4/25/11

The Law Firm / Law School Disconnect

The upcoming Elephant Post this week deals with the question of what do law schools need to stop teaching, and replace it with something that the profession sees as more valuable to those entering the legal profession. I have to be one of the first to admit that when I transitioned from a law school job to a law firm job, I was stunned by the extreme differences between the two jobs that were supposed to be of the same profession. Setting aside some of the obvious distinctions, such as Westlaw contracts going from five-figure dollar range to the seven-figure dollar range, there were core areas of distinction between my law school job duties and my law firm job duties. After working in the law firm environment now for nearly a decade, I am constantly reminded of the dichotomy between law schools and law firms.

As I was making my way through my reading list, I ran across Jason Wilson's post on an upcoming paper from Lisa D. Kinzer, a law student from the University of Texas School of Law, where she discusses her survey on the utter reliance that law students have with WestlawNext. When I read a couple of the sentences explaining the thoughts behind the paper, it reminded me once again of the distinctions of "what's important" in the law school setting may not have any importance what so ever in the law firm. Indicating that students have a significant preference of using WestlawNext, Kinzer states:
When one considers that very few practitioners even have access to WestlawNext, the implications for the effective preparation of law students for the workplace are considerable.... In this paper, I review the results of my survey and offer proposals as to how law schools can incorporate the seemingly addictive WestlawNext into their research curriculum while still ensuring that students will be effective when working with the limited resources available at the average law office.
Law schools have an almost bipolar approach to how they prepare students for the legal profession. I know, many of you may think that tri-polar or quad-polar may be more accurate, but I'll just stick to the research approach at this time.  Just think of what the legal research and writing teams have to accomplish, and bring in the law librarians as well. First of all, there is the task of having to teach the basics of reading, writing, and researching based on the traditions of the profession. However, on the opposite end of this spectrum lies the advanced research tools, such as WestlawNext, that work to perform many of those basic tasks for the researcher.

In a way, you can think of it as teaching a teenager how to drive by having them read a book about a Ford Escort with a manual transmission, then taking them out on the road in a high-end SUV with an automatic transmission. I'm sure that the driving instructor would confidently answer that all of the students are capable of driving a manual transmission… although, almost none of the students will have actually driven one. Much like many of the R&W profs and law librarians will say that since students have access to the old "Westlaw.com" platform, they should be able to research on it if they are forced to. If you're a teenager and you have the keys to an Escalade and an Escort… both with full-tanks of gas, and Daddy will replenish the gas tank when you bring it back… which one do you think they are going to drive?

Now, before my friends in academia start drafting hate letters to me, I want to point out that I don't think that the problem rests with the R&W profs or the law librarians at the law schools. I think that the blame for letting students get out of law school without the proper amount of core legal research skills rests mainly on the shoulders of the law firms that recruit students without laying out the standards of what is expected of them when they show up on day one, and pass along that information back to the R&W profs and law librarians. Think about it… when is the last time that a law firm librarian went to the law school librarian and gave them a list of core skill that are needed to work at this law firm? I'm sure it happens, but not very often.

As long as we pretend that law schools and law firms don't really need to work together to improve the skills that law students have when they transition from academics to professional setting, then this problem will persist. I've heard for years, from both academics and firms, that they are hoping that either the Bar or some other association will step up and work out the details of changing how law students are better prepared for entering the profession. Well, guess what. These Bars and associations are made up from the same batch of people wanting it to be someone else's responsibility.

I think that this problem is worked out the same way that many environmentalist look at how everyone could save the world: "Think Globally, Act Locally". If you're really disappointed at the skills that your Summer and Fall Associates have when they come to your firm, draft up what skills you expect these associates to have, and give it to the law schools you generally hire from. At a minimum, it will get the conversation going. There's a saying that I use a lot around the office that kind of fits the situation that many R&W profs and law librarians at law schools find themselves in. "I can create great tools that do wonderful things, but if it doesn't fit your needs, then it is worthless." I usually back that statement up with a call for input from those I work with to tell me what they need. I think it is high time that law firm and law school professionals start talking and telling each other what they really need.



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4/21/11

Elephant Post: What Will the Law Firm of 2021 Look Like?

We've asked you to pull out your crystal ball and look ten years into the future to see what the law firm of 2021 might look like. As usual, you didn't disappoint us with your answers. We have visions of changes in basic technology; the "super-marketing" effect of law firms, including catchy brand names; changes in the way information flows across a firm and how we interact with that information, and; a better work/life balance within the way lawyers at law firms work.

We thank all of the contributors, and hope that you'll find next week's Elephant Post question (conveniently posted below) interesting enough that you will take a couple of minutes to jot down your perception of the issue.


Greg Lambert
Library/Records Guy

See that telephone on your desk? Gone! Everything will be funneled through whatever Personal Computing device you have in front of you, or attached to your hip (hopefully those God-Awful Bluetooth jawbone devices will die a swift death!!)

We will finally have the video conferencing we've been promised for 50 years at our fingertips, and no longer will conversations be simply two voices talking over the ether. In other words, Dick Tracy's gadgets will become the norm.

I'm sure that for those that forgot to comb their hair will have an automated "avatar" set up that will mouth the words for you.


Brian Rogers
Lawyer

I long for the day when law firms have real brand names.

I'm bad with names, so the long-followed practice of naming firms after the people who work there, or, more likely, once worked there, is a real pain for me. I have lawyer friends and colleagues who work for a lot of different firms, but for the life of me I could only name a dozen in my city of St. Louis, and I shorten most of those to a single name in my own personal nomenclature. (That practice was a little uncomfortable at times when I worked at a firm where the only living name partner was listed third in the firm's name.)

Why can't our law firms sport easy-to-remember names with a little pizzazz, maybe Virgin Law, GoDaddy.esq, Amazon.jd, or E*Sue? Or we could even go a more descriptive route with Top Gun, Dollar Lawyer, or Law Factory. Anything's better than Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie, Stiffelman, Cook, Johnson, Lande & Wolf. Ten names? Really? You'll always just be Zif to me.


Kevin Miles
Thinker

The law firm of 2021 will be significantly different in terms of service personnel. For example, private law librarians will wear additional problem solving hats; they will "own" Wikis, research portals, moodles, and other information-sharing tools like Sharepoint; they will become client-focused project managers. From the human relations side, private law librarians will become embedded with practice group teams. This will affect library schools and what they teach, and law schools and how they prepare attorneys to connect to the new information paradigm.


Bob Wells
Lawyer

In larger cities, law will be provided through in house counsel, prosecutors, public defenders, large defense firms, large plaintiffs firms and . . . Walmart.  There will be private investment in law firms, which will be taken over by chain stores to serve the middle class.  Solos and small firms will hang on in smaller cities and rural areas.


Mark Gediman
Law Librarian & Records

The mists are clearing.  I see...I see...I see a Librarian toiling away in front of a flat screen.  The Librarian appears to be speaking to it (at least that hasn't changed). Wait, the Librarian is using oral commands to search both internal and external information. Internal and external information have equal value as the firm builds on it's internal knowledge while keeping up-to-date with external resources.  The Librarian will morph (much like a Transformer without the cool voice)into a Researcher who is charged with managing and mining the firm's information, from internal work product and client files to external subscriptions.  Why?  Because this is a function that takes advantage of the organzation skills Librarians have had from time immemorial.  Supporting the firm's operations is what we do.  Does this interfere with IT? Not at all, this is just the information side of the coin, not the technology side.


Scott Preston
Technologist

In order to understand the future, let’s look at the past.  Compared to twenty years ago, technology plays a bigger role but we still use word processors to get work product out.  We still struggle to share knowledge, we still cling to large expensive office space and we still charge by the hour.  Technology has grown by leaps and bounds but law firms still struggle to take advantage.

What will change over the next ten years is the lifestyles, dreams and goals of the younger lawyers who will become the leaders of law firms in ten years.  With a greater emphasis on work/life balance we are going to see less emphasis on being in the office.  Working remotely will become common place.  You will not need to have an office for every attorney (reduce overhead).  In ten years, the virtual law firm will be much more common place than it is today.  Social networking functionality will be incorporated into the attorneys practice allowing for new workflows that will support the virtual law firm concept.  We will see more boutique firms working together to compete with big law.  In ten years attorneys will return to dictation rather than typing as a means of capturing their ideas.  Just kidding!


Next Elephant Post:
Law Schools Should Stop Teaching ________ and Start Teaching ________!
As many of us gear up for a smaller Summer Associate program, we find that we need to tweak some of the basic skills (or completely teach them) for many of those Associates. I hear a lot of griping at conferences about the skills that law students have when they are fresh out of their 2nd or 3rd year, so we thought we'd give all of you a chance to step up and let us know what you think would better prep these future lawyers for the profession they just spend $100K+ to enter.

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4/20/11

Disruptive Announcements; LPM 2.0 and JDMatch

This past week there were two announcements that confirm the emergence of disruptive forces in the legal market. First, Jim Hassett announced version 2.0 of his LPM Guide, and second, Bruce MacEwen announced the new JDMatch service
LPM 2.0
Jim Hassett release the second, updated version of the Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide this past week. Although there is general consensus in the market that lawyers need to adopt legal project management (LPM) in some fashion, there is little consensus as to the form that should take. Some argue for a full-on PMBOK approach, while others argue for a “Baby Steps” approach. Serving on his advisory group gave me the opportunity to comment and see previews of the update version.
The Guide is useful since it can accommodate a variety of approaches. It can be utilized as an A-to-Z tool, or lawyers can pick and chose the aspects of the Guide they find useful. The intent and style of it accommodates both perspectives. Jim’s general approach to LPM is one of injecting project management principles into lawyers’ existing practice methods. The Guide reflects this approach and can shy away from more formal PMI-type methods.
The updated Guide reflects the continuing evolution and expansion of LPM in the market.
JDMatch
The existing method for matching law students to law firms for potential employment is much like the rest of the industry – full of rich traditions and incredible inefficiencies. So Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton over at the Adam Smith, Esq blog developed a new approach. They are using technology to greatly expedite the process and provide a better informed method for helping law firms and law students connect. Students and law firms input their preferences into the system, then “matching” algorithms are run to demonstrate the best matches for both sides. This eliminates the need for both parties to spend time on unlikely opportunities.
The system is new and yet to be proven, but the idea is quite intriguing. You can read more about this on their Blog and on the WSJ Law Blog.
We wish the best of luck to Bruce and Janet in this new endeavor.
What’s Next?
We will likely see more tools and market players enter the scene with disruptive ideas and technologies. We have all been talking about the need for change for some time now. So it’s refreshing and encouraging to see changes actually come.

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4/18/11

Government Information: A Classic "Pick Two" Option

Last week, there were a couple of random tweets that flew between Ed Walters, Don Cruse, and me that weren't really a big deal in and of itself, but it got me thinking about the way that Government data is compiled, accessible, online, authoritative, and free to the end-user. Ed's tweet was what caught my eye, when he said:
"#opengov divide is between free and open, IMHO. @Google=free, @Fastcase=open (for example). Public.Resource.org=both #lawgov". 
There were a few more tweets amongst the group, where I asked if this meant that PACER was in the "open" category the same way that "Fastcase=open" (or if you're in Texas, "Casemaker=Open")? Don Cruse didn't think so and added:
"Nope. PACER tries to restrict reuse and redistribution of data, putting it in a form that's hard to access."
The whole Open/Free access to government information, especially the laws, regulations and court decisions that we have to abide by, made me think of the old saying of "you can have it fast, cheap or good… now pick two." Only with the type of information we're talking about here, there may be more than three things we need, yet we may only be able to still pick two of those things in what we end up with.

I guess the Holy Grail of pushing the type of government information that those of us in the legal industry would like to see, has the following characteristics:

  • Complete
  • Open Access
  • Online Content
  • Authoritative 
  • Free

Now… pick which two you want.



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4/15/11

Abraham Asks: Would Cleopatra Want to be a 21st Century Law Librarian?

As we end the National Library Week for 2011, and it happens that Equal Pay Day fell in the same week, my good friend Mary Abraham from Above and Beyond KM, brings up an issue that has plagued librarians for decades. Does the library profession suffer because it is viewed as a "traditionally female" profession, and that pay for women librarians averages less than their male counterparts. (quoting from a couple of statements from AALL and the American Library Association.)

Abraham specifically looks at the law librarian in the 21st century and compares the current state of women in the law librarian profession to that of 1st century Egypt from the new Stacy Schiff biography on Cleopatra. After comparing the two, Abraham writes:
To be honest, I’m not sure that Cleopatra would ever agree to be a 21st century female law librarian. Given her high level of education, political skill and leadership ability, do you think she would have tolerated the inequities?
She emphasizes this by then asking, "Why do we?"

One of the things I heard a lot of in the '90s was that the librarian profession was 80% female, but that library administration was 80% male. I have to say that, anecdotally, I don't see those same stats in the law library field. Does that same 80/20 rule still work in today's law libraries? Perhaps I'm leading a sheltered life (I'm sure if I am, that my other good friend, and powerful female law librarian, Jean O'Grady, will be happy to tell me so.)

I've always joked that if you've gone into the profession of librarianship for the money, you are going to be sadly disappointed. My wife and I (both librarians, by the way) look at our profession by comparing it to the game of Careers. She gets lots of hearts as an elementary librarians, and I have managed to get lots of stars as a law librarian, but neither of us expect a lot of dollar signs.

But, enough about me… Get over to Mary Abraham's post and add your comments on whether you think that Cleopatra would have put up with the inequities.

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4/14/11

Elephant Post: The Last 10 Years Have Really Changed _________!!

In the past decade, we have probably had a Century's worth of change going on. Whether it is boarding a plane, reading a book, or reading an email, things just don't look like they did in 2001 in many cases. If Moore's Law states that technology doubles every 18 months, then the technology of 2011 should have expanded by a factor of over 6… yet according to one of our commenters, Microsoft must have gotten an exemption from this law when it comes to its MS Office tools.

To me, one of the biggest changes has affected the profession of Legal Records and Retention. We are coming up on the 10-year anniversary of the Enron scandal, and I get to come in to my office here in Houston and see the old Enron buildings through my windows (they are now owned by Chevron… but most Houstonians still call them the Enron buildings.) The 2001 version of legal records departments were a hodge-podge of clerks asked to maintain paper files, pretty much on an ad hoc basis. There were almost no retention policies that were in place (or if they were, they weren't followed.) With the passage of Sarbane-Oxley rules, and the need to lock down electronic records as the business world slowly migrated from print to electronic records, the need for highly-skilled Records Managers became a requirement for almost every major business in the US. Law firms were a little slow to the party (not a surprise to many of us), but are catching up, especially in the electronic records area. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues over the next 10 years, or if everyone gets lazy again, and another Enron scandal has to occur to get everyone focused again on the risks of not following records retention policies.

As always, we appreciate those of you that contribute your perspectives to our weekly Elephant Posts. We've placed next week's question below, so read on and see if you have a perspective you'd like to share with us.



Kevin Miles
Citation Verification

I think it is good that citation verification is now online. Remember those bound volumes of Shepard's? Cite-checking a large brief could take hours as you had to check the bound volumes and all the updates. The online versions save you a lot of time and headaches, and provide links to additional material. Moreover, the software reads the brief, extracts the citations, and provides a report in a very reasonable time.


John Gillies
Search and integrating KM data

In June 2000, I started the KM initiative (joined a few months later by Joshua Fireman) at what was then Canada's largest firm. We wanted a browser-based KM repository, but nothing available on the market offered the sort of features that met our business requirements.

After an RFP process, we had a Toronto-based KM company build our software, which we launched in late December 2001. The search function was basic, as was the tagging feature, but simply having those two features put our application well ahead of whatever else was available at the time.

Now, enterprise search is almost a given, with tagging, commenting, and a host of other features available in commercially-available products, which among other things eliminates the risk in having to pay a developer to build from scratch.

If anything, the problem with search engines now (rather like for cell phones and video cameras) is that the number of features tend to overwhelm the "average" user. But at the end of the day, I'd rather have an overwhelming number of features than their almost total absence!


Brian Rogers
Microsoft Word

Just kidding...Word hasn't changed that much, but almost all the rest of the technology I use on a daily basis, from my netbook to my iPhone to various social media applications weren't even a twinkle in their inventors' eye 10 years ago.


Lisa Salazar
Tooth Brushes

Refusing to cave into technology in this one area, I still use a manual toothbrush, despite the fact that all of major hitters in the tooth brush industry now offer electric tooth brushes.

With floss and brush in hand, I continue to visit my dentist every 6 months. And I have very nice teeth.

And, according to Wikipedia, in January 2003, the toothbrush was selected as the number one invention Americans could not live without according to the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index.


Ellen Quinn
Everything

The last 10 years have really changed many of my basic assumptions about work and life.  Maybe the next Elephant Post question should be, what has stayed the same?  In 2001 it was conventional wisdom that:  real estate was a good investment, some companies were too big to fail, libraries were valuable public resources, if you passed the bar you could get a good job, lawyers billed clients on an hourly basis, computers could help you save time, you could get all of your work done if you were just more organized, the paperless office was on the horizon. you made your own coffee at home and read the newspaper, the future was better and brighter.  Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating about the newspaper.



Next Week's Elephant Post:
In What Way Will The Law Firm of 2021 Look Significantly Different From Today?
Pull out your crystal ball and peer into the future. Whether it is change through technology, change through outsourcing, change through consolidation, or any other type of change you can think of, what do you think will look significantly different between a law firm of 2011 and 2021?

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4/13/11

New-Style Legal Competitor Going Public

Many times I find the most interesting news buried well below the fold. In this case, the news was actually front-and-center in an ALM newsletter, but the full impact of this story is still buried in a sense. The news item: “The Best Defense? Patent Aggregator RPX Prepares For IPO.”
RPX is advertised as a patent aggregator. I see this company as a disruptive force in the legal market. It's a new type of business that is positioned to displace traditional providers (a.k.a law firms) in the patent disputes market.
In a case study of the patent litigation market (still to be blogged about here), I conclude there is a shift away from hourly-based pricing to fee-level pricing going on in this market. As this is happening there are significant inefficiencies in how this new pricing mechanism is working. In layman's terms this means it is difficult to know what the market price actually is.
In economic parlance, imperfect pricing markets present excellent business opportunities for disruptive models, since buyers are more willing to explore alternative ideas for similar services. In the patent disputes market the traditional and expensive method of resolution has been litigation.
So RPX enters the market with a new way to value and resolve patent disputes by introducing a value-add component – aggregating and licensing patents. When a client is sued for patent infringement, they go directly to RPX who holds a pool of patents they can use to counter the suit. This vast pool of intellectual property (IP) allows clients to more capably and directly respond to any infringement claims. When insufficient IP exist for a given case, RPX resolves the dispute in question by acquiring a license for or even the actual patent from the plaintiff. This in turn adds to their pool of IP. So over time, the value of the service increases.
The bottom line for law firms here is that clients will be taking their patent disputes directly to RPX instead of lawyers.
Is RPX practicing law? Not really, but who cares. The clients will only give them their business if it saves them money and brings value.
RPX going public is a big signal that clients are doing exactly that.

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Lead, Follow, or Stay the Heck Out of the Way

While my wife is off in Austin, along with 6500 of her closest librarian friends, at the Texas Library Association Conference this week, she left a task for one of the kids to do in the library while she is out (she's the elementary librarian at the school two of our three children attend.) Instead of allowing the substitute librarian to try to figure out how to re-shelve the books, she asked that the books that were checked in be arranged on an open shelf for the time being and she would take care of it when she got back. So, my instructions to the older of the two girls was to complete the task. My instruction to the younger of the two was to either help her sister complete this task, or stay out of her way and don't interfere  As I was riding in to work this morning, I got to thinking of how many times I have to give these same instructions in my professional life.

I'm sure we've all been there… at work… at a conference… at a professional organization meeting… on a committee… where once an idea is formulated, and a plan of action is in place, there are leaders, there are followers, there are those that do nothing, and then there is those that drag their feet and find ways to just get in the way. Kind of like what my kids do to sabotage each other.

It reminded me of some other sayings that I've used as a parent that seem to fit in my professional life:
  • Don't try to spend 30 minutes to get out of a 10 minute task… you're still going to have to do the task, and we're all just going to be mad at each other.
  • Don't deflect… your sister borrowing your favorite shirt doesn't explain why you didn't get your homework finished.
  • Don't think that your failing at something means it's going to reflect badly upon your teacher… If everyone else was able to get the work accomplished, the issue is with you, not the person handing out the instructions.
  • Doing a great job on an assignment doesn't mean much if you forget to turn it in on time… Don't tell me it's an "A" paper if you turned it in two days late and got a "C". What you have there is a "C" paper.
  • Believe it or not, we're all on the same team here… We succeed or fail together.
I'm sure there are hundreds of more "parenting" sayings that fit the professional world. These are the one's I could think of off the top of my head. So, the next time you're on one of these committees and you hear someone deflecting an issue… feel free to ask them what does their sister borrowing their favorite shirt have to do with why they didn't get something accomplished. Go ahead… it'll be fun to watch the confused look on their face. 



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4/12/11

Why You Should Join The New AALL Caucus on Consumer Advocacy

Note: I'm joining in on the fun of posting the statement of the Library Consumer Advocacy group that is applying to become an AALL Caucus. Please look over the statement to see if it is something that you would like to support as an AALL member. The statements are duplicated at Out of the Jungle, Law Librarian Blog, and SarahGlassmeyer(dot)com.


We are a diverse group of law librarians and legal publishers who favor fair, and competitive, business practices among vendors of legal information services (LIS). We will soon apply to become an AALL caucus, and we will meet informally during the 2011 AALL Annual Meeting. (We will announce the time and place here.) We ask you to join us as we reinvigorate our profession’s commitment to consumer advocacy. Why should you support this grassroots initiative?
Some LIS vendors continue to profit from unfair, and anti-competitive, business practices. Unfair business practices include opaque pricing, non-disclosure clauses, defective editorial standards, misleading advertising, duplicate billing, and unrequested shipments. The Information Access Alliance (IAA) has considered “problems in the scholarly and legal publishing markets,” such as “insupportably high prices, accelerating industry consolidation, and anti-competitive practices by some large publishers.” In 2006, an attorney for IAA said that “single-firm anti-competitive conduct accounts at least in some part for the serious problems confronting research libraries today.” His statement targets anti-competitve restrictions in ”bundled” subscription licenses. These and other anti-consumer practices have been sufficiently widespread to exact enormous, cumulative costs on all types of law libraries and LIS consumers. They also disadvantage LIS vendors who comply with AALL’s Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers.
As a profession, we would advance the collective interests of our employers and our patrons if we did more to overcome shared consumer problems in LIS markets. We would also promote a vital public interest, because the contested practices undermine the quality and availability of copyrighted legal publication. (See related arguments or observations herehereherehere, and here.)
AALL has a valuable role in consumer advocacy, but falls short of its promise. Our organization participates in IAA, and has sponsored research on merger-related pricing by economist Mark McCabe. McCabe found that following the Thomson-West merger in 1996, prices of Thomson treatises and encyclopedias increased by 40 percent, and the acquired West titles increased by 23 percent. Yet this finding did not lead AALL to expand its consumer advocacy, and IAA appears to have been dormant since 2007. CRIV more than merits our praise and gratitude for resolving individual complaints when LIS vendors violate AALL’s Guide. Yet AALL has no policy to redress a history of pervasive violations by some LIS vendors. Neither AALL nor its Chapters have investigated the national scope of unfair, or anticompetitive, business practices by LIS vendors, or considered commensurate remedies. Our organization does not even rank LIS vendors by how their practices affect consumers, even though the Guide and other benchmarks would provide means of comparison.
The new AALL caucus would reinvigorate our profession’s commitment to consumer advocacy:
Statement of Purpose of New AALL Caucus on Consumer Advocacy
Business practices of legal information vendors (LIVs) warrant more vigorous consumer advocacy than our profession has pursued. Our caucus may: (1) recommend or implement improved disclosures of LIV practices that harm consumers or weaken LIV competition; (2) determine if law librarians and their supporters should renew efforts to investigate unfair, or anti-competitive, business practices by LIVs; (3) recommend further investigation to AALL, interested parties (such as library and attorney associations), or government agencies; (4) examine whether voluntary guidelines have provided adequate remedies to unfair, or anticompetitive, business practices by LIVs; (5) propose legal remedies to AALL, interested parties, or government agencies; (6) encourage law librarians to discuss or pursue these options among themselves and attorneys; and (7) partner with all parties seeking stronger consumer protections from unfair, or anti-competitive, business practices of information vendors. Our caucus may also take other actions to advance the strongest consumer advocacy allowed by law.
Once AALL approves our caucus application, we will welcome partnerships with other LIS consumers like attorneys, their affiliated associations, and LIS vendors who follow the letter and spirit of the law in their business practices.
The success of our initative depends on your support. Please contact our representative, Sarah Glassmeyer, if you wish to join in even a limited capacity, whether or not you can attend our informal meeting in Philadelphia. sarah.glassmeyer@gmail.com) We promise to keep all inquiries confidential.




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4/11/11

AALL Legal Publications Price Index Survey (Open Until 4/22)

Although there are a lot of people on the Law-Lib listserv, I also happen to know that many of the people I know at AALL don't subscribe for one reason or another (you can probably guess a few of those reasons.) However, one thing that did fly by on the list is a request for AALL members to go fill out a short survey on the Legal Publications Price Index.
The Task Force is seeking to address better ways to meet the needs of the AALL members, so filling out the survey is important, even if you do not use the Price Index. The survey is open until April 22nd (deadline has been extended from the original deadline of this Friday.)

I think that Lyn Warmath's explanation of the importance of answering the survey gives a good breakdown of her views of the Price Index:


Last Tuesday Merle Slyhoff e-mailed law-libbers a survey asking about our use of the association’s annual publication, Legal Publications Price Index.  The deadline for responses to the survey is this coming Friday.  Based on the questions in the survey, it appears that continued publication of the Price Index is in serious doubt.  Even if you do not use the Price Index at all, I hope you will read this message, consider supporting colleagues who believe in its continued value and respond to the survey if you have not already done so.



Use of the index has understandably fallen off in recent years because of glitches in data reporting practices and in communications between legal publishers and AALL members working on the index committee.  (I served on the committee during this period and would gladly do so again.)  Rather than abandon the project and throw out the baby with the bath water, I suggest we strive to improve the production of the index so that it returns to the invaluable status it earned in its early days.  Here are a couple of suggestions we might consider to achieve improvements.



·         Consider returning to AALL’s practice of employing an official editor with experience in the complicated business of index design, statistics, validity, reliability and so forth.  AALL’s original design for publication of the index included the position of a part-time editor who received a modest honorarium to lead the committee.  AALL recognized early on that statistical indexes are complicated and require expertise beyond what librarians generally learn in law or library school, but the editor’s position was eliminated several years ago.  Since that time, doubts about the index’s validity, reliability and so forth, plus confusion among participating publishers about data particulars point to the soundness of AALL’s original thinking when it established a committee with an experienced editor at its helm.


Reinstating a part-time editor’s position will be difficult, no doubt, but no more difficult than filling equally important, part-time and full-time paid positions currently serving AALL, such as Director of Government Relations, Advocacy Communications Assistant and Vendor Liaison.

·         The Price Index is a ready-made vehicle to implement and practice the very skills of improving communication and increasing pricing transparency that dominated discussions at the Vendor Colloquium and in the reports that followed.  Why not put into practice the lessons we learned at the recent Vendors Colloquium?  Why not salvage this valuable tool by capitalizing on the momentum and goodwill engendered at the Vendors Colloquium?  We could do that by committing to re-engage publishers in more meaningful and effective communications through a vehicle that already exists within AALL.

Although Ken Svengalis’s book is currently an excellent alternative, it is not inconceivable that at some point he may decide to switch gears.  In that contingency, AALLers might be better positioned for the future if we take advantage now of the campaign to improve the association's own channels of communications with vendors and achieve improved transparency, two of the top concerns law librarians conveyed at the Vendor Colloquium.

Thank you for reading.  No matter what your opinion on the wisdom of reviving the price index, I encourage you to complete AALL’s survey, a great opportunity for members to communicate directly with AALL folks.

Deadline: Friday, April 15, 2011


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4/8/11

Online Legal Research: Contracts, Commingling, Consistency and Confusion


A general consensus among the legal researchers I know is that our usage of online legal research products generally falls into the 80/20 category where 80% of the usage is in primary law, and 20% of the usage is in secondary resources. However, when it comes to the contracts that we negotiate with these vendors, that type of information doesn't really play a prominent role in what we actually pay for primary law versus secondary and third-party resources. Everything tends to get commingled into the contract, and when pieces fall out of the contract, we aren't able to readily identify the reduced value of that contract in a way that would off-set that cost in our monthly billing.

This fact came to light earlier this week when Lexis announced that it was going to be the exclusive 3rd party distributor of ALM materials, taking that product away from the current Westlaw platform. In a series of emails that flew across law library listservs, the “exclusivity” deal spawned disgust by many librarians that because of the commingling of the primary and secondary information in their Westlaw contracts, they were going to lose this product, but not be able to point to the value by which Thomson Reuters should drop in their monthly fee because that specific information just doesn’t exist within the four walls of the contract. In addition to this insult, Lexis representatives are telling their clients that they will need to negotiate the new ALM databases as a premium add-on subscription to existing contracts. This includes those that has ALM services from Lexis' atVantage product through 2006, but lost it to Westlaw's "exclusive" 3rd-party contract.

I've been working on an article recently on Primary Law as a Commodity, and one of the issues that keeps poking its head up in my research is that our quest for stability in pricing (where our monthly charges are set at X dollars for all "in contract" services) has led to such a commingling of resources that we cannot realistically identify what a source actually costs us. So, when something like this happens (ALM's exit from one service into another) we cannot point to our contracts and say "ALM cost us $Y a month, so we now want to pay $X -$Y going forward."

The ironic piece of this whole process is that many firms have a pricing list set up for how much they charge their clients for the use of these specific databases, but don’t seem to be able to clearly point out to the vendor what that value is when it is removed from the product. So, do we blame the vendors for commingling all these resources together, or do we blame ourselves for giving us the consistency in pricing that we asked for?

The real issue with these exclusive third-party distribution deals is that you will probably see more and more of them in the near future. The reason? To keep you from going with a single-vendor provider. If you are fearful that the resources you need are going to flip-flop from one vendor to the other, you will be less likely to try to put all of your eggs in one basket.

Am I wrong in assuming the worst? Do you see more of these "exclusive 3rd-party" distributor deals causing resources to shift back and forth from one major to another? Does this make your more hesitant to rely upon a single provider?

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4/7/11

Elephant Post: Your Favorite PowerPoint Story

We had a lot of traffic, comments and feedback when Toby wrote his "Don't Use PowerPoint" post last week. We thought we'd play off of that post to ask the readers to comment on some of their PowerPoint stories (we said they could be good or bad… but, we preferred bad) and share them with us for this week's Elephant Post. I've used PowerPoint for many, many years, and it is a rare occasion that everything that worked on my PC at home or in the office ended up working perfectly at the presentation.

We actually only ended up with one "horror story." Which makes me think that some of you were just too embarrassed to tell us about some of your experiences. Hopefully, for those of you brave enough, you'll add your story in the comments.

Don't forget to look at next week's question and contribute on the Elephant Post.



Toby Brown
AFA/KM

Since I've already bagged on PowerPoint, I'll give a good example here.

Craig Ball is primarily known for his e-discovery knowledge and is at the top of that game.  Fans may not realize he is also the Master of PowerPoint.  I watched him give a PowerPoint presentation and essentially he re-created an auto accident for presentation to a judge and/or jury.  It gave a top down view of a car making a turn, and the resulting accident.  He also showed different trajectories of the car and accident based on witness testimony.  It was a compelling presentation to say the least.  On top of that, he showed us how he created it in PowerPoint.

Another classic example from Craig is his Jeopardy Game PowerPoint.  He runs a complete game of Jeopardy, including sounds and buzzer, all from PowerPoint.

If you ever get the chance to see the Master work his PowerPoint magic, I suggest you take advantage of it.


Sarah Glassmeyer
Law Librarian

This is so embarrassing, because I can't remember who gave the talk or what it was about.  But that's not a reflection on the speaker...more due to the fact that my brain is filled with too many useless facts to remember these sorts of things.

But!  It was at the 2008 ORALL annual meeting in Dayton, OH.  The speaker's talk was something that didn't lend itself to bullet points or pictures, so instead his ppt was almost like a greek chorus.  (And sometimes Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque.)  It was stark white slides with black typewriter font that supplemented his talk.  Fun to watch and must have taken a heck of a lot of practice to coordinate.


Ayelette Robinson
KM

Well I don't have a juicy .ppt story to share, but I would like to throw one thought out there:  despite the issues that many PowerPoint presentations have, incorporating some visual representation of your key points is pretty important. I for one am a very visual person, and I'm quite sure that others in every event's audience are too. Listening to voices for an hour or an hour & a half without any visual anchor to reel my mind back in when it wanders (which yes it does, even during the most exciting presentations) can be frustrating.

If you do choose to use PowerPoint, certainly abide by good etiquette (large font, just a few words per slide, etc.). And by all means, don't limit yourself to PowerPoint; be creative like Toby and use a flipboard, or give Prezi a try. But however you go about it, provide a multi-sensory experience -- it will convey your points better, and make them more memorable, than relying on the audience's hearing alone.


Greg Lambert
Law Librarian/Competitive Intelligence

A few years ago, I did a really fun PowerPoint presentation at AALL. At the end of the regular presentation, I set up a PowerPoint slideshow that worked like an animated video. It was all taken from a picture from a Dr. Seuss book, and it was a magical machine where you put something in one end, and it came out the other as a wonderful concoction. Because I was talking about Competitive Intelligence (CI), I named it my Dr. 'CI'euss slides. So as the slides automatically moved the images across the screen, I timed it out to fit the little Dr. Seuss-like rhyme that I wrote. It was a blast, and all eyes were on the screen and not me, but that was the purpose of this special presentation trick.



Next Week's Elephant Post:
The Last 10 Years Have Really Changed _________!!
In the past decade, we have probably had a Century's worth of change going on. Whether it is boarding a plane, reading a book, or reading an email, things just don't look like they did in 2001 in many cases.

So, the upcoming Elephant Post asks you to fill in the blank and tell us something that you think has changed significantly – for better or for worse.


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Ex-Findlaw Content Writer Files Class Action for Back Wages and Skipped Meals

Jason Beahm, a San Francisco lawyer and former content writer for Thomson Reuters' (TR) Findlaw website, has filed a class action complaint (PDF) against TR, and the employee contracting company, Adecco, claiming that the writers in the Sunnyvale, California offices were not properly paid for overtime worked, for the meals (and premium wages for those meal periods) required under California labor laws, and for not providing itemized wage statements for the workers. Beahm is petitioning for class action status for at least 50 other Findlaw writers, and is seeking restitution of back wages and attorney fees.

Beahm has written in a number of different online venues, including for the ABA's GPSOLO magazine, for law firm blogs like the HGB law blog, and a number of articles for Findlaw.  When I ran a search on Findlaw's website for Jason Beahm's name, there were over 1,200 results in the News and Commentary section of the results list. By my estimates, this would mean that Beahm churned out about 100 blog posts, news and commentary a month over the slightly less than 13 months of work at Findlaw.

I discussed the issue of hours versus quota work with Beahm's attorney, Aaron Kaufmann. Kaufmann said that quota numbers "varied over time, but eight a day was one of the quotas they were given." If the quota wasn't met, then the editors from Findlaw would email the writers demanding that they turn them in that night, sometimes very late at night. "I'm sure the editors were being exploited, too. They were probably one step above the writers," Kaufmann explained.

The work arrangement for the writers allowed them to work part of the week at the Findlaw facility in Sunnyvale, and part of the week from home. Typically, Beahm would work three days a week in the facility, traveling to and from work on the train, and the other days (sometime making for a six or seven-day week)  from his San Francisco residence. According to Kaufmann, "Jason was told whatever you do, just put down 40 hours for the week. That's all you get paid for."

Kaufmann says that this type of practice is fairly common, especially during a down economy. "If you can work them for 50, 60, 70 hours a week and only pay them for 40 for $22 a pop, that's a pretty good gig for the employer." Professional writers may be feeling it more than most professions right now. Kaufmann continued,  "Unfortunately, the writers are getting exploited more and more. There are fewer and fewer jobs, and the jobs that there are, the pay has gotten poorer and poorer. It's just indicative of the writing profession generally."

Most writers that find themselves in this position either don't think they deserve overtime, or for some reason view overtime as insulting to them as "professionals." Kaufmann mentioned that some of the technical writers that he has represented in similar cases fell into this same situation where the writers held themselves as "professional and they had discretion in how they write… which is fine, but that doesn't make them exempt." Since many of the professional writers consider themselves as white-collar professionals, they tend to accept that they are not eligible for overtime or other labor law protections.

Kaufmann reiterated that it is a common misconception in the high-tech industry, but that "the fact that it takes some intelligence and some skill to turn out the product that your employer is asking you to turn out, doesn't make you exempt." According to Kaufmann, however, many businesses "continue to engage in the practice as long as they can get away with it. In a down economy they can get away with it to a great degree because people are scared."

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4/6/11

Upcoming Webinar - Tech & the Law Firm Library

On April 28th, I will be moderating a webinar featuring Scott Preston (Geek #4) and Sarah Clark Kavanagh where they will put on a program to talk about some of the issues that face both Law Firm Librarians and Law Firm Technology Professionals. Although we face many of the same issue, for most law firms, these two groups tend to not function as allies, and in many cases, we just aren't on each other's radar screens.

Scott, Sarah and I have been talking back and forth over the past month or so about all the opportunities, challenges, and perceptions that exist between the library and the technology wings of the firm, and I think it is going to be an interesting conversation. The fact that all three of us will be in the same room here in Houston should also make it a lot more interesting, as the speakers can interact much more freely as they are discussing the different topics.

I hope you can join us for the webinar on April 28th. Here's the information on how to sign up:
Format:  GoToWebinar and teleconference dial-in

Cost:  $45 for members and $60 for non-members

Registration is now open!  
Please use the following link to register: http://www.regonline.com/lib_tech
This is part 4 of a 5-part series put on by the Private Law Libraries Special Interest Section (PLL-SIS) of AALL, and is leading into the PLL-SIS Summit taking place on Saturday, July 23.



WEBINAR: Technology and the Law Firm Library: Finding Common Ground
Group/Sponsor: AALL
Date: Thursday, April 28, 2011
Time: 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM - Central Time (U.S. and Canada)
Location: Virtual Event -
Sponsor Type: Other
Posted By: Vanessa Castillo
Law Firm Library and Information Technology professionals share similar goals, needs and in a flattening world, struggle with the same issues. As we are all asked to do more with less, the skills that both of these groups bring to the table can be leveraged to increase value and produce results that are not only more effective, but more efficient.

Please join Scott Preston, CIO with Fulbright & Jaworski and Sarah Clark Kavanagh, CEO of Cable & Clark for a program that will review perceptions, barriers, and discuss opportunities to collaborate and find common ground to achieve effective results for our firms.

This webinar will discuss:           

  • Perceptions of the law firm technology (from the firm's library point of view)
  • Perceptions of the law firm library (from technology point of view)              
  • Discussion of barriers between groups, common goals and needs          
  • Discuss methods of effective collaboration 

Speakers: 


Scott Preston leads Fulbright and Jaworski's Information Technology department.  He has more than 20 years of senior management experience in legal technology, spending the last 10 as Fulbright's CIO.  A creative thinker who is often found thinking outside the box, Mr. Preston is known for his passion for technology and for motivating others by having a hands-on fun approach.  


Sarah Clark Kavanagh has spent the last decade working with law firms to determine their information needs compare library budgets/assets to those needs, create solutions to make the most of existing firm resources, obtain the highest value and cost recovery of the information budget and provide insight regarding legal industry trends, cost-saving alternatives and best practices. Sarah received her BS from Iowa State University and JD from the University of Iowa, College of Law. She is member of the California and Iowa Bar Associations. 


Moderator:

Greg Lambert is Library and Records Manager at King & Spalding (www.kslaw.com). Besides managing the research and records teams, Greg works as a liaison between many departments at King & Spalding on issues of business development, competitive intelligence, knowledge management and firm wide initiatives. Greg is an incoming member of the AALL Executive Board, and is the Past President of the SLA Texas Chapter. Greg received his BA from Cameron University, and his Masters in Library Science and JD from the University of Oklahoma and can be found on Twitter: @glambert, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/grlambert and on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog: 
www.geeklawblog.com.
This is the fourth in a series of five programs moderated by PLL members to provide a primer in law firm management from the view point of firm managers and administrators.  The series is part of a two year program undertaken by the Private Law Library Special Interest Section (PLL-SIS) of AALL.  The goal is to identify significant changes taking place in the legal world, to understand how these changes provide opportunities for assuming leadership roles, and to develop concrete plans for librarians to become leaders within their organizations.  The culmination of these efforts, the Change as Action Summit, will take place in Philadelphia on Saturday, July 23, 2011.
Format:  GoToWebinar and teleconference dial-in

Cost:  $45 for members and $60 for non-members

Registration is now open!  Please use the following link to register:
Space is limited - please register early. Registration must be complete by April 21 at 5:00pm (CDT) in order to participate in the webinar.

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4/5/11

Geeky Tip: Moving Data from MS Word to Excel

I’m going to share with you two little tricks that I learned many, many years ago that will hopefully save you a lot of time when dealing with large amounts of data. Both of the tips are pretty simple, and perhaps you already know them. However, I’ve found that most of the folks I run across don’t, and they spend an enormous amount of time manually entering data when they don’t need to.

Both of these tricks involve taking text from MS Word and transferring it into MS Excel. If you’re like me, you tend to do this sort of thing all the time (because for some reason, Partners really like to see the information in a spreadsheet.)

Tip #1 - Converting Carriage Returns into Tabs
The most basic elements of transferring data from Word to Excel is that the columns are essentially separated by tabs, and the rows are separated by carriage returns. The big trick is using the “Find and Replace” option in Word to help you clean up the data automatically, rather than going through line by line and doing it manually. So, let’s take a simple example of a single address:

1111 First St.
Apt. 4A
Houston, TX 77002

We could manually remove the carriage return at the end of each line, but why not just let Word's "Find and Replace" function do that for us??

With the address above typed into MS Word, simple open the "Find and Replace" option by typing CTRL+H (or locate it on your toolbar/ribbon). You may also want to turn on the "Show/Hide ¶" feature (which will show the carriage returns and tabs in the document) by typing CRTL+*, or finding the button on your toolbar that has a paragraph symbol (¶) in it.

In the "Find what:" box type in ^p
In the "Replace with:" box type in ^t
Hit "Replace All"



The "^p" is Word's code for the carriage return, and the "^t" is the code for a tab. So, all we're doing is removing the carriage return and replacing it with a tab.

Once you've replaced the carriage returns with tabs, the text should now look like this:


Copy that line and go to the cell in Excel that you want to paste it… but don't paste it yet… there's still one more trick to do. Because I don't like to bring in all the formatting from MS Word into my Excel spreadsheet, I use the "Paste Special" -> "Text" or "Unicode Text" feature. This will strip out all the formatting that a regular paste function would bring in. So, if you "right-click" -> "Paste Special" -> "Text", you should get something that looks like this:

That works great if you only have one address, however, you'll probably have an entire list of addresses that you want to move from Word to Excel. Here's a way to to that.

Tip #2 - Moving Multiple Address from Word to Excel
I'm going to make one big assumption here, and that is that each of the addresses you have in Word is separated by two carriage returns. With that in mind, what we need to do is add a step at the beginning and end of the procedures we did with the single address so that we can move the next address to the next row in Excel.

Here are our addresses:

1111 First St.
Apt. 4A
Houston, TX 77002

1111 First St.
Apt. 4B
Houston, TX 77002

1111 First St.
Apt. 4C
Houston, TX 77002

Step one is to remove the double paragraphs and replace them with a "line return." The reason is that we still need to keep the data on separate lines, and this will allow us to do so without messing up the ability to put the tabs in the right place. Now, for most of you, the carriage return and the line return look pretty much the same on MS Word, but trust me, Word knows the difference and we can take advantage of that.

Open up the "Find and Replace" function again.
In the "Find what:" box type in ^p^p
In the "Replace with:" box type in ^l
Hit "Replace All"


Just as before, the "^p" means carriage return, but the "^l" (that's a lower-case L) is the code for a line return.

Now we repeat our previous "Find and Replace" function to remove the remaining carriage returns and convert them to tabs.

In the "Find what:" box type in ^p
In the "Replace with:" box type in ^t
Hit "Replace All"

Now, you don't necessarily have to do this next step, but I like to do it just to keep the data clean and consistant. I like to convert the line returns back to carriage returns before I paste it over to Excel.

In the "Find what:" box type in ^l
In the "Replace with:" box type in ^p
Hit "Replace All"

You can now copy over the information from Word and do your "right-click" -> "Paste Special" -> "Text" in Excel and end up with something that looks like this:


Just as with most "tips and tricks" there are always little things that can pop up that throws the steps off a little, but most of the time you can work your way through those little hick-ups.

Hopefully, these two little tricks will help you out in the future when you have pages and pages of data that you need to move from Word to Excel. Instead of send that document over to your Secretarial Services to have them manually type it in, use this and save everyone the time and effort.

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4/4/11

I'm sooo confused!

I just saw the press release from LexisNexis announcing the addition of American Lawyer Media (aka ALM) content to the Lexis service. As a single-service shop (we only have Lexis), I have to say that I'm a bit confused. First this content was available through both Lexis and Westlaw. Then came the Westlaw "exclusive." And now the Lexis "exclusive." All the while, it remained available through ALM's Law.com platform.
I used to compare the ALM access situation to my iPhone. If I wanted it bad enough, I would use the service it was on. Like AT&T, people complain about the service but didn't have much of a choice. It was either go through Westlaw or through the google-type search engine on Law.com. Readers of my prior blog posts can guess which one I went with. I was willing to endure being inundated with results over the alternative.
ALM does have great content and I am pleased that it is available on the Lexis platform. Being able to run targeted searches on this content will be a wonderful change. However, I'm not so pleased that, after purchasing it in print and through Law.com (not to mention getting premium access to their surveys), I'll have to pay a third time to get it from Lexis. I think the best solution would be to follow the iPhone lead and make their content available at least on both of the top two platforms.

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