuss about the amount and types of programming that was scheduled for private law librarians at the conference (including guest posts on this blog), but I have to say that I wasn't really all that disappointed. I'll also go out on a limb and say that I thought that the PLL-Summit was one of the best day and a half seminars that I've ever attended on the topic of law firm libraries. Of course, since I presented, I may be a little biased.

I hope that there is a pre-conference again next year. If there is, I'm going to encourage a number of folks that I know that usually don't go to AALL conference to at least attend the pre-conference. I found that the presenters were great, and that the audience was much more engaged in the topic than you get in a normal session. The fact that the room was entirely private law librarians also helped focus the talks and even have lively arguments when we disagreed.  After all, we were all there to think... not think alike.

Here's an email that Jennifer Berman (PLL-SIS Education Chair) sent out to the list last week explaining the steps you need to take in order to submit a program for the general sessions of the 2011 AALL Conference in Philadelphia. I also have a couple of suggestions:

My Suggestions:

  1. Don't submit a 3-part program. Do one topic, in one session, and do it well.
  2. Don't submit a program where you want to learn a topic... See if an expert on that topic will do it, and help them submit the program. 
  3. Encourage new people to contribute. We all see a lot of the same faces presenting each year. Be a 'mentor' and get some new blood in front of an audience.
Berman Message:
Congratulations to us all. Our programs at AALL – Denver, CO were well attended, discussed, and received good reviews. In short, SUCCESS!! Thank you to all of the coordinators, moderators, and presenters. It was evident that a good deal of hard work went into the endeavor.
Now, we can’t sit on our laurels. Preparation for the 104th AALL Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA is well under way and proposals for presentations must be submitted by September 15, 2010.
There is no real theme to the 2011 conference. Programs are to parallel the competencies required for librarianship. If you have an idea for a presentation, please don’t hesitate. Put together a proposal and send it in, but please make sure to indicate that you would like PLL to sponsor the program.
A few helping details. Start by reading the short proposal description on the AALL website (http//:proposals.aallnet.org). It will link you to the Programmer Planner’s Handbook, (http://www.aallnet.org/events/ProgramPlannersHandbook.pdf), which will guide you through the process. Included in the Handbook are suggestions of how to write the proposal, wording to use that will catch the eye of the members of the Annual Meeting Program Committee (AMPC) and others. One hint we received is not to use the word “competency”. It’s the conference’s theme, so the idea should be inherent in your presentation. Overplay, and it may backfire.
As members of the PLL-SIS Education Committee, we review each proposal that is sponsored by PLL. There may be suggestions we would like to make that would give your presentation heavier weight with AMPC members, so sometimes we may request a small re-write. In order to assure that your program proposal is formally submitted by the September 15th deadline , we have implemented the following time schedule for sending in your proposal:

  • Aug 30 (noon CDT) – Submission of your program proposal to the members of the PLL Education Committee (names and contacts below). Page 43 of the Planners Handbook indicates how to share the program with us. When you share the program with us please DO NOT click the submission button or your program proposal will be submitted and there will be no opportunity to revise the proposal.
  • Sept 8 – You will have received a phone by a committee member to discuss your proposal. We will discuss recommended revisions, if needed, or suggest to submit as is.
  • Sept 15 – Final date for submission to AALL.

Remember, the earlier the better. If editing is required, we want to make sure that you’ve the needed time to do it to get it in on time and have it accepted.
If you have any questions or need any help, please call any one of us at any time. We are here to help you and make it as easy as possible to get through the process.
To jump start a little bit of thinking - the following three ideas were proposed. If you would want to flesh it out and write up a proposal for it, we can assist you with the process.

  1. The future of legal research 18 months later (Law firm librarians and academic librarians talking about what's happened with respect to adoption or nonadoption of WestlawNext, Lexis for Microsoft Office, New Lexis, Mobile Apps, etc.
  2. Conversations with legal news reporters (what is happening in the legal world)
  3. Summit on Training Part 2 (continuation of "Mile High Summit in Training: Are things coming to a peak?", a very well attended session). Discussion with law firm deans, managing partners, and students about training)

Enjoy, have fun and good luck to us all!

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LexisNexis Gives Its "Baby" a Name - "Lexis Advance"

Alright, you can now stop calling the forthcoming Lexis platform "New Lexis" or "LexisNext". I learned this morning that the folks over at LexisNexis have named their new platform "Lexis Advance". Toby got an advanced peek at the product a couple of months back and seemed to be impressed. Here is a snippet of the notice I received this morning announcing the baby's, er, the product's name:
We recently announced to our employees that our new legal information platform will be named “Lexis® Advance” when it goes to market.
To be clear, Lexis Advance is not available yet. It will be rolled out in phases for different segments of the market over an extended period of time starting later this year and moving forward into next year. That’s when legal professionals will start seeing the product and name.
Meanwhile, the name “New Lexis” continues on internally at our company as the moniker for our broad investment and invention program to create the next generation of innovative solutions with and for our customers. Another example of a new solution from this overall program is Lexis® for Microsoft® Office, which as you know, was announced earlier this year.
I've already stumbled over this name a couple of times (including typing it here), because it is very similar to another LexisNexis product called "Lexis atVantage". Now, let's see if the sales and marketing team at LexisNexis have learned from their counterparts over at Thomson Reuters on setting a clear price on their new baby. They can always look back on my open letter to remind them of how well "modest premium pricing" went over at law firms. (Hint: Don't start off the conversation with "Lexis Advance comes with an advance pricing model.")

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7/17/10

New Normal Marketing: Persuasion vs Negotiation

Last year I had the pleasure of attending a presentation made by Don Schultz, professor emeritus at Northwestern. I left the presentation with a key insight about how Web 2.0 has changed the landscape of marketing. As a consequence, I follow Don’s writings. In this month’s AMA Marketing News, Don’s column provided another layer of insight.
In the presentation Don gave, he had talked about how marketing was built on a ‘push messages to the masses’ foundation (think Mad Men). And that marketing continues to hold to these methods, even though the world has changed. Push is losing it’s ability to persuade as consumers take an active role in the marketing space. Web 2.0, a.k.a. Social Media, allows the customers to take part in the conversation. Push is out – participation is in.
Don’s article took this insight to a deeper layer. Based on a conversation with a colleague from China, he came to appreciate the different marketing and advertising methodology used there. In China, marketing is not about persuasion. Instead it’s about negotiation. The purpose in marketing there is “to create situations to be considered, thought about, bargained for and haggled over.”
If this concept sounds familiar – it should. This is how Web 2.0 works. So Don’s epiphany is that in the US in addition to holding on to the ‘push’ world, we still subscribe to the persuasion model of marketing and advertising. This is problematic since our venues for marketing are quickly becoming negotiation platforms.
The moral of this story: We need to shift our entire marketing philosophy from a persuasion based approach to the Chinese model of negotiation. Persuasion messages fall dead in the negotiation space. When people find no reason to engage with your marketing messages, the messages will never make it past the door and never even make it in to the market.

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7/16/10

The Transformed Law Librarian

[We're please to have Jill Strand as a guest-blogger]


So do you want to be transformed or help direct the transformation? This was my primary thought after reading "Law Libraries Transformed" on LLRX by Eleanor Windsor and Ron Friedmann are executives with Integreon, a legal process outsourcing firm with offices around the world. The title intrigued me yet in reading the article I was surprised to realize that the innovation they were advocating was outsourcing of law firm library services. Basically,  they seem to suggest that since law libraries have become less about the physical space and collection and more about the research and online resources, outsourcing is an ideal and possibly inevitable solution. While they do note that librarians are more important than ever in filtering the information overload, I have to confess feeling my feathers ruffle a bit at their general assumption that a "library as service" model will always offer greater cost savings and efficiencies. Rather than hide inside my personal closet of law librarian anxieties, I'm going to try and consider the bigger picture. So before you hit your own panic button, take a deep breath, read the full article for yourself and join me.

Outsourcing library services isn't anything new - it first hit my radar a few years ago while working on a legal process outsourcing research project at my previous firm. Nor is it surprising, particularly in the current economy, to hear that we might be on the cusp of a trend. And when you stop to think about it, this is a pretty timely issue given the ongoing discussions in the blogosphere and within SLA and AALL about what we need to do to survive, thrive and advance to the C-level. Heck, I've been listening to and taking part in these discussions since my first information interview with an advertising firm librarian ten years ago. Call it alignment, advancement or whatever you want, but we are probably better served being pro-active about possible solutions rather than just reacting negatively to this news.

So what do we do? I'm sure many of you have some fabulous ideas which you'll hopefully comment on here. A good starting place could be to think about how we could work with this trend (if it is really a trend yet) and turn it to our advantage. Do we set out to completely disprove it as a valid solution or do we find a way to take part in or take charge of it so that we have some say or control over what library functions should or shouldn't be out-sourced? While the article does mention having skilled specialists with advanced degrees in law and business, it isn't clear whether Integreon actively recruits librarians with MLS degrees and library experience - how can we use that to position ourselves as their perfect in-house partners? For example, I'm taking the time to sit down with each attorney at my firm to learn more about their practice, key clients and research needs - the insights gained from these meetings have helped us to tailor our services and pro-actively provide current awareness and education about available resources. How could this knowledge be used to work successfully with an outsourcing firm?

While it does seem like Integreon understands the value of law librarians and what we do, I hope that they aren't too quick to see themselves as an ideal one-size-fits all replacement for most law firm libraries or legal departments. It would be a mistake to assume that the strategic knowledge and relationships we've built over the years within our firms wouldn't be critical for any successful information services solution. No matter what type of vendor we work with, there should be a way to customize contracted services to enhance what we already offer without having to throw the librarian (or library) out with the bath water.

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7/15/10

Information Convergence


[Please Welcome Guest Blogger Scott Preston]

Convergence - the approach toward a definite value, a definite point, a common view or opinion.
Over ten years ago we, in IT, talked about convergence. Back then, convergence often referred to the merging of data and telephone infrastructures, and when first introduced, this idea was taboo (this always struck me as odd, there is very little difference between the data and telephone worlds). The telecom folks didn’t feel comfortable with data and the data folks didn’t feel comfortable in the telecom world.

Here we are again, only now we are talking about who owns the data and how information flows; about how the information stewards relate to the structure of a law firm. In an interesting dialog with Greg and Toby, I suggested that the CIO is the obvious point of information convergence. Greg was convinced the point of information convergence belonged within Library Services. Toby purchased another round of beers and encouraged us to dig a little deeper. In the end, we agreed to disagree on reporting structure. We did agree that IT and LS are complimentary departments, IT being more interested in system design/maintenance and LS being more interested in information research/consumption. Without good system design, it is difficult to get the information you need and without an understanding of the information needed, it is difficult to design efficient systems.

Information convergence is going to happen whether we like it or not. It must happen, the lack of convergence creates inefficiencies.

We have these issues now. Contract negotiation – in many firms IT and Library Services negotiate contracts independently. The vendors love this, but it is inefficient and costly for the firm. Information sources – often times each group uses different data sources to obtain the same or similar information. Again, the vendors love this, but it is expensive and lacks efficiency. Without communication between departments, vendors are selected for the wrong reasons and projects often started but never finished. Lack of agreement about direction and duplicated efforts between departments has a big impact on finances as well as resources. Worst of all, we continue to send a mixed message to our clients.

The solution probably varies as much as a law firm’s culture, but at the heart of the solution must be leaders who are more interested in change and less interested in puffery.

Can we just get along?

We need to:

  • Trust the intention of others.
  • Spend more time learning about the other discipline and less time talking about why it makes no sense to have them manage information.
  • Stop giving the vendors the advantage.
  • Do what is right for the client.

I’m reaching across the aisle hoping to see a similar response from the other side.

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7/14/10

"Do Things Differently"

This morning I had the pleasure of participating in a Houston Chapter AMA sponsored roundtable presentation with Larry Heard, the President & CEO of Transwestern. He gave a brief and engaging talk on leadership and then opened the floor for questions. My $64 dollar questions was: Given the economic reset, what sort of fundamental shift are you making in your market strategy?
He had a very simple answer: Do things differently.
He went on to describer how when you are in an ‘up’ market and every one is well capitalized and confident you can only make gains at the margin. But after a significant downturn there are tremendous opportunities to gain market share and profit from bold moves. The alternative to being bold was obvious – and left unspoken.
I liked the message in part due to its economics approach. He went on to say how in this emerging upturn the stakes are even higher. The rapid changes in technology and global competition have upped the ante on this proposition. The market is rife with opportunity, but also treacherous for those who do not act.
I would add another level of urgency for law firms. With the guild broken and a competitive market (or call it a buyer’s market if you like) in place, law firms have an even bigger reason to "do things differently."
The Reality: Not many law firms are doing this (and I’m being generous).
The Future: The vast majority of law firms do not have the institutional will to engage in such an approach. A major reason is the Paradigm of Precedence they live in.
The Result: We may be removing the question mark from the title of Richard Susskind’s book – The End of Lawyers?

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How Embarrassing... Westlaw Reference Attorneys Are Blogging... And You're Not??

Over a year ago I mentioned that the Gartner Blog Network gave law firms a model to use (along with specific instructions and guidelines) to set up a firm-wide blog network for your firm. Since that time, I've talked with individual bloggers at firms and the answer has always been that their firms don't want to take the risk of allowing their lawyers to blog on a firm-wide platform. Of course, the number one reason that was mentioned time and time again was the fact that they didn't want some lawyer giving legal advice through a blog. My answer to that is, if you can't trust your lawyers to follow rules of ethical conduct on a blog, then why give them email, or a telephone, or let them ride up the elevator with non-firm people?

Well, just to embarrass you once again, it seems that another group of professionals that lawyers listen to have started a blog platform for their attorneys to contribute. Westlaw's Reference Attorneys have set up their own blog where they focus on the needs of Summer Associates and produce blog posts that point out some of the needs expressed by Summer Associates and relay that to others. The bloggers share information that comes in from Summer Associate calls in order to identify trends (such as issues on the gulf oil spill), and get someone to blog about how they've handled the issues so that others can benefit from the experience. Mike Carlson, Reference Attorney with Westlaw, talks about the reason for setting up the blog as a way to enter the space that a segment of their customer base is using. In fact, Mike mentions that they see a number of attorneys (not just Summer Associates) that are Googling on legal topics and find their blog in their Google results. Once they find the blog, they also give the West Reference Attorneys a call.

Let's think about this for a minute. West Reference Attorneys have a common blog where they discuss trends they are seeing in legal research; their customers find them through searching legal topics; their customers are then reading the blog, and some even make a follow-up call to the reference attorneys to get more information. Seems like a decent business idea to me.

I suggest going back and taking a look at my post on the way Gartner established guidelines for its bloggers and see if it couldn't be adapted to your firm or practice group. Blogs and social media are all about discussion and interaction. If you're not doing something in the social media world, you're missing out on that conversation.

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7/10/10

Poking Bears With Sticks - My Talk at AALL on Reaching the "C"-Level

I got things stared off with a bang yesterday when I discussed a couple of blog posts where I said that the status of law firm librarians has diminished over the past 15 years or so. In those posts, I laid the blame at the feet of the current leadership (AKA "baby-boomers") and the law library professional organizations. As you might image, the conversation after my talk was quite lively, and the room (which was filled with baby-boomers' of course) was very happy to point out where they thought I was wrong (a lot), and where they thought I was right (a little).

I was very happy that the conversation included ideas on what could be done through organizations like AALL or SLA, or even through external entities like the ABA, ALM, or NLJ. At the same time, I was a little disappointed with those in the audience that thought that because they were content with their individual situation, and that the status-quo of self-promotion will work fine for the profession (because it has worked for them). My discussion is focused on the profession as a whole... not individual pockets of success. For those that think that things are fine just the way they are, or that law firm librarians are merely feeling the effects of a down economy and that as the economy bounces back, so will the library profession, then I suggest that you answer the following survey:

Rank how the following law firm departments' status has changed over the past 10 years, where 1 is "fallen significantly", 3 is "the same", and 5 is "increased significantly".

Business Development ____
Information Technology ____
Knowledge Management ____
Library Services ____
Marketing ____
Recruiting ____
Secretarial Services ____

You can keep your answers to yourself, or share them with the rest of us in by leaving a comment.

The point of my talk was not to insult the current leaders, but rather to get the discussion going on what we need to do to go forward and improve the status of the profession. If it means that we need to poke a few bears along the way in order to get them engaged in the conversation, then so be it.

To borrow from the AALL keynote speaker, R. David Lankes, "the future for librarianship is bright, but not if we continue to see our value in our collections and resources -- instead of in ourselves.... The future of librarianship is in our hands and we must be ready to fight for it."

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7/9/10

KM 3.0 = Analysis

Since my presentation with Kingsley Martin at TECHSHOW 2010, I have been giving more and more thought to the evolution and future of KM. Previously we have posted on 3 Geeks about the impact of AFAs on KM, but I think there is a bigger under-current that will drive the next generation of KM. That under-current comes in the shape of massive amounts of data.
In May of this year, predictions were the world will soon pass the zettabyte threshold for the amount of data in existence (think 1 billion terrabytes). As the e-discovery world has already learned - humans are unable to deal with large quantities of data in a meaningful way. The obvious answer to this question has been technology. But so far that technology has focused on search and collaboration (Web 2.0 included). Most KM systems are focused on better-faster-cheaper search and retrieval systems. This approach will suffice to a point. Crossing the zettabyte threshold may be the metaphorical line-in-the-sand where search falls apart.
What is needed now is technology that analyzes our data/information/knowledge for us. Our reservoir of knowledge has become like the oceans. We can't understand the vastness and nature of them while standing on the shore. The resulting inability to ask the right questions limits the advance of our knowledge.
So now we need our technology to take on this new role. I recall a conversation with a data miner a few years back that illustrates this point. He was analyzing (in 3 dimensions - whatever that is) 911 call data. He was able to determine where and when police should be deployed based on this analysis. 911 call centers were not originally designed with this question in mind. The data revealed the question as a result of the analysis.
KM 3.0, as a set of analysis systems, will be the kind of tool best situated to address this challenge of oceanic volumes of knowledge. I have seen a few emerging tools heading in this direction (e.g. Lexis for MS Office), but will be keeping my eye on the horizon for more examples to appear.

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7/7/10

We Got Our Hands On Fastcase's New iPad App!! Review and Actual Screenshots!

Thanks to Ed Walters at Fastcase for letting us actually install their new iPad application while it is awaiting final authority from Steve Jobs to be released through the Apps Store. I've been playing with it for the past hour or so and have taken a lot of screenshots from the iPad, and so far, it has been pretty easy to use and takes advantage of the iPad's larger screen format. Most of all, this is another marketing coup for Fastcase (just do a Google search for Fastcase and iPad and see the number of blogs, press releases and news articles from yesterday and today announcing the launch!!)

When Fastcase released the iPhone app, I gave it a luke-warm reception because the iPhone app seemed to be more of a novelty than something that someone would actually use. The iPad app, however, is something that people would use to conduct legal research, as it has a bigger screen, and is much easier to use than the smaller iPhone format. You still can't print (not a Fastcase app issue, but rather an iPad issue), but you can save documents, and if you know what you're doing, you can email documents to yourself and print them out at your PC or Mac.

Here are some 'real' screenshots that I took (not those canned ones you've been seeing on all the other blogs!!) along with some comments I have on the usability of the app.

Splash Screen:
This appears for a few seconds while the app launches.

Start Screen (Select what you want to search)
Select the database you want to search (you cannot search both cases and statutes at the same time). You can also browse statutes (any statutes that are not in the Fastcase databank, such as Colorado, will give you an option to launch the iPad browser to go to the official state statute site.)

"Search Caselaw" Screen
Seems to be basic Boolean searching or you can look up by citation.

The Conducting Search Screen (AKA "Hey, why don't you upgrade to our full version" Screen)
If 'free' is nice, the premium version must be better, right??
The searches I conducted took anywhere from three seconds to about fifteen seconds... depending upon the databases selected and the search terms used.

Caselaw Search Result Screen
You can set the display options in the "settings" area. This shows the top results by relevance and gives you the name of the case, decision date, and the number of times this case has been cited.

Caselaw Reading Pane View
The reading pane is nice and clean. You can also 'swipe' to the next result by swiping left, and the previous page by swiping right. This was actually backward from how most other iPad apps work, but I adjusted quickly to the way it works here.

Authority Check Report Page
Although it is not quite a KeyCite or Shepards' results page, it is helpful to have the ability to see cases that have cited this case. It would be even better if Fastcase did this for statutes and other primary law material as well.

Statute Search Results Page
Here's the results page for a statute search with the short name and citation to the statute listed.

Statute Reading Pane
Reading pane for statutes is similar to the caselaw reading screen.

Increase Font Size Option
There is a slider bar that allows you to increase the size of the font. In the next version, it would be nice to allow you to adjust the font through the 'pinching' or 'expanding' the screen by using two fingers.

Save Document Option
You can save documents to read later.


Saved Document Screen
The saved document screen will display all of the documents you've saved. A nice addition to this would be to allow the user to add folders so that documents could be saved to specific research projects.


Recent Searches Page
Past few (default is 10, but you can increase in the settings page) searches are displayed and can be re-run from here.


Settings Page
Adjust the look and feel of the results, display and storage of the app.


The Upgrade to Full Fastcase Version Page
Again... if free is good, premium is better!!


Option for Getting Around the iPad's Printing Issue
Step 1: Press and hold your finger at the top of the screen (somewhere with "white space") until the blue "copy" highlight covers the entire text.
Step 2: Press Copy
Step 3: Open your email program and paste the document into the body of the email. You could also push the text to something like Evernote if you use that.
Step 4: Print the email from your PC or Mac when you get back to your office.

Until Steve Jobs seems to think it is okay for you to print directly from your iPad, this type of work around will have to do.

I've had no problems navigating or searching around the iPad version of Fastcase. It is pretty straight forward and easy to use. It doesn't take advantage of all of the bells and whistles that the iPad offers, but I'm sure that over time it will. I'm looking forward to showing this around to my peers at the AALL conference this weekend (since I know that most won't even have an iPad... and none will have the Fastcase iPad App!!)


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7/6/10

Fastcase Launching iPad Version of Free Legal Research App!

Fastcase is releasing an iPad version of their free legal research app (currently available on the iPhone), and announced the launch on Jeff Richardson's blog iPhone J.D.  Currently you can download the iPhone app to the iPad and run it in the 2x mode, but it is still an iPhone app and looks strange on the iPad's large screen format.

I've gone to the Apps store to find this updated version, but it doesn't appear to be released as I'm writing this. So, go over to iPhone J.D. and check out the information that Fastcase's Ed Walters gave to Jeff. (Or, Legal Geekery's review... really Ed?? Where's the love for 3 Geeks??)

A couple of weeks ago, I talked with some of the folks at Wolters Kluwer, who are also releasing a new version of their IntelliConnect interface (Web-based... not iPad based... yet!) and one of the comments that caught my attention was that they are also releasing an iPhone enhanced browser-version (as well as Blackberry) for IntelliConnect, but are waiting on creating the iPad app version because they don't see it as a "larger iPhone version", but rather as a unique platform that calls for a unique approach on producing applications. The "tablet" computers that are coming out are really changing the way information providers (legal or otherwise) are presenting their information. Even the WestlawNext developers are excited about the tablet interface revolution that is happening. Although it appears that the new Fastcase App isn't set to take advantage of all of the advantages you get from the iPad (larger screen, touch functionality, etc), Fastcase is doing a great job of being "first to market" for their product.

Maybe Ed Walters will let us give the new platform the "once-over" before releasing it to the public!! (hint, hint!!)

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7/2/10

Google Scholar Adds 'Search within Articles Cited' Option

Google Scholar is adding a new feature that allows researchers to conduct a search within the documents that cite to a specific case. This takes its "cited by" function up a notch by allowing you to limit the search to cases or secondary resources that have all cited the same document. I got a note from Google Scholar's Chief Engineer, Anarag Acharya this morning that laid out some of the details.
Just a quick note to mention that earlier today we added the ability to search within citing articles to Google Scholar. This has been a popular feature request :) It allows you to search the complete text of the set of articles/cases citing a document, It can also be used to limit the results to citations from specific jurisdictions (via the dropdown on search pages or the advanced search page).
A blog post describing this with examples and an illustration is at the Google Scholar Blog
It's a pretty simple addition, but one that may assist researchers in narrowing the amount of information they need to search in order to find what they are looking for.  Here's a snapshot of the new feature:





It seems that the handful of folks at Google Scholar are still listening to their users. So, if you have any further suggestions, you should contact them through their suggestions page.

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7/1/10

Hey Vendors... Take Some Notes On How To Properly Respond To Criticism And Suggestions

Over the past few days there's been a number of good posts on the programming at AALL and comments on what some members would like to try differently in the future. I know that there are many AALL members that probably feel that the AALL Executive Board and the conference programming committees have been "picked on" by the criticism and suggestions (and maybe they have), but to look at Catherine Lemann's response, you see that she and the other members have been paying attention, and compiled an excellent FAQ webpage that lays out, in great detail, the processes they took as well as other answers to questions that have been floating around the blogosphere this week.

This type of proactive, honest and detailed response is exactly what AALL leaders needed to do. Notice that this wasn't put out to stop the discussion, but rather to put facts out in order to keep the discussion going. Some of the vendors that snap back at critics with answers like "there's a lot of misinformation floating around" as a way of deflecting issues, could learn a thing or two from the actions taken by Catherine Lemann and others at AALL.

Go check out the FAQ... it has a lot of great details on the process along with some other information that members have been asking about.

Here's  Catherine's note to the members of the Private Law Libraries listserv:

There have been a lot of great online discussions taking place among AALL members about how to make the Annual Meeting even better, especially its educational content. This discussion is wonderful to read, because it underscores how active and invested our members are in the law library profession and in AALL.

It is important we challenge each other to make things even better, so we can continue to develop our skills and gain knowledge from each other. I, and the rest of the Executive Board, have been listening and reading and thought more information about how the current process works would be beneficial to the discussion. So we have worked to put together an FAQ to answer some of the questions that have come up in these conversations. I hope you will find this information helpful. We welcome the discussion and your input. Thank you for your commitment to AALL and your colleagues in the profession.

Catherine Lemann
AALL President


I also like the section of the FAQ that asks:

What are the top three things I can do to ensure that programs meet my needs?
  1. Propose a program.
  2. Work closely with your SIS's Education Committee.
  3. Always respond to AALL surveys which solicit member opinions and ideas.
AALL is successful because of the involvement, enthusiasm, and creativity of you, its members. AALL strongly encourages you to volunteer to help support the professional needs of your law librarian colleagues.



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Legal Research Cost Recovery - The Movie...

One of my friends (who also happens to be a Westlaw Rep) mentioned that she had some clients that were confused when I discussed "Cost Recovery" in the past:
They are on flat rates, and are small 3 or 4 atty firms....so they were relieved to learn that oddly enough, usage has nothing to do with their pricing and they can use the fire out of it without raising their bill. I was relieved to see that you explained that in the update - thank you!. In my world, 100% of my customers have flat fee subscriptions, and they read your column too. It provided me a wonderful opportunity to explain how their plan works, but the situation was eye opening to me. 
First of all, I'm thrilled that her clients are reading my blog (or is she just saying that to kiss-up??... oh well, either way is great!) Second, I should warn anyone that reads this blog that we have a terrible slant toward how things are done in BigLaw. Toby's not as bad at is as I am... but, it's kind of what we know.

I thought that I'd put together a short little presentation that describes the basics of cost recovery (at least in some big firms.) I created this in PowerPoint, then converted it to video using PowerShow.com. The conversion caused a few timing issues, but for a freebie... I'm not complaining! (okay... I'm now complaining. Unfortunately, PowerShow's presentation is an "auto start" "auto repeat" process that is apparently impossible to turn off, so I've embedded the presentation from authorSTREAM instead.)  If for some reason you can't see this because your IT department seems to think that "embedded video" = "porn" ... then you can download the presentation by clicking here. Again, it is a very, very basic overview of how firms recover the cost of Westlaw or LexisNexis searches, but sometimes basic is what we need.


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6/30/10

AALL Conference - How About a "Less is More" Approach?


[Guest Blogger - Tracy Thompson-Przylucki]

I've given a lot of thought to the issue of Annual Meeting programming almost since my first meeting in 1997. I can recall in my first few years of attendance hearing my more senior colleagues express dissatisfaction with the programming, the scheduling, the no-conflict limitations, etc. As I newb, I was still absorbing so much I couldn't imagine what they were lacking. But now (and for a few years) I find myself in the same boat. I want to be part of the solution but so far the exact formula for Annual Meeting nirvana eludes me. I still really enjoy the Annual Meeting and wouldn't miss it for the world, but I'd be thrilled to see some disruptive change, some risk-taking. Even if it failed.

I don't have any transformative suggestions, but I do have some observations. First, less is more. I'd like the Annual Meeting to be less of a mad dash and more of an opportunity to really connect with our colleagues, vendors, etc. A time to reflect, consider and absorb. Recently, especially since it's been shortened, the AM feels frenetic and fractured.

Second, AALL (or any organization) just can't be all things to all people. They have to maximize their resources to approach a Benthamesque balance; the greatest good for the greatest number. There will always be some of us who need/want more.

Third, taking these two points into account, I'd like to see LESS programming (throw eggs and hiss here), limited no-conflict times, and that lost day returned to the schedule (with no programming or exhibit hall on the last day). AALL could facilitate meetings (members sign up for the space they need) on the final day (SISs, committees, working groups, ad hoc groups, chapters, etc.) so that members would have the opportunity to get some of the real work done without conflicts.

I know that the number of programs will always be an issue. I just don't think we need 6 or 8 programs in one time slot. Maybe 4? And rethink the tracks?

Perhaps (thinking out loud)
  1. New Professionals (<5 years) 
  2. Mid-career Professionals (5-10 years) 
  3. Advanced Professionals (10-20 years) 
  4. Mentors (>20 years). 
Or
  1. Law Library Administration and Management 
  2. Law Library Services 
  3. Technology in Law Libraries 
  4. The Future of Law Libraries and the Profession. 
Are you thinking about all the reasons these won't work? How about thinking about how they (or others) could work?

I like the approach of crowdsourcing as some part of the selection process (perhaps not definitive) that someone suggested. This puts some of the responsibility on us as a collective. Remain unengaged at your own peril!

When I've inquired about the shortened schedule I've been told that it was largely a response to PLL members' needs for less time away from their offices. If that is truly the case (could be urban legend!) front load the meeting with PLL content as much as possible to give those folks the flex they need.

Of course, AALL is a business concern. If they take big risks and fail, they risk losing us, their members and their lifeblood. So all of these comments are offered with one eye on that reality and an all too familiar understanding of the challenges membership organizations face in meeting members' expectations, especially in this economy.

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6/28/10

Reducing Legal Fees: The Next Big Mistake

The first big mistake made on reducing legal fees was the focus by clients on rates and hourly discounts. We have previously talked about the value of this approach. Lower rates do not directly correlate to lower fees. Admittedly hourly rates have some impact, however, lowering unit costs without talking about number of units will have a marginal impact on costs at best.
The Next Big Mistake
Now we're hearing a lot of talk about the level of associate salaries (especially first years') and partner compensation from clients and client communities. Although it is not said quite this directly, clients are wanting to see published associate salaries and PPEP (profits per equity partner) numbers go down. Clients seem to be saying "When your comp goes down, that means I'll truly be saving money."
Thinking lower first year salaries or lower PPEP numbers will mean lower fees is yet another mistake. On the surface it may sound like there is a direct connection between lower fees and lawyer compensation, however this is not the case. To illustrate this point, consider that giving business to less profitable vendors of any type does equate to savings. In fact it has an equal or better chance of resulting in the opposite.
Taking a higher level view of this trend, I can see its source. In-house counsel have had issues with billing rates and outside counsel comp for years. So when internal pressures rose to decrease legal fees, the first two things in-house counsel would address are rates and comp.
My advice to clients: If you want to impact legal fees, focus your conversations on fees. I can appreciate the frustrations with rates and comp, but you should move past those and shift your attention to the real issue - Fees. I also appreciate that fees and cost savings are a new and challenging aspect of your job. Facing these issues head-on will be the least painful and most effect approach, in the short and long run.

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Programming at AALL - A Modest Follow-Up….


[Guest Blogger Mark Gediman]


Since my post last week (A modest proposal), I've discovered that I've hit a nerve.  I've received several off-the-record responses as well as a few blogged ones, the most recent of which was from Caren Biberman this morning.  I have to say that several things have become apparent to me:
  1. I'm not as "connected" as I thought I was.
    I was unaware of the reports and decisions referenced by Caren in today's post.
  2. There are quite a few PLLers who feel disenfranchised by the current programming at the Annual Meeting
  3. I have trouble seeing how a registration rate of less than 7% of the PLL membership in the pre-meeting Summit can be pointed to as a positive.
  4. Out the 100 people register for the summit, how many are attending the meeting? This to me would be a telling statistic.
  5. Over 1000 viewings of the post, but only 6 comments.  Hmm…
So, to address each of these:
  1. Why isn't there better communication between AALL and the membership? Every posssible avenue should be used:
    AALL email list.  
    If it works for the President's Letter, it can work for these kind of hot topics.
    SIS and Chapter listservs
    My experience with blogging has shown me that only when you let the widest possible audience know do you truly have a meaningful dialog.
    SIS & Chapter Leadership
    These are the people who are more closely connected to the membership, whether geographically or through their library.  Shouldn't they be utilized more effectively?
  2. This is truly disheartening and should be a major concern for AALL.  The membership of the single largest segment of the association should be made to feel a part of the group.  The consequences of not being inclusive would result in a splintering of AALL, an eventuality no one would like to see.  I have made lasting friendships at the Annual Meeting with people from across the country and across disciplines.  
  3. I'm happy that over 100 people have registered for the Summit, but that means that about 1400 people didn't.  The question we should be asking ourselves is "What can we do to bring more people to the Annual meeting?"
  4. Relating to 3, how many of the 100+ are sticking around?
  5. This appears to be the "Third Rail" of AALL politics.  Everyone wants to change but very few are willing to speak up.
My suggestion is just one possible solution.  Tracks are not by their nature exclusive.  People will remain free to choose to attend programs that match their interests, regardless of SIS affiliation.  The purpose of tracks is to ensure that needs of each group are being met.

Perhaps the AALL Business meeting in Denver is the proper venue to bring this discussion into the open.  I think that any discussion that has the success of the Annual Meeting and, above all, the Association as its goal is inherently good for the organization.

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Marketing Isn’t Random At All. It’s a War!

Marketing is not a bunch of random acts of marketing.

After reading Kim Rice’s blog on “How Can Law Firms Help Their Lawyers With Marketing?”, I just had to chime in.

The science of marketing, which is a combination of accounting, economics, statistics, management and, now, online technology, is a complex and fascinating field to which professionals have dedicated years of study. It is the science of trends—of both people and businesses.

May times I have seen law firms treat marketing as the party-planning crowd: drafting and re-drafting invitations like they are legal documents, creating fancy brochures (online or otherwise) and dreaming up one-off seminars.

But on some occasions, I have witnessed a few firms that have created an admirable alliance between marketing professionals and law firm leadership. Together, they create a firm vision, establishing a marketing plan to achieve that vision and then executing a strategy for its achievement.

This is terribly hard to do. It requires law firm leadership that respects the science of marketing and values the benefits that good marketing can reap. It requires a legal marketing professional that knows how to explain the importance of a marketing plan, then build a team that will execute that plan on a daily basis. Sometimes it requires the strength to say “no” to attorney requests that don’t fit into the firm’s vision. And sometimes it requires a leader to stand up for these decisions.

Marketing isn’t random at all. It’s a war.

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Dykema's Mandatory Associate Training On Westlaw... A Follow-Up

A couple months ago we wrote a post about "Inefficient Westlaw Searches Causes One National Firm to Hold Mandatory Training for Associates". Well, the firm that took on this challenge was Dykema, and I think that they took on an issue that most firms need to address. Pat Orr, Dykema's Manager of Library Services, was nice enough to follow up with me on the training and give me the ability to share her comments with all of you.



Greg

It's hard to believe that 2 months have passed since our " Westlaw Legal Research Best Practices at Dykema" sessions.  As promised, here is the full story.

Our Chief Operating Officer has an executive assistant; a partner transitioning into retirement.  That partner works as a liaison between the practice groups and the COO, particularly for expense review; chalk it up to the economy.  One of the most successful partners was shocked by the cost of a Westlaw search,done by an Associate. He started an email discussion in the Litigation Group which quickly reached the exec assistant partner. Three of the most successful partners in the firm quickly joined in.  All three are avid Library users.  I'm happy to say that it wasn't long before everyone recommended "Get the Library's help."

The decision to not include the Westlaw reps was based on a couple of issues.  The partners wanted all Associates to feel free to ask any questions they wanted and not feel stupid.  They knew the Librarians would give specific examples to illustrate each research tip.  The partners also wanted us to be able to cite specific firm policies, possibly something more sensitive in nature- which we might not do with a vendor present.  We have a great relationship with our Westlaw reps. They knew the decision wasn't a criticism of their work.  In fact, they helped us write the program.

We divided the program into 2 parts. I spoke about the subscriber agreement, and how it really isn't a flat-fee contract despite what your billing attorney may tell you.  The reference librarians addressed the specific tips, and how they do a search in Westlaw.  We had more than a dozen questions, and took the time to give detailed answers.  We wanted to be sure that each question got a clear answer.

Of course, it was a big success: attendance was 100%. (Remember, this was a mandatory program. Attendance was taken- food was served!)   As I review the monthly search reports out of QuickView, I can tell that the effort paid off.  We also had feedback from both partners and Associates.  The partners want this program to be mandatory for summer associates, and for the fall associates- even if it's a repeat for them.  Associates are calling us for guidance before they start a complex project.
We use some of the material as part of orientation for lateral hires. 

My thoughts are that Dykema is a trailblazer in the area of making sure that Associates use resources efficiently. Although it may seem extreme to make all of the Associates attend mandatory training, it really shouldn't be seen as extreme at all. USING RESOURCES LIKE WESTLAW OR LEXIS IS EXPENSIVE... TURNING UNTRAINED ASSOCIATES LOOSE ON THESE RESOURCES IS IRRESPONSIBLE!!! The first training slide in the presentation lays out the fact that the firm does not have a "FLAT FEE CONTRACT" with Westlaw... and that the firm is charged for each and every search conducted. The idea of a flat fee contract is a holdover from the Associate's law school days, and it is one of the most difficult things that the law firm librarian has to break in the Associate's head.

In the presentation that Dykema presents, it lists out 17 points that help the Associates become better researchers. None of the 17 points are earth shattering ideas... but, if you've never been trained, or you've gotten sloppy in how you conduct research, it was good to be reminded of these simple ideas. It lists the "do's" and the "don't's" of research and specifically lists some things to stay away from (e.g., 50 State Survey Reports at $250.00 a pop...) But perhaps the best slide came with the idea of "Talk to the Experts!!" The slide points out that there is no additional charge for contacting the Westlaw reps or research attorneys for help... it also points out there there are experts on staff in the library that should be contacted as well. I'm glad to see that these points were taken to heart by the Associates and they are now contacting the research experts in their library before jumping into a complex project. That alone shows the benefits that Dykema is reaping from requiring all of its Associates to attend the training.

I give all of those at Dykema that are responsible for initiating, conducting and following up on this training a big round of applause for showing the rest of us the need that exists and a way to take on the challenge through educating those that need help. I hope that all firms learn from this and start working on their own training sessions to improve the way their Associates conduct research.

I love the last slide in the presentation... which dovetails nicely with the Einstein image above. Remember: it is called Research for a reason.


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6/25/10

A "Modest Proposal" on Programming at AALL


[Guest Blogger Mark Gediman]


Scene: A dark room, the only light coming from two guttering candles sitting on a large weathered wooden table.
Seated around this table are several hooded figures.  A black velvet bag marked with arcane symbols sits in the center of the table.  One of the figures stands and addresses the group:
"OK, here's the next submission.  Ready? Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock!"

This is how I picture the AALL program selection process.  

The recent blog post from Caren Biberman ("Some thoughts on Programming at AALL") clearly expressed the frustration that Law Firm librarians are feeling, and let's be honest, have felt for years about the program offerings at the AALL Annual Meeting.  

I believe that there are a few factors at work here:
1.  A greater percentage of the active members of AALL are from academic and government institutions.  This can skew the program selection process due to a having a different set of priorities rather than a desire to discriminate against one group.
2.  Firms are tighter with professional development dollars, limiting attendance at these meetings.  A librarian commented to me yesterday that she couldn't use the program offerings to show her firm how it would help her be an asset to the firm.  Instead, she had to use the intangibles of networking, vendor contacts and new products that might be useful to the firm.  A much more difficult case to make.
3.  As someone who has submitted several programs over the past few years, I can tell you first hand that AALL has the most difficult program submission process of the major legal associations.  This definitely has a chilling effect on submissions.
Here is my modest proposal:

I think the annual meeting programs should be organized as tracks broken out along the lines of the major SIS's (PLL, Academic, Courts & Govt) with an extra track for law librarianship, cross-disciplinary programs (i.e., "How to get published").  The National Online Meeting and the ILTA Annual Meeting are organized along these lines.  This would allow the individual groups to determine the programs that best meet the needs of their members.  It would also get away from offering programs that may be skewed toward one group but isn't readily apparent from the description. The audience that a program is geared to would be obvious from the track it is in.  For example, budgeting for firm librarians is a completely different process than it is for academic or government librarians. 

The PLL Summit this year is an attempt to address this need.  However, the time and additional cost for housing and admission are barriers for firm librarians to attend.  If the Summit were folded into the Annual meeting, it would give the firm librarians something that they could show their firms to better justify the expense.  I think implementing this could also result in increased attendance for this group.

I'm all for being inclusive.  I'm thankful to AALL for providing me with a venue to connect with colleagues from across different libraries as well as from across the country.  I think that anything that brings more people to the Annual Meeting is good for both the profession and the Association.

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6/24/10

Grade Inflation in Law Schools? Big Whoop...

According to the New York Times, Loyola Law School in Los Angeles is "tacking on 0.333 to every grade recorded in the last few years" with the goal of making "its students look more attractive in a competitive job market." Apparently, the new grade inflation for law students is becoming all the rage across the country, and if your school isn't doing it, the students get upset. I've seen a number of tweets and blog posts talking about this "phenomenon" over the past few days, and every time I see one flash by, my only thoughts are "Big-Whoopty-Freakin'-Deal!!" Last time I checked, if you raise everyone's grades, everyone's class ranking stays the same.

Hint to law students... if you have a B+ average and you're in the bottom 1/3rd of your class ranking... employers know there is grade inflation. All that grade inflation doesn't really help you, or make you look that impressive to potential employers. Everyone knows it is going on, that's why we look at class rankings and the reputation of the school your attending. So, complain to the Dean of your school all you want to raise everyones grades from a B- to a B or a C+ to a B-, it won't help.

Now instead of faking your way from a B+ to an A-... be proud of your grades. We here at 3 Geeks think that recruiters should hire the "C" students. Like Toby said back in February:
Harry S. Truman said “The ‘C’ students run the world.” The gist of that statement in our context is that C students are the ones with the relationship skills. For them school wasn’t about getting the best grade. Beyond learning, it was about enjoying the people you met. These C students are the ones that make business happen It’s their relationship skills that get and keep clients and make the business a success.
So quit focusing on the red herring of inflating your grades and start working on improving your overall class ranking. If you can't improve that, then work on those skills and relationships that will make you better prepared for the transition from the academic world into the real world of the business of being a lawyer.

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The 'Fuzzy' Difference Between Case Management & Legal Project Management

I sat in yesterday on an event hosted by LexisNexis on the webinar/virtual panel entitled "The Discipline and Benefits of Project Management." The two panelist were Bruce MacEwan, Founder, Adam Smith Esq., and Tom Birsic, Partner and Litigation Practice Leader, K&L Gates, and both had a lot to say about the current state of Legal Project Management (LPM) for in-house and outside counsel. It was interesting to hear both MacEwan and Birsic discuss how LPM is basically still in its infancy and that currently there is a 'fuzzy' distinction between what lawyers consider case management, and what lawyers need to change in order to accomplish Legal Project Management. Subtle though it might seem on paper, MacEwan went on to say that the law firms that figure out that distinction and are the first to act and explain the value of LPM will be at a serious competitive advantage over their peer firms.

I'll list some of my notes that I took while listening in below, but wanted to reprint the overview of the discussion first, as I think it lays out a good overview of LPM and what the panelists were focused on discussing.  Note: It was actually a video panel - vpanel - but the video was quite disappointing because it tended to freeze and make the panelists look like they were in the middle of a painful medical procedure. Apologies to Kevin, Tom and Bruce for posting this snapshot of the vpanel... but the video was pretty bad...


Overview of Panel:

Project management is nothing more than rationally supervising the process of 



  1. deploying resources 
  2. which have associated costs 
  3. against tasks 
  4. to accomplish specified objectives. 
Viewed this way, disputed matters and transactions are simply types of projects, albeit sophisticated ones. Learn more about how project management can help make alternative billing models more predictable, transparent, and effective, including:



  • Why your firm needs to focus on continually improving project management skills
  • Developing ways to more readily provide budget updates to clients
  • Ensuring that lawyers are skilled at clarifying and communicating expectations and guiding the engagement process

  • Implementing processes to review performance at the end of an assignment, or sooner, if need (“Lessons Learned”)
  • Applying the appropriate staffing model that provides the needed skills at an acceptable value.

My Notes:

Project Managers - Should it be current lawyers or should firms bring in actual project managers?
I was surprised right off the bat when Birsic mentioned that he thinks that firms that try to convert one of its existing lawyers into a Project Manager is not as effective as bringing in a "real" Project Manager. This made me wonder if this is one of those situations where this is a 'factually correct statement', but one that if you attempted to implement would fail due to firm culture? Kind of like the fact that cars with mid-engine, front-wheel drive chassis are the most efficient... but no one mass produces this type of model because no one buys them? 

Key to LPM is to have a process for rigorous "early case assessment"
Partners that establish procedures for creating early case assessment documents are working in the right direction for implementing LPM processes. The early case assessment document should be initiated within the first 45 days of the matter, and should be viewed as a 'living document' that will change over the life of the matter. This reminded me of Jeff Carr's talk at the Texas Bar Association meeting where he said that he wouldn't even talk with outside counsel unless they presented him with an early case assessment document that explained how the firm was going to handle this matter, and what the lawyers anticipated were going to be the overall goals and objectives for this matter over time.

Electronic Billing is one of the greatest tools of case management
MacEwan mentioned that the implementation of electronic billing is one of the best tools ever for managing cases. I've also heard this statement before when the issue of LPM is discussed. Why is electronic billing so important?? Most likely for two reasons. 1) It creates another logical process that shows the tasks, and the costs that those task create. 2) It is a de facto communication between the client and firm. Clients get a chance to see costs as they are created, and perhaps the ability to question those costs.

Are there trade offs between the quality of work and cost controls when it comes to LPM?
This is a question that is asked a lot when firms think about LPM. If costs are cut, doesn't that essentially mean that quality will suffer? Birsic said that quality is not compromised when LPM strategies are used because your improving the efficiency, not reducing the quality of work performed. He did throw out the caveat of reducing quality at the Request for Proposal (RFP) stage by the client. If the client is pressing for price over quality of firm, then there might be a trade off at that point. However, Birsic specifically mentioned that LPM does not increase the overall costs for the client. If it does, then the client has either hired the wrong firm, or the wrong in-house counsel.

LPM is not stressed during the RFP stage -- unless the RFP is asking for Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs)   
Birsic mentioned that he doesn't really use LPM as a selling point for most RFPs. That changes if there is a request for AFAs, however, because the firm and client need to understand the overall process and costs of matters when deciding the fee structure on AFAs. Firms that have structured LPM processes in place are better equipped to handle AFA negotiations successfully, and to structure the metrics needed to evaluate how well the firm does in handling AFAs (did we lose money, break even, make money, make too much??) Birsic also noted that in-house counsel are very bad at these types of metrics in trying to determine how well firms have handled AFAs for them. 

LPM is here to stay... learn it, practice it, live it, or get left behind
Both MacEwan and Birsic didn't hesitate to say that LPM is not a 'favor of the month' idea. LPM is here to stay and those in-house and outside counsel that understand and require/perform LPM practices will have a significant competitive advantage over those that pretend that the status quo is "good enough". Just as with any other skill, the more you practice your LPM procedures, the better you will get at it.

Legal matters are expensive... LPM will help somewhat, but not make it cheap
MacEwan mentioned that sometimes outside counsel need to be realistic with clients when it comes to the cost of litigation or other legal issues. He mentioned that clients complain that outside counsel don't understand the pressures that they are under to cut legal costs from the corporate hierarchy. Sometimes outside counsel need to frank with their clients and remind them that legal issues are expensive.

Case Management is not Legal Practice Management... but the differences are 'fuzzy'
Birsic discussed the belief that most attorneys believe that they are conducting 'case management' on all of their matters, and that most attorneys believe that they are excellent case managers, thus do not need to do any LPM processes. MacEwan chimed in that the difference between case management and LPM is fuzzy, but that the firms that distinguish the difference, implement the processes, and act first will have a serious advantage in the marketplace.


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6/23/10

Survey Says -- Fastcase Ranks Higher For "Price for Value" Than Westlaw or Lexis

In the recent Law Technology News Vendor Satisfaction Survey, it seems that the users of the low-cost legal research service Fastcase give it an 87.5% "Excellent Price for Value" approval rate. Compare that with the users of Westlaw (12.7% "Excellent Price for Value") and Lexis (14.3% "Excellent Price for Value"). Granted, there were a lot more participants in the Westlaw (n=181) and Lexis (n=147) than were in the Fastcase survey (n=8), but let's face it... most attorneys feel that they can't use anything other than Wexis to do research. However, there is rumblings even in large law firms to take advantage of resources like Fastcase, Loislaw, Casemaker and Google Scholar in order to reduce the overall costs to the firm and the clients. Fastcase has worked very hard to break the attorney's belief that Westlaw and Lexis are the only resources that they have at their disposal to conduct quality legal research.

Many of the librarians I've talked to lately say that there they are being asked more and more to train associates to use and understand the benefits of resources like Fastcase and even (or rather, especially) Google Scholar. I'm thinking this isn't just a fad... it is a trend. We've mentioned before that you are stupid if you aren't using these resources in some capacity at your firm, especially if you get these free through your state bar association!! As a law librarian you really need to get on top of these products and understand how to use them, and how to train others to use them. This is one of those situations where your skills are needed by your firm in order to help push costs down.

Congrats to Fastcase for scoring an "Excellent" rating in 7 out of 10 categories.  Here's hoping that next year's survey shows them catching up to the Wexis vendors in number of responses!


FASTCASE SCORES:

LEXIS SCORES:


WESTLAW SCORES:



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