The past couple of weeks have been a travel fest for me. Trips to Chicago, New Orleans, Nashville, and Washington, DC. All in support of my year as the President of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). In those trips I represented the members of AALL as leader of the Executive Board, representative for a peer organization, visitor to a law library chapter, and finally, as a voice of our profession to the United States Congress. It was my first time testifying before a Congressional subcommittee, and it may very well be the last opportunity I get to sit in a conference room at the US Capitol and ask Congress to appropriately fund law library functions on the federal level.

The US House Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative Branch asked for public witness testimony on their Fiscal Year 2019 budget. The Library of Congress funding falls under this subcommittee so AALL stepped in to represent the law library industry needs from the US government, including the Government Publishing Office (GPO), the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), the Law Library of Congress, and centralized online public access to Congressional Research Services (CRS) reports. My testimony, both video and written are listed below. (Thanks to Jeff Woodmansee for setting up the video to start at the beginning of my testimony.)

I have to say that testifying before this subcommittee was an amazing experience. To sit in a room with subcommittee members, Chairman Kevin Yoder of Kansas, Ranking Member Tim Ryan of Ohio, and Dan Newhouse of Washington, and listen to their fellow US Congressmen Randy Hultgren of Illinois, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, and Mark A. Takano of California, speak on their own requests for FY 2019 funding. It was a great civics lesson for me on the inner workings of the legislative budget process, and I enjoyed the civility in the room between members of different political parties, and the willingness to listen to the ideas and requests of others with the cordiality we seem to lack in politics these days.

I appreciate AALL and Emily Feltren, Director of Government Relations, for arranging this testimony on behalf our our legal information profession, as well as my actual employer, Jackson Walker LLP, for supporting my efforts this year in leading the association. This was a great experience.


Testimony of Greg Lambert
President of the American Association of Law Libraries
On Funding for the Government Publishing Office and Library of Congress
Before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative Branch
Public Witness Hearing
April 17, 2018

 

Chairman Yoder, Ranking Member Ryan, and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of Legislative Branch Appropriations for FY 2019. In my limited time today, I would like to focus on the necessity of adequate funding for the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the Library of Congress.

First, funding for the GPO.

GPO produces, authenticates, disseminates, and preserves government information in multiple formats from all three branches of government. These are complex and demanding responsibilities that are essential to the information lifecycle and promote government transparency.

GPO administers the Federal Depository Library Program, or FDLP, under its Public Information Program Account.  Approximately 200 law libraries participate in the FDLP, including academic, state, court, county, and government law libraries. Law libraries rely on GPO for distribution of specific tangible materials, especially core legal titles in print, as well as access to official, authentic material online through GPO’s govinfo website.

On March 15, the bipartisan FDLP Modernization Act of 2018, H.R. 5305, was introduced in the House with the support of AALL, the American Library Association, and the Association of Research Libraries. The bill will update the FDLP for the digital age, strengthen the Superintendent of Documents’ responsibilities to authenticate and preserve government information, and improve oversight and increase transparency by adding reporting requirements.

Grant-making authority for GPO was not included in the final FDLP Modernization Act as introduced. However, we are pleased to request that the Subcommittee direct GPO to continue to study the creation of a grant-making program to support the services of Federal Depository Libraries in providing permanent public access to federal information.

Next, I’d like to address funding for the Library of Congress.

As the largest library in the world, the Library of Congress provides leadership on many critical issues, including digitization and preservation, access to legal and scholarly information, and copyright.

The Library’s FY 2019 request includes $1.8 million to strengthen the capacity of the Law Library of Congress. The Law Library is a world leader in providing access to reliable legal materials in print and electronic formats and it must have adequate funding to meet the needs of Congress, the Supreme Court and other court judges, attorneys, and the public.  The Law Librarian must also be able to function with some  autonomy within the Library of Congress, as she is the leader of the de facto national law library.

It is critical that the Law Library be adequately staffed with experts who have the appropriate foreign legal and language knowledge to answer complex legal questions and to meet increasing demand for foreign language and foreign law initiatives, including the maintenance and preservation of materials.

 

We strongly support the Law Library’s digitization strategy, which will provide access to public domain U.S. legal and legislative materials and unique foreign law materials not subject to copyright restrictions and not otherwise available free of charge.

Finally, I’d like to address a couple of other funding requests.

Now that access to CRS reports is law, we ask the Subcommittee to consider other priorities that would enable legislative branch agencies to provide greater access to government information. One way to do this is by ensuring access to reports that are mandated by Congress but not publicly available in any systematic, comprehensive way.

The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, or ACMRA (H.R. 4631) would direct GPO to maintain a central repository for agency reports submitted to Congress. We are pleased that the Committee on House Administration reported the bill on April 12, and are hopeful it will soon pass the House.

We also urge the Subcommittee to formally establish the Congressional Bulk Data Task Force on a permanent basis. The Task Force has been successful in bringing various players within government together to improve access to legislative information and modernize legislative data.

In conclusion,

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Subcommittee on the FY 2019 requests of GPO and the Library of Congress. We urge you to approve as close to full funding as possible for these agencies.  I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

 

After (more than) numerous times of trashing on task codes in pricing presentations, a few people prodded me into doing something about it. In those presentations on pricing, the topic of task codes would always come up. I suggested that maybe task codes aren’t the place to start when focusing on pricing, budgeting, etc. Instead we would start by setting standards for the type of work being performed. In other words, you should understand what type of matter is involved before you worry about task or other segments of work under that level.

The next question was: How do we develop and maintain a standard?

Having been involved in developing the e-filing standards for courts some years ago, I had some experience with the topic. What is needed is an independent body that includes key stakeholders from the industry. For legal this would include clients, lawyers (and law firms), and providers (of technology, consulting, etc) as the core stakeholders, followed by associations, academia, government and others. A successful standards effort must balance the needs of the key stakeholders or it will not be adopted.

As well, the independent body needs to protect and preserve the IP for both the contributors and for the standards themselves. Participants are wise to be cautious about contributing their IP to a standard when there are no protections from having competitors unfairly use that IP.

So the combination of an open, community based group, along with an IP framework are necessary components of a successful standard. The other primary need is the ability to market the standard so it gets wide adoption.

Given all of this, a group convened to explore whether there was enough need and support to move forward with establishing such a standards body. The response was an overwhelming YES. The initial group included people from the three primary stakeholders, plus association representatives.

The result is the SALI Alliance. SALI is short for Standards Advancement for the Legal Industry.

SALI was initially funded (graciously) by the LMA and the ALA. These two organizations saw the compelling need to establish a standards body and stepped up with seed money to get it started. These two organizations also present great opportunities to market standards via their existing membership outreach abilities. Going forward, SALI will be a member driven effort, involving those organizations that see the tremendous value in such an effort.

As noted above, the first standard will be on matter types (also known as area of law codes). From there, other standards can be proposed and driven through to published status. We already have a few ideas in the queue, and expect more to come as people think about various aspects of the profession that will benefit from standards.

I highly recommend you learn more about SALI. The recent press release announcing SALI notes the numerous organizations involved and supporting the effort. The next in-person meeting of the group will be in Chicago on May 14th, the Monday leading into the P3 Conference.

 

PS: I would be remiss in not thanking the core team of people who have been driving this effort. They include: Adam Stock, Jim Hannigan, Keith Lipman, Justin Ergler, Mark Medice, Betsi Roach (from the LMA) and Oliver Yandle (from the ALA).

I had the opportunity to speak at the CodeX, FutureLaw Conference at Stanford Law School last week.  Its my second time attending, and I continue to be impressed with the diversity of topics, professions and people who participate.  One of the presentations to catch my attention was conducted by Professor Daniel Linna, from Michigan State University.  Professor Linna is the Director of LegalRnD, the Center for Legal Services Innovation, and gave a presentation showcasing an index he has developed to measure legal innovation in law firms and universities.  The measurement of innovation adoption is challenging.  Casey Flaherty established test criteria to grade lawyer’s mastery of technology, and Jeff Ward at Duke Law has spoken at the AALL conference about innovation levels students reach as they progress in law school.  I think even Professor Linna will be the first to say his index is version 1.0, and there is much room for further development (OK, he did say that actually), but the point is all these people are trying to tackle the measurement and data presentation challenge.

As I was listening to the session, I was thinking about a conversation I had the week before with a colleague.  My point was that to establish a firm-wide mentality favorable to innovation, part of what we should be doing is recruiting from law schools that have a proven track record of in that space (hello index, hello levels!), along with the other factors we typically use for evaluation.  This was met with an agreement.  I took the idea further and said we should also have innovation criteria for lateral hires, and not just evaluate based on a book of business.  This got a loud laugh.  But I think the time is fast coming where this sort of measurement and evaluation is going to become commonplace in making hiring choices– It is still not a given that successful lawyers and firms have ingrained an innovation mentality and process to their practice of law.

 

[Ed. Note: Please welcome guest blogger, Casandra M. Laskowski from FirebrandLib blog. Cas is a Reference Librarian and Lecturing Fellow at Duke University School of Law, and a total geek – so she fits in well here! I was happy that she reached out to talk about how UX design facilitates discrimination and inhibits legal tech from achieving ethical goals. – GL]

In 2015, Google faced a scandal with its image-tagging feature on its photo app. Despite promising to “work on long-term fixes,” Wired revealed earlier this year that the “fix” was to remove gorillas from its image recognition system, and the system remains blind to this day. This chain of events seems almost cliché at this point: software is released with a predictably offensive or impactful implementation, the company expresses shock and shame, and a hasty patch is made that fails to address the cause of the issue.

With most mainstream technology this is troubling but not impactful to our democracy. Users are harmed, they voice their outrage, and companies must do something to repair the relationship if they want the continued business. Additionally, like the example above, the people who are affected are end users. User-centered design can help prevent these issues—when developers think of all possible users. With legal technology, however, the problem is much more grave and harder to solve as the person who often has the most to lose is not the user.

When a person is denied bail because of an algorithm, they cannot call customer support to dispute the result and request restitution. With the reasoning locked tightly inside the black box, the user might not be able to answer why a decision was made. User-centered design fails because it puts the people who are ultimately affected out of focus.

By not looking beyond the user during the development stage we increase the chance that the technology we create will have a negative impact once implemented.If the legal technology community truly wants to build more equitable and accountable systems, we need to replace the design philosophy that guides most software development.

It needs to be said that I am using the term legal technology broadly to mean any technology that is implemented by a government or the legal community that impacts the legal rights of individuals. This definition includes e-discovery platforms, automated legal decision systems (e.g., parole determinations), and even the TSA’s body scanners. When legal technology goes awry, it can affect people’s rights and liberty, and we cannot merely wait to solve the problem ex-post facto.

At the opening keynote for ER&L 2016, Anna Lauren Hoffman recounted a recurring experience she has going through TSA checkpoints. She goes into the body scanner, the operator presses the button for Female starting the scan, and the machine flags Anna’s genitalia. Anna is transgender, and the machine declares her body dangerous each time. All because the system was designed with only two gender options. It is a stunning keynote, and you should take the time to watch it.

What should be more shocking, but is not, is that Anna’s experience is not a unique one. Shadi Petosky live-tweeted a similar event in Orlando. It is a common enough experience that the National Center for Transgender Equality published a resource to help transgender individuals prepare for airport security.

These stories stand in striking contrast to the Google scandal. While being so offensively labeled is reprehensible, it does not involve government use of force to encroach on a person’s liberty and subject them to invasive body searches because the developers did not consider the possible impact the system would have on transgender individuals. Legal software can prolong jail stays, increase racial disparities in pretrial detention, and cause unlawful arrests. We need a new design philosophy to help mitigate these problems.

Recently, conversations have used the terminology human-centered design instead of user-centered design to highlight the humanity of the user in the hope of imbuing ethical considerations into the design process. Human-centered design has been used for some time to emphasize the human in the human-computer interface equation. The focus is still on the user and their needs. This language change does not go far enough to address the problems we face. We need to look beyond the human-computer interface, for those whose legal rights are affected may never interface with the technology at all.

I suggest the adoption of what I am calling impact-conscious design (ICD). ICD would not focus on the impact; it would be mindful of the impact in a way that user-centered design is not.

Adopting an impact-conscious design would require developers to look beyond the user. It would ask who might be affected and how.

The idea that we should consider the impact of the technology we create is not new. Brad Smith and Harry Shum proposed a Hippocratic oath for AI practitioners where they promise to consider the impact of their design and the humans impacted. Hoffman has written multiple articles about adding ethical considerations to our design-planning phase. There are conversations in industry journals, mainstream publications, and at conferences about bias in AI and failures of legal technology. The community wants to do better. So why do we need a new design philosophy? Because naming this philosophy grounds all the ideas floating in the ether and unifies them under one banner.

Giving it a name allows for greater accountability, visibility, adaptability, and engagement on the topic. It places ethics concretely as a goal of our design process, not as an afterthought. Future discussions will give the philosophy more meaning and weight behind the term, and it will later serve as a quick way to express a mostly agreed upon set of ideas. It would allow for the development of a discipline where researchers study best practices and test design theories that reduce harmful impacts.

What might be some of the principles of ICD? While the legal community will be the ultimate arbiters, here are my suggestions, which are in addition to the established principles of UX, like usability and accessibility.

  • Transparency & Accountability
    • Provide mechanisms for non-users to question the system.
    • Make decision reasoning discoverable to allow adjustment for error or unconsidered mitigating circumstances.
  • Equitability
    • Ensure the software provides equitable results should be a goal as soon as development commences.
    • Review and test using as diverse a sample pool as possible.
  • Impact testing
    • Test potential impacts of implementation to discover problems before they affect real people.
  • Reactivity
    • Build in safeguards that allow for quick responses when there are unforeseen consequences that impact people’s legal rights (e.g., software downtime that prevents prisoner release).

There are calls to regulate AI or find ways to hold the programmers accountable to incentivize better behavior through negative reinforcement. Is it not better to use the carrot before the stick? Let’s begin discussing impact-conscious design and the parameters therein so we can start to develop our own social norms (see #3) and expectations that allow for better behavior through collaboration instead of the threat of punishment.

 

After some nine years on the Blogger platform, this week, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog has switched over to the LexBlog platform. We hope that you like the new look and feel of the blog.

There was a lot of work behind the scenes by the LexBlog staff and the members of 3 Geeks. Although I’m sure there may be a few tweaks that we’ll need to make as we discover what did and what didn’t migrate over, I think most of you should still be receiving email updates of new posts, and the RSS feed has been moved over to the new site, so there shouldn’t be any modifications on the readers’ side. Some of the new features makes it a little easier to subscribe by email (on the right-hand side), and you can easily share posts to social media through links at the bottom of the individual posts.

LexBlog does use Disqus for comments, so if you want to comment on something we’ve said, you’ll need to have a Disqus account, or log in via your Twitter, Facebook or Google credentials. This will help us cut down on the amount of SPAM comments that I’ve had to reject for nine years.

Once again, “Hello, and Welcome to the new 3 Geeks and a Law Blog!” Here’s to the next nine years of discussing law libraries, knowledge management, marketing, pricing, in-house lawyer issues, outside counsel issues, and whatever else floats into our collective minds.

 

One of the top Competitive Intelligence (CI) professionals I know, and who is a contributor here on 3 Geeks, is teaching a two-day CI workshop in Chicago in May. I highly recommend that anyone serious about CI in the legal environment register for this event.

Zena Applebaum knows the ins and outs of Competitive Intelligence, and has been leading this field even before most of us had even heard of the CI concepts. This is the follow-up workshop from last year’s CI Foundations course, and will help guide CI professionals, and those wanting to learn more about law firm CI, on developing the skills, process, and purpose needed for effective Competitive Intelligence strategies.

More information on the CI Strategies & Analysis are listed below.

Continue Reading Upcoming CI Strategies & Analysis Workshop – May 10th – 11th in Chicago

I don’t think I am telling anyone something new when I say that the relationship between legal information providers (vendors) and legal information professionals (law librarians) are at all-time lows. A once vibrant and symbiotic relationship has become one of simple buyer and seller. This has been somewhat of a slow burn evolution as vendor consolidation began in the late 1990s with the West Publishing transition into Thomson West (then eventually into Thomson Reuters), the acquisition of LexisNexis by Reed Elsevier, CCH and Aspen into Wolters Kluwer, and BNA absorbed into Bloomberg. On the librarian side, there is the seemingly reduced influence of law students on vendor products, much lower budgets from government law libraries, the “single provider” movement from law firms, and the idea that law firms are somehow still suffering from the great recession, despite most big firms posting sky-high record profits and breaking the $3 billion revenue barrier.

Continue Reading Can Law Librarian / Vendors Relations Ever Be a Win-Win Relationship Again?

[Ed. Note: Please welcome guest blogger Michael Robak, Director of the Schoenecker Law Library, Associate Dean and Clinical Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas (Minneapolis) School of Law. Michael did want me to mention this quote about his enthusiasm in writing this post -“The biggest challenge after success is shutting up about it. (Criss Jami)” – GL ]

It is hard for me to be objective about the first official TECHSHOW Academic Track but, I think, it is fair to say that what transpired was an overwhelming success. And the best part – the Academic Track will be part of TECHSHOW2019–so we need to start planning!

Before I get into more detail about the Track, let me say, TECHSHOW2018 was in and of itself a smashing success.

This year saw a new venue with more space and with more attendees. Except for a small glitch with registration on Wednesday (which led to an open bar, so seriously, not a downside at all!), everything worked incredibly well. Co-Chairs Debbie Foster and Tom Mighell, and the TECHSHOW Board and ABA staff, are to be commended for their dedication and diligence in putting together such a terrific TECHSHOW.

But let me get back to the reason for the post, to let the world know the Academic Track was a complete and wonderful success at TECHSHOW2018. My gauge for declaring success has several measures.

Continue Reading TECHSHOW2018 & the Academic Track = Success! No, it was a Spectacular Success!!!

Q&A after screening of Blindspotting

I am back in my Houston office this week after spending the past week in Austin attending the South By South West (SXSW) event. I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a conference more than I enjoyed SXSW. I’ve always resisted going because I always thought that it was just about the music, and I couldn’t imagine paying $900-$1300* for a music conference… especially since you could catch some of the bands playing non-SXSW clubs for free during the week. After attending, I have to admit that I was way too narrow on what SXSW is, and I think I’m going to go again next year because it is a total experience of education and experience.

For those of you unfamiliar with SXSW, there are four tracks to the event:

  1. Educational/Interactive
  2. Film
  3. Music
  4. Convergence
I think the Film and Music tracks explain themselves. The Interactive and Convergence tracks really focus on the professional development that most of us seek in our conferences. This year, SXSW added a CLE portion to the Convergence track to attract more of us in the legal industry.

Continue Reading South By South West Was So Much More Than Music

Photo by Kolleen Gladden on Unsplash

[Ed. Note: Today’s post comes from guest blogger, Steve Nelson from The McCormick Group. – TB]


Financial results for law firms have been trickling in and, in a couple of weeks, The American Lawyer will publish its rankings of the 100 largest law firms in the U.S.

As usual, firm management, partners and other legal professionals have a tendency to focus on one statistic—profits per partner—as the primary indicator of success or failure of a law firm.  But as has been noted throughout the years, that number is the most susceptible to manipulation, mostly due to who is determined to be an equity partner.  Less discussed are revenue per lawyer and profit margin, both of which are all available from the AmLaw data.  Most observers will assert that those metrics are more reliable indicators of a particular firm’s health than profits per partner.

There’s also a tendency for legal professionals to overlook several other factors that are raised in the financial reports.   Here are a couple of other data points that should be assessed:

  • A firm’s 3-5-year performance, rather than just the comparison of 2016 and 2017.  A single year’s performance can be skewed by such things as contingency fees or the impact of the integration of a merger, so that evaluating on the basis of that year alone can be quite misleading.
  • Situations where profits have increased but revenues have declined.  Those instances often mean that gains in profitability were largely produced through cost-cutting and/or the de-equitization of partners.   While those actions do indicate a firm’s ability and willingness to address difficult expense-related issues and expectations of partners, the latter in particular is a strategy that is unlikely to be repeated in future years.  And, while not the case with well-managed, forward-focused firms, could indicate the extent of a firm’s willingness to support partners’ practices with marketing and other investment. 

The AmLaw reports provide quite a comprehensive picture of the financial performance of large law firms. But too often, the focus is on one imperfect metric. The message is to look beyond the headlines.