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Greg Lambert (@glambert) and Marlene Gebauer (@gebauerm) talk with Duke Law School’s Cas Laskowski about software and applications designers moving away from simple User-Centered Design, and think more about Impact-Conscious Design models. This is a follow up to Cas’ 3 Geeks’ blog post back in April.

Marlene also discusses new games for the summer, and flexible space utilization in libraries. Her dog, Georgie, also makes a guest appearance.

Greg went to Alabama over the weekend and got a lesson in leadership from his brother-in-law on being a leader and letting the experts be the experts. He is also finishing up his AALL presidency and looking forward to Baltimore.

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Marlene Gebauer 0:04
Welcome to The Geek in Review. The podcast designed to cover the legal information profession with a slant toward technology and management. I’m Marlene Gebauer.

Greg Lambert 0:13
And I’m Greg Lambert. Well, Marlene summers officially here and man, we are feeling it down here in Houston. Although I have to say we did have a very rainy Fourth of July. I think we had seven inches of rain here.

Marlene Gebauer 0:26
And well, we’re feeling it to believe me. It’s like hot and humid.

Greg Lambert 0:29
Yes, it is. But this weekend, I took a drive out to Huntsville, Alabama to go hang out with some family and watch my brother in law take command of his missile defense unit at Redstone Arsenal. So congratulations to my brother in law Lieutenant Colonel Chris Anderson for all that you do to keep us safe. And I hope you had a happy Fourth of July. There was one thing was we were celebrating later in the evening over at Chris’s house with a few of the other army officers when my brother in law said something that not only made me write it down, but I also immediately texted the quote to you and to our friend, Toby Brown. And I said, I really want to make sure this makes it on the podcast. So here we go. Chris mentioned something he learned in military and a military course he took that affected the way that he ran his operations. And the way that he viewed being a leader and the quote goes something like this, hopefully I get it, get it right. He said, You are not the expert, you are the leader, bring others along and enabled them to be the expert. And so that really stuck with me. And I wanted to mention that bit of wisdom here on The Geek in Review this week. So it really all comes down Marlene to surrounding yourself with intelligent people and giving them the latitude to do what they do best. And just remember when they look good, you look good. Again, thanks to Lieutenant Colonel Anderson or as my kids call him, uncle Chrissy for sharing some of your wisdom for all of us, especially as we celebrate independence day this week.

Marlene Gebauer 1:54
Well congratulations to Chris it’s been a pretty nice holiday week. So far. As I mentioned, it’s been pretty warm getting some beach days in and some you know beach paddle ball got a few new games. So coop codenames and Anomia. I’ve played Anomia at neighborhood game night I hosted recently and I give it two thumbs up, but I have yet to play the other two. Maybe I’ll bring them to double A double L and get some people to play. What do you think

Greg Lambert 2:19
that sounds like a great idea. Although I’d much rather see the video of you playing paddle ball on the beach.

Marlene Gebauer 2:25
You know, you really don’t really don’t

Greg Lambert 2:29
Oh, but we do.

Marlene Gebauer 2:31
So I got a little geeked out over an article I read via LinkedIn the other day had to do with flexible space utilization in libraries. So some libraries now have booked bots that operate in a floor to ceiling and very narrow shelving space too narrow for humans. So if any of you have seen those ladders attached to shelving and some libraries where the librarian climbs up or rolls the ladder across the shelves to get a book, this works like that, but it’s a robotic arm. And it got me thinking about how bot technology can be applied in law firms. Certainly this sort of physical bot can do some things like retrieving physical objects, paper records, supplies, maybe even putting things like desks together also bought software as applied to the regular processes like payroll or onboarding. The article also discusses swift space workstations where they claim you can shift from study Carol to collaborative workstation to small conference area, I’ve seen this idea applied with conference rooms going from large to small and back again, I haven’t seen it in a situation where space is transformed for a completely different purpose. Think of the flexibility you have and the elimination of what I would call it dead space. So Dead Space is like your formal living room. It’s lovely, but it sits there unused until you have company for a holiday with the Swift space concept. You could make that room into something else for normal needs, maybe a playroom or studio. I really love this idea. And I hope to see more of it in law firms and living rooms. It really appeals to my IKEA side of the brain.

Greg Lambert 3:54
So it’s hard to believe it’s July already. And I’m getting ready to finish up my year of being President of the American Association of law libraries or as we know it double A double L in a way time has flown by. In other ways, man, this has been a long year. But it seems like I’ve been doing the this presidential gig for a long time. So I’m looking forward to Baltimore. I’m excited about especially John Waters keynote on the morning of the 14th. Me too. I’ve got a little insider information. Oh, there may be a bar on the side. I don’t know at this time. It’s do tell it may be a cash bar, but there there may be a bar. So we’ll see still working out the details on that. But for those of you that are attending in Baltimore, I will also be presenting on the topic of ethics surrounding vendor relationships. And that’s a pretty hot topic right now. Yes. So we’re speaking in a TED Talk style presentation with a number of other great law librarians who cover other ethical issues in the league. Will information profession? Well,

Marlene Gebauer 5:01
that sounds great. I’m also excited about attending AALL and the PLLIP, which is the private law librarians and information professionals summit programming, as always sounds really excellent. The PLLIP summit theme this year is the power of process with a focus on legal project management and improvement of process. This is a great topic that can help us better organize and plan our large scale pilots and rollouts and can help us better understand at what points or services are required. I think the goal is to avoid those last minute requests and get services to attorneys before they even need them. Like magic, like magic, like magic like magic. So if you do happen to be in Baltimore on July 15, I hope you can stop by the tech savvy Law Librarian event hosted by above the law and evolve the law. David Lat attorney Founder and Managing Editor of above the law and Dean sonderegger. And I hope I said that right vice president and general manager for legal markets and Innovation at Wolters Kluwer legal and regulatory us will discuss how can law librarians drive the future of law practice?

Greg Lambert 6:03
Yeah, just as a side note, Dean and I had a conversation this week. So he writes column monthly column for above the law, and he was very interested in becoming a guest on our show, so

Marlene Gebauer 6:16
well, well. Well, we’ll have to contact him about that.

Greg Lambert 6:19
I think we have another one on the hook. Marlene. Yeah. Hmm. Well, I

Marlene Gebauer 6:23
do want to add after Dean and David do their presentation, then David and I will entertain some lively and entertaining two minute elevator pitches from legal tech innovators followed by four minutes of q&a. Innovators pitching will include CaseText, courtroom insight, and simply agree tickets are available on the Eventbrite app.

Greg Lambert 6:43
Sounds like fun. It’s one of the things it’s not an official double, a double L event that’s going on. But we’re hoping that David and his group will come in as press passes, or double A double L we’d love to get people like above the law involved just like we did last year with Bob Ambrogi and Kevin O’Keefe to come in. Because once you see how the double A double L conference is set up, and that it talks not just about legal information, but it actually talks about the law, lawyers, law firms, courts, access to justice, academic teaching, so many things. It’s a it’s a great event. Hope to see David drop on by

Marlene Gebauer 7:24
I mean, I know Bob was blown away last year, and I hope the same for for David.

Greg Lambert 7:29
Yeah, it’s a great event. I’m a little biased, but a you know,

Marlene Gebauer 7:32
it’s still we’re a little biased. It’s our podcast.

Greg Lambert 7:36
So speaking of interviews, I’m excited about our interview of CAS Laskowski on this episode. So Cas is a reference librarian and lecturing Fellow at Duke University. And she has a lot of insights on how products are being designed these days, and the lack of focus on how these products impact users. She did a blog post a few months ago for three geeks in a law blog. And I thought it’d be a great topic to bring on here and have her flesh out a little bit. So we asked her to be on the show. She’s also an Army veteran and I rack war veteran as well. And so we have a sub theme of military expertise this week with Uncle Chrissy and CAS let’s go ahead and roll into the interview with CAS Laskowski Let’s go. Our guest this week is castles kowski from firebrand live blog cast his reference librarian and lecturing Fellow at Duke University School of Law welcome CAS to the The Geek in Review.

Cas Laskowski 8:31
Thank you so much Greg and Marlene for having me.

Greg Lambert 8:33
So Cas, you have a lot of experience and technology. Can you tell the listeners a little bit about your background and as a favor to me start with your military experience. I understand that like me, you were you served in the army as well?

Cas Laskowski 8:44
Yes, I was actually in the army for five years, I joined right out of high school. And I joined as a linguist because they told me I could pick my language and I had dreams of learning Japanese and then but as you know, the army doesn’t work that way. So I learned Korean and then got sent to Texas.

Greg Lambert 9:02
That’s about right. When I when I got recalled for Desert Storm, my goal was to protect the Panama Canal. And they sent me to Fort Lewis Washington.

Cas Laskowski 9:13
So, in Texas, they don’t exactly need Korean linguist. So they retrained us actually had a lot more fun. They sent us to Fort Meade for two weeks to learn all the skills, you need to be a geospatial analyst. I was just enthralled because I love to tinker with new tech. So when we went overseas, I actually became the lead trainer. So that was my experience with tech in the military. And so I got to use that when I was in Iraq, which was fun. So I’ve always been fascinated. I’ve always loved just making excuses to play with different technology and every chance I get I try to learn something new or to play with and I think that’s what I love so much about being a law librarian is there’s so much going on. So those opportunities are everywhere at this moment.

Greg Lambert 9:56
So great. So after that tell us about your life. Are you getting to where you are now,

Cas Laskowski 10:01
After the army, I went to college at FIU and I thought, I don’t want to go to school for a long time. So I’m gonna be a paralegal. And I did Paralegal Studies for a very short time, then I ended up going to law school in Maryland, where I realized that I absolutely could not find a single area of law that I wanted to practice in. And so I spoke with one of the law librarians up there. And so she told me what her job was, my eyes got all lit up, and I imagined like anatomy, like glittering in the eyes, I was just like, I want your job. And so that just snowballed from there. So they ended up going to University of Arizona, and to the Law Library fellowship down there, that mic chair Ozzie ran, when I was there, I was trying to find every opportunity to get involved in tech, I thought, I’ve tried to find every single way I can to be involved in. And that’s kind of how I got to where I am now. Because when I met Dick dinner at WWL, before he passed, I was sort of this tech savvy librarian. And that’s how I was fortunate enough to be hired here at Duke.

Greg Lambert 10:55
So, one of the things I know your your love for technology and your passion for that, I’ve seen it in a number of your writings, you have all kinds of things out there on the interwebs. And she you have a potential article that was posted.

Cas Laskowski 11:09
Oh, so I wrote. What’s funny is, is I wrote this long file, we even wrote the article for you guys an article on library students and tech competencies. So it’s a little bit of a reflection on how I got to where I am to play with the different technologies. But one big gap and library schools as they teach you metadata may teach you a little bit about cataloging. And but for the most part, it’s all of this abstraction. And so I wrote this article for the Journal of academic librarianship about tech competencies for library students, and how they can really expand on their library school experience, because there’s just no way every library school is going to teach every library student, all of the skills, so you have to sort of pick your area and really kind of do that on your own. And that’s what that article is, I intend to put a open access version on the interwebs. I put a link to it on my blog, eventually, I will update that that post with a preprint. Link.

Marlene Gebauer 11:58
Yeah, we like we like free

Greg Lambert 12:01
casts most of us look at technology. And we see much has improved with our ability to work and play and live. But not everything about technology, especially how the technology is designed is beneficial for many in society, can you tell us a little bit about your thoughts on the current method of user centered design,

Cas Laskowski 12:19
User-centered design kind of speaks for itself in the name. And the idea is that you’re supposed to design your tech with the user in mind every stage and what that looks like differs. And the name that was put on it relatively recently, despite the fact that if you ask many people to think of your users first is much older than the name, its limit is exactly in the fact that it thinks only of the user, despite the fact that there might be repercussions or ripple effects past the user. So with user centered design you you have this idea, and then you think, oh, is anyone going to use this and you think about who might use it, and then you start designing it for that person in the legal industry, especially when government agencies, for example, take on legal technology. And I use that term broadly to mean any technology that ultimately impacts someone’s legal rights, which is a very broad umbrella. For example, when you adopt software that determines how long someone’s sentences or whether they get paroled, the user is ultimately the person making that decision. That’s great that you want to make it useful for them. But what it doesn’t do is considered the person beyond that the person that’s impacted once it’s implemented. And so that’s the failure for me with legal tech on user centered design with most technology, right? When you think of the user, if there’s some failure, the user has customer service, they can call, they can just stop paying for your service, they can opt out of the system. But often with these legal technologies that impact somebody beyond the user, that person that’s impacted, has no recourse. They can’t contact the company, they can’t sue the company, they can’t do a lot of these things. And so there’s no looking beyond. And that’s problematic. So, I think, you know, the goal is to get the community really thinking about looking beyond that initial goal, because when you’re too focused on that goal you don’t see beyond.

Greg Lambert 14:08
We’ll be back in a moment for the second half of our interview with CAS Laskowski on impact conscious design, where she’ll discuss how the law librarian can play a role in the information architecture by poking the adopters to make sure they are asking the important questions about its overall effect. I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for listening to The Geek in Review, Marlene and I have enjoyed recording these podcasts and doing our interviews with thought leaders in the legal information space. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to our first two podcast The first one was Zena Applebaum on her conversation with being a non in the legal field and with Pablo Erin Don dose experience as a legal information startup company. Please go to where you listen to your favorite podcast and download these episodes. Share them with your friends and if you like what you hear, subscribe rate and write a review of what you think about The Geek in Review. Now back to the second half of In our interview with Duke University’s reference librarian and lecturing fellow CAS Laskowski.

Cas Laskowski 15:06
I don’t know if you ever remember playing Super Mario Brothers and the glitch where you could jump over the end flag. And it was a glitch ultimately, right, but it doesn’t affect anybody. In the end, nobody’s mad about it either. But when you’re talking about someone’s life, for example, in the article, I use the TSA example. And the example of the body screening and how all they cared about was making something that was easy, really easy to use for TSA, I mean, literally, they float, male or female, and you’re shove people and you press start, you’re not doing a whole lot of tailoring the system to this individual, it would take too too long, right? They were worried about this user. Well, unfortunately, for a lot of trans individuals, doing that sort of very binary decision at the front means that they get flagged because their body doesn’t conform to what programmers say these two body types should be and they’re black in a very violent way. Or it’s like, you need to make sure you check this area, and it basically saying this person’s dangerous, because that shouldn’t be there. And that’s impactful. And ultimately, now this person has to go through an actual pat down, which is very violative. Because nobody thought about the person that was impacted on

Marlene Gebauer 16:06
the end of that. Is this just a failure to gather all of the requirements? Because I would think that that should be part of the requirements as well, whether or not this is T essays sort of workflow, someone should be understanding that look, we’re going to have to deal with with folks in this situation, and that should be a requirement in terms of putting the system together. So is it is it simply a failure of requirements? Or is it something more?

Cas Laskowski 16:29
I think it’s a little bit more with, for example, law firms, when they adopt legal technology, you have this incentive to think about your client. And so the firm wants to think about the client. So they think about the impact with certain government RFPs. And the way they implement things, they’re not always thinking past. And so you have this problem of legal tech, in general saying, well, it’s implementation, they should be worried about that I made the technology, why should I care? That’s up to them to make sure there’s some sort of workflow ethically, with everything involved. We should be asking for more. Definitely the people asking for this legal tech RFPs require more, yes. Does that relieve us of the sort of ethical obligation to think beyond? I don’t think so. If you’re going to be a tech company in the legal space, there are considerations that you have to think about. And I think if you want to be the type of legal tech company that people want to engage with, you want to be the type of company that does more than just user centered design, and then leaves it and says, Well, it’s up to the user to figure out how to fix that problem.

Greg Lambert 17:32
You call this impact conscious design? Why is it important to define the process and give it an official name like impact conscious design.

Cas Laskowski 17:40
So if you give it a title, all these sort of hodgepodge efforts that are going off in the sidelines, where people are wanting Hippocratic oaths for AI, or wanting to sign some sort of AI promise can actually come together under the umbrella defining this term, allows people to debate what the term means fundamentally, but it allows for that research, that user centered design research that came through, it allows it to sort of coalesce under this entity that allows you to actually have a deeper discussion about it. And it connects these 50 different conversations we’re having sort of brings them together to one table and says, Here’s what our goal is here. Now we have a vision of what we call this thing. Now that we’ve called it how do we say, impact conscious design looks like this? What does it look like? We know kind of what user centered design looks and how to get from idea to implementation, considering the user there’s some fear different theories on how best to do that. What are our theories about looking beyond you? That’s not there right now we can have people make promises are signed oath. But does that mean they actually change their design process in any way? Unless you actually have somebody having this conversation and potentially doing studies and potentially having this going on? I think you’re going to have it all exists in the ether and not have any grounded practical effect?

Greg Lambert 18:51
Do you think this is something that the industry will be able to do on its own? Or will there need to be some type of regulation created enforced by the government to make them follow these rules,

Cas Laskowski 19:01
I think it should be something the industry does on its own, it should be largely because if it’s something that government comes and does, it won’t look like this, it will look like something different. And it will look like something more restrictive. And it will have more archaic sort of hard to work with regulatory steps such that it might impede innovation. But even beyond that we’ve seen in recent years, the government’s not really great at creating law governing tech in a way that both actually gets the results they want, and is open enough to be flexible for the future and how tech will change. They’re like we don’t like this end result. So we’re going to legislate to this end result doesn’t happen. And it usually both doesn’t actually prevent that end result really well. And even when it does, it’s sometimes so restrictive that then it doesn’t know how to apply to future examples or how tech wants to involve evolve and do different so I would like to see the community do itself if it doesn’t want to have to be regulated

Marlene Gebauer 19:59
you when you’re talking about it. impact conscious design. Do you think within the tech companies, you’re saying that the tech companies should be doing this? Do you think that design thinking kind of plays a role in that in terms of okay, here are potential problems, and we want to solve them in terms of the design

Cas Laskowski 20:14
100%. So UX has established principles that work within it. So you have accessibility, you have usability, you have all these different actual commonplace principles that people have sort of agreed on that a UX design looks like. And I think even in my article, I sort of give examples of what additional principles might be, if you have, you know, impact conscious design. So transparency, accountability, equitability? And so exactly how you would integrate these into the design process such that when you’re having this conversation, you’re building this product, you say, Okay, here’s our user, how do we make sure it’s accessible for them? Well, how do we also make sure that we build in impact testing? Do you have user testing? How do you figure out impact testing? Do you consider that that might be something that you add into your process to make sure that it’s functional?

Greg Lambert 21:03
What role does the law librarian or information professional within the legal industry play in helping promote this type of impact conscious design?

Cas Laskowski 21:12
I think the information professional is really in tuned to Information Architecture generally, and the problems that arise from it. So almost with every one of these problems, we see it, it gets to the point where we have big data, what’s the problem with big data? Well, you know, there’s some organization problems, it comes down a lot of these things to information architecture, which we are trained, and that is our wheelhouse. So our biggest way to really participate, is to make sure that we are poking the adopters and making sure that they are remembering these really important questions to ask because information architecture is more than putting books on a shelf. It’s about taking all this information that have and, and organizing in a way that’s accessible, it’s usable, and actually asking these really good questions about verifiability. And accountability. And how do we make sure that this information is information we can trust and information we can use. And so it’s about being involved in that process, and making sure that when people are getting really excited about the glossy pitch, that you’re asking them the questions, they should be asking to make sure that we’re guiding them along the path to make those kinds of decisions that are really important that will impact those clients in the best way possible. And part of that also is knowing the entire landscape. So we want to make sure that we know the glossy pitch it’s coming, but the other competing companies because maybe they have the better pitch. But the better product might be over here. And you could say, I know that looks really good. But this other product does the same thing. But they’ve never had a data breach problem. They’re great at information governance, have amazing customer service, and they have these accountability steps built in. So it’s about being that voice in the conversation.

Greg Lambert 22:54
That makes sense. All right. Well, thank you very much. It’s CAS Laskowski from firebrand light blog, and also the reference librarian and lecturing Fellow at Duke University. I appreciate you taking the time.

Cas Laskowski 23:06
Thank you both.

Marlene Gebauer 23:07
Thanks, Cas.

Greg Lambert 23:08
Bye bye. Bye

Greg Lambert 23:09
Marlene, there was a lot there to digest on the importance of understanding the impact of user design. Cas’ example of a binary application on scanners in a time of users who are gender fluid was very enlightening. And anybody that knows me knows that that’s a topic that’s very close to the heart. But I will say one of the things that this reminded me of was a presentation I saw earlier this year in Nashville at the Southeastern Association of law libraries meeting there. Indiana University’s Susan DeMaine had this presentation on how the law library worked with an incoming student who was totally blind. And she talked about the real world experiences they were having of helping him use the software. And I can tell you just watching and she had this great video of him actually working with Westlaw and Lexis. And there’s a huge difference between the software meeting the requirements of being accessible for the visually impaired and the reality of a blind student actually using the application. And I have to say, it was downright scary to watch him in action of these videos trying to navigate the software and how it made absolutely no sense to me on how someone is supposed to be able to do that. He was he was able to figure it out. There was some really cool stuff like the way that he listened to the audio, he listened to it like two, three times the speed that you and I would normally hear it. But he was trained to do that. So he could pick up the audio of that at a much higher pitch. So it was amazing. But man when it came to the software, there’s a lot of work to be done.

Marlene Gebauer 24:45
So it’s like speed listening. Exactly. I’m listening to you tell this story. And I’m thinking, if the audience for the software struggling to use it, that makes me question whether there’s been adequate testing as well as adequate consideration of the application in real life.

Greg Lambert 25:00
Yeah, I think there’s, there’s a lot to go. I think the whole process of pushing the software, especially now in a day of, let’s push it out and fix it later is really, it amplifies when you have people that have other needs that you may or may not have thought about.

Marlene Gebauer 25:19
And Cas talked about that. And I was thinking during the interview that a lot of what she is suggesting for improvement has to do with the application of design thinking. I mean, her example of scanners, if the designers are thinking about likely scanning scenarios, like scanning someone who’s gender fluid, then they can apply design thinking to resolve that issue in a more positive manner, and essentially solve a problem before it becomes one.

Greg Lambert 25:46
Yeah, it’s I think it’s something we could all learn a little bit from what Cas is talking about. So I was glad she was able to join us on the show. And we’ll put a link on the show notes to her previous blog post as well. All right, Marlene, guess what? Why I’ve done another one.

Marlene Gebauer 26:01
Another wrap

Greg Lambert 26:02
Another wrap think we’ve survived. We’ve had about 1001 technical issues this week. We got the show out a little bit late due to the holiday and about 999 of those technical issues. That’s right. That’s all right. We But we

Marlene Gebauer 26:18
persevered. We did we took some time off and we persevered. Exactly.

Greg Lambert 26:22
Well. It’s a good one and we’ll talk to you next week.

Marlene Gebauer 26:26
Okay, have a good one. Bye. Bye.

Greg Lambert 26:34
This has been The Geek in Review. Special thanks to CAS Laskowski for talking with us today. Also, thanks to Kevin MacLeod for his original music. And finally, thanks to Marlene best-friend Georgie for giving us some color commentary from the canine perspective. Thanks Georgie