image [cc] Angelskiss31

Let me start out this post by saying that I like David Perla, President of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg BNA’s Legal division, and consider him to be an ally for the law librarian and legal information/knowledge profession. However, I have to say that I am a little disappointed at his Above the Law article yesterday called “A Challenge for the Gatekeepers.” His article starts out with a warning to the legal industry saying that “change is coming – with or without you,” but then he spends the rest of the article singling out Law Librarians and Knowledge professionals as the gatekeepers. Although David says this isn’t about Bloomberg Law’s new roll out of a Tax Product, quite frankly, it reads like it is. I’m really disappointed that he took to Above the Law to vent.

Transitions in how a legal products perform for practice areas is something law librarians deal with practically on a daily basis. One of our primary responsibilities for our firms are to evaluate these products and present an initial evaluation report to the Practice Group Leaders or power players within the practice area. Law Librarians have a diverse legal expertise, and some are legal area experts. I know law librarians that are more savvy when it comes to understanding practice areas like Tax or IP than most Associates or Junior Partners in their firms. We understand our firms, we understand our Practice Groups, and we are tasked with the responsibility to know when it is right to push for new products, and when it isn’t time.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I push for change every day! EVERY SINGLE DAY!!

I constantly evaluate new products, establish training sessions to teach attorneys and others the value of the very expensive resources we purchase with our law firm partners’ money. I work to de-duplicate resources so we are not wasting money. I also make recommendations on keeping similar products because I understand the way the attorneys work and know that sometimes it pays to have those resources, even if on the surface it seems irrational. I make sure that we have team members that go to PG meetings to observe, listen, and engage. It’s not gatekeeping. It’s called being a leader and making sure that we are implementing the overall strategies of our individual attorneys, our Practice Groups, our Offices, and our Firm as a whole.

I’m a little confused when David wrote:

I attended a session at AALL [American Association of Law Libraries] where librarians were brainstorming how to be more relevant or get lawyers to pay more attention to them. But when the moment comes to actually introduce change at law firms, they flinch out of fear. Afraid that the attorneys they work for will find change uncomfortable, they balk—just as Monster’s executives balked at upsetting the site’s customers.

Not buying a new legal information product is not the same as “flinch[ing] out of fear.” I find that statement to be a bit misleading, and way overly broad in the assumption that law librarians can’t pull the trigger on change.

I appreciate Bloomberg BNA being a disrupter in the legal information field. But, I will say that when the disruption initially affects the Tax and the Labor & Employment groups, it makes for a very difficult sale to those groups. Not that they are change adverse, but that they are either well served by their current products and have a comfort level with them, or that they are a group with very narrow profit margins that have to have concrete evidence that new, much more expensive, products will truly make their work more efficient and not decrease that narrow margin.

It’s not about throwing up barriers for change. It’s about understanding our environments and applying our expertise, experience, knowledge, and wisdom to every single change we see, every single day. I’m not a gatekeeper that flinches at change, I’m an experienced leader for change that make sense for my organization.

  • Great response, Greg. I also recommend Mike Galvin's response. Stop Whining and Build a better product.

    This may come as a shock to some vendors of legal products, but attorneys rarely want to see their products and really have to be persuaded to make time. More often then not, information professionals are the ones that have to build their enthusiasm and convince them that it is worth a look and a change in their habits.

  • Wow. Hear, hear.

  • Wow. Hear, hear.

  • Fiona Fogden

    As someone who started in Law Librarianship before the advent of the internet in law firms and when current awareness involved a glue stick and a pair of scissors I have certainly moved on and I don't know one Law Librarian who hasn't. I would say that Law Librarians are the facilitators and often give vendors lots of valued feedback that without us they would be the ones left behind. Dealing with change is part of our roles. We often get seen as preventing direct contact with the lawyers but then the lawyers don't want to be hassled with calls direct from vendors, their job is to manage the needs of their clients, our job is to enable the lawyers to do that and if it means fielding calls from vendors and being seen as sometimes frustrating their objective to talk to a senior Partner then so be it. Thanks for the article Greg.

  • Like Greg, I put myself in the position of pushing for change every day. I make the connections with vendors and set up the introductory sessions. And then I wait for the attorneys, WHO ASKED FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE NEW PRODUCT, to come. The next roadblock is price – it's not ME who is flinching. It's the partners who are not eager to spend more money for something that isn't substantially different from that with which they've been working for several years. While I can demonstrate and enthuse and advise, I cannot make the decision to spend. And so I must continue to find other ways to provide access to the knowledge and information our attorneys require to best serve their clients.

  • Erik Y. Adams

    I'm not a gatekeeper. I'm a bouncer. If someone doesn't have something significant to offer to the party, they're not getting in. Sorry.

  • Having actually worked as a bouncer once, I REALLY like Erik's comment. While there are some out there who do indeed flinch for fear of change (yes, we all know a few), most of us are making extremely difficult decisions based on a myriad of considerations. Often, products and vendors don't get through the door because there is simply no practical place for them in our firms. No vendor or developer wants to hear that and that is understandable. However, sometimes the hardest pill to swallow is also the most beneficial. Knowing the truth is the cure for what ails.

  • This article is laughable and obviously meant to get a rise out of us so that we will discuss Bloomberg on this blog. Sounds to me like BL sales people are having a very tough time getting through the door and Mr. Perla wants to blame the gatekeepers instead of his very own sales force and sales strategy.
    BLaw promised to be different than other vendors; claiming that they would listen to the needs of customers and be flexible. My experience with them has been that they are completely inflexible. The configuration of content we want is never what they are offering. Our representatives do not respond to questions on anything, not even pricing when you want to buy something. Turnover is high and relationships weak.

    If Mr. Perla understood our business he would know that we are testing, evaluating, engaging attorneys and comparing products CONSTANTLY. We do it to add new content while simultaneously making the non-stop changes to vendor platforms, licenses, password management and delivery methods for products to which we already subscribe.
    We have never been busier or more valued. WE ARE INNOVATORS and our attorneys find us quite relevant, thank you very much.

  • Cynthia L. Brown

    Innovation does not equal buying products. If there is a good product, at a good value, my attorneys will hear about it and we will make a business decision together about the purchase. The change happening in the legal world has hit law firms and they are changing. These changes have hit law libraries and we are changing drastically. Do you know who is not changing, the legal publishing world. They keep making big products with big price tags, and keep asking for huge increases. Big vendors are the ones that are out of touch and being left behind. Thank goodness for small independent vendors who are willing to be true innovators and partners.

  • Holly Lakatos

    Speaking for myself & not my employer (& also not a member of AALL), it's difficult to justify the expense of subscribing to ANY product (print or online) that no one will use…especially when I could subscribe to something that will be used.

  • Anonymous

    I use BL on a daily basis, I vote for the "Stop Whining and Build a better product." comment.

  • Anonymous

    I'll admit to flinching big-time when BL informed me that, when my current 1-seat subscription to BLaw expires, I'll be expected to buy 5 seats, or lose my subscription. I told the rep. in no uncertain terms that they had just priced me out of the subscription, and he still calls me on a regular basis.

  • Anonymous

    It is not the law librarians who prevent change but the managing partners and business directors. It is "saving money" motto, means more distributions for partners.

  • It's not so much that librarians are gatekeepers who are in fear of their careers and stand in the way of attorneys subscribing to the newest online tools out some kind of fear of change. It is more often that librarians are often charged with incorporating these new tools into our firms' online budget. It is far easier to sell a pretty, shiny new product to a panel than it is to face a law firm's managing partners who need to make payroll.

  • Just advised by Bloomberg that (at renewal) "librarian" seats will be more than doubling in price UNLESS we buy a significant number of seats for attorneys. The number the threw out something like $12K per seat.
    Anyone else hear this?