It took us a week to recover from all the fun in Baltimore, but here’s a review of some of the highlights of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Conference.

We’ll discuss some of the things we learned from our fellow information professionals and other presenters at the conference. Such as:

  • Baltimore is a great city to visit.
  • Vendors are still launching products with “AI” functionality.
  • Startups and the smaller vendors are playing a critical role in advancing technology and influencing the major vendors.
  • Law Librarians aren’t going to sit by and let civil liberties be trampled upon by mega-information companies or governments.
  • Mimosas and Bloody Marys are a good way to kick off a Sunday morning keynote talk.
  • And, John Waters taught us we can be be offended and still be enlightened.


Greg Lambert 0:00
Okay, let’s go and you can start whenever you are ready. Thank you

marlene gebauer 0:21
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 0:29
And I’m Greg Lambert.

Marlene Gebauer 0:36
Well, Greg, I think I got all my sleep hours back after AALL last week.

Greg Lambert 0:40
That makes one of us.

marlene gebauer 0:42
It’s always an amazing conference and what a great location literally right next door to Camden Yards. So lots of baseball activities, the Inner Harbor complete with impromptu outdoor concerts. The Museum of visionary art, what a fun fun place for an event. The National Aquarium, I got my jellies and dolphins and turtles and tours of Baltimore.

Greg Lambert 1:05
Yeah, I had a sweet view of Camden Yards straight from my hotel room. And I got to watch. Yeah, they got to watch him play three games. I got the Yankees on the first night, the Phillies, they did a one game that catch up with them, and then the Rangers. So it wasn’t a bad view at all. And Baltimore is a really great city to visit. It’s got lots of history and culture to check out. We really enjoyed it.

marlene gebauer 1:26
Yeah, I really liked it too. And the programming I attended at the conference was practical and quite good at the PLL IP. Now for those of you in the know, which includes all of you now PLL IP stands for private law librarians and information professionals, like the name says, the focus of the groups on the needs and interests surrounding private law libraries. Anyway, we had an all day session focused on process management with two speakers keynote, Catherine McDonough from Lean Six Sigma Institute. She’s great. Yeah, she’s really good. And Shawna mero from the field law firm, then breakout practice sessions, where we applied what we learned in exercises with Katherine and with Leslie Brown from Hogan Lovells. Another program I really liked was one of the deep dives on best practices and employee management strategies for building a productive and engaged library team. Now the deep dives run about two to three hours each. So I’m only going to hit some of the highlights here.

Greg Lambert 2:18
I’m sure the listeners will appreciate that. So

marlene gebauer 2:22
Greg, did you know that according to the 2017, Gallup poll, disengaged employees cost 483 to 605 billion not million billion dollars annually to US businesses? That’s a lot. That’s a lot. So this is a significant enough problem financially that businesses really should pay attention.

Greg Lambert 2:44
I can’t imagine and law firms have disengaged employees, though No, not at

marlene gebauer 2:48
all. No. Seems like, what were you thinking? It seems like one way companies can keep employees engaged is to examine their review processes and use strength based reviews, Speaker shares some statistics from Gallup and from Gartner, that companies that focus on employee strengths and strength based evaluation show greater profits, better employee job performance, and higher levels of customer engagement. For example, in 2002, the corporate leadership council now Gartner found when companies focus on employee strengths during review, performance Rose 36%, the speakers addressed the thought I immediately had when I heard that statistic, that you have to continually reinforce that positive message, because and I don’t know why. But people tend to focus on the critical feedback more than the positive. And I know I do this. And I imagine you do too. I think it’s almost that you have to accent the positive more. And Greg, don’t mess around with Mr. In between? No, no,

Greg Lambert 3:45
there’s one of those things where when you have constant feedback with the people that you’re working with, you can correct the problems that you go along. And they don’t realize that they’re necessarily big problems. Whereas if you bring them up at the end or view or only when a project is finished, then they focus in and they only see that you’re criticizing them rather than correcting them at the time. So we focused in that on some of the trainings we’ve done here at my firm

marlene gebauer 4:10
makes a lot of sense. Another area of focus was the interview process, you have to get the right people for engagement. The question was posed, what skills can you test during the process? I mean, if you’re applying for a word processing position, you’re tested on how quickly and accurately you can type right. So what can we do in the information space in addition to our interview questions, now, this relates to a couple other conversations, I had creating characteristics evaluations for specific job roles that potential candidates can complete, in addition to interview questions. Now, this is kind of an open space right now, and I hope we get to talk more about it.

Greg Lambert 4:46
It’s funny that you said that because I just got an email about a position that I’m hiring. And one of the things that we had we’re thinking about doing is giving individual applicants a reset which project to work on. And then taking the results and stripping the name away from the candidates is so that when the attorneys are reviewing it, they don’t see the name. Rather they just see the result. If you do a blind type of tests like that, I think it will tell you who’s got the talent and versus who may not exactly. The last

marlene gebauer 5:19
piece of the program I’ll share involves addressing the question of what should Information Centers stop doing, in order to address higher priority initiatives harder sustainable engagement means employees have to have meaningful work. If the work doesn’t or no longer has significant value for the organization? Maybe it’s time to retire that but how do you figure that out? One example that was shared provided a method of prioritization and weighted ranking of support needs of each practice group served to address the current need and to predict future need. Now I imagine this took some time and effort to complete but you know, in the end, they had a well documented logical roadmap to apply, which I imagine made it a whole lot easier to implement.

Moving from engagement of people to the black box around analytics Bump, bump bump. Greg, you probably remember, Susan Neville and Mark wrote this great paper a couple years ago, comparing the relevancy of research results of many of the legal research platforms we use. Yeah, that’s a great paper. For those who haven’t read this. There were significant differences among all of them, her findings really lit a spark in the community in terms of the need to look under the hood, and better understand how the various algorithms work. Yeah,

Greg Lambert 6:49
I think I think she gave everyone a wake up call, because we were relying pretty much on the idea that they knew what they were doing, and that the results were consistent across the different platforms. And when she came back with these results, and they were so different in the results, I think it shook a bunch of people up.

marlene gebauer 7:08
Yeah, it true. It really did. Because again, you know, you’re sort of resting on the idea that yeah, they’re supposed to be essentially the same, you know, they they essentially work the same way. And you should get basically the same results, but that, in fact, is not the case. So Ed Walters, CEO of Fastcase and Tito Ciara, VP of Global Product Management at Lexis presented essentially how their algorithms work and how they’re tested. What many people may not know is that there is a significant degree of human testing involved. They run the algorithms and then the humans check the work. Now this adjustment continues until the degree of acceptable accuracy. Westlaw was supposed to be covered at this session as well, but I’m not really sure what happened there. They weren’t there. I would have really liked to see more companies like Thomson Bloomberg BNA, Wolters Kluwer and Ross participate to get a better overall picture now CaseText did contribute. Pablo Arredondo raised a really interesting point in the q&a. He said that while the focus of the program was on algorithms getting it right and an entire universe of legal content, a potentially bigger problem is the size of the content universe users are searching in the first place. So with CaseText Instead of looking at all the cases or cases by jurisdiction, or even topical case law, some of which will automatically not be relevant. You can drag and drop your complaint and then based on relevant cases, relevant cases will bubble up to you. I’m not sure how the needle in the haystack people feel about that position, though. Well,

Greg Lambert 8:30
I have to admit that my duties is AALL President cut into my ability to attend the educational program and this year, so I’ll be glad next year when I’m just going back to the conferences and attendee instead of planning and organizing the thing. I bet you will. I did want to take just a second to thank LMA President Ashraf Lakhani and Association of Legal administrators incoming President, Jim Cornell for attending. So thanks, guys,

marlene gebauer 8:56
I really think it’s a sound business idea for leaders of the various professional organizations to interact with each other and to see the educational programs meet attendees and see the structure of the event. Everyone gets a better understanding of what each other does and what’s important to them. They can take that back and teach their own membership and help them better engage with their work colleagues. We also had some legal industry luminaries attend WWL this year, didn’t we? Yes, we did. Bob Ambrogi returned. He has a new podcast called next law. And the first interview is with Nicole Braddock who I’ve met and he was really insightful, so make sure you check it out. And David Ladd, the founder and chief editor of above the law also attended I did a shark tank sort of presentation and q&a with David at the evolve the law event. It was an excellent event that must really be advertised more next year. If you missed it, you really missed a good ones and a very cool space, you know, kind of like a very, very hangout type of place. And the event started with Dean sonderegger, Vice President of legal markets innovation at Wolters Kluwer legal and regulatory us Dean mentioned to me at the event that I keep improving the pronunciation of his name which makes me very happy that I’m progressing. And he and David discussed how can law librarians drive the future of law practice?

Greg Lambert 10:23
So Marlene, there were a number of new products on display at the conference as well. Perhaps the most talked about was the Thomson Reuters newest iteration of Westlaw called Westlaw edge, I got to kind of admit that I was a little surprised that they went with Edge considering this the name of the latest Microsoft browser. I guess there should be little confusion between the two products that still can can they come up with something a little bit more original?

marlene gebauer 10:44
Well, can we take a brief detour regarding product and their purpose? And I really think we should make this a regular thing. Now disclaimer, naming products or services or rollouts is not my strong suit, I tend to run the other way when asked about that stuff. So understand what we’re talking about this, it’s all in good fun, but back to edge. So what do you think they meant to convey by that? Like, if they were thinking of edge as a border? Or could they have used cusp? Or if they meant an advantage, then how about Vantage, you could even put an apostrophe in front of it? Or if they meant to sharpen? How about Polish? Like polish?

Greg Lambert 11:23
Yeah, I don’t think they would have gone with Polish. I think they’re going for leading edge. But I don’t know, I think somehow or another could have been a little bit more original, but we’ll see how it goes. But looking at it, you know, in a nutshell, Westlaw edge adds the following feature. And I know this first one is going to come as a shock to everyone. But edge offers AI functionality. Why? One I was surprised to see. So they’re what they’re using artificial intelligence for is to identify cases which ordinarily might be skipped over by their Seiter as being questionable or overturned case law. So they’re also using AI to point to researchers to answers for specific legal issues. Another item, which they have, which again, shouldn’t surprise anyone is that edge is much heavier on the use of legal analytics. So while other vendors have been buying up startup companies to have designed those analytic tools, apparently Thomson Reuters has been in the back room developing the analytics tools in house. The next thing is that there are a few other enhancements with the user interface and the search tools themselves and then I hear word on the street and which is is Bob Ambrogi. And for you and me is the hit TR is going to keep Westlaw as we know it what we’ve known as Westlaw necks for a number of years active for at least six more years. So happy transitioning to everyone out there who’s going to have to negotiate those contracts over the next few years.

marlene gebauer 12:58
Oh, Bob Ambrogi is definitely a reliable word on the street. So yeah, looking forward. Looking forward to planning for that.

Greg Lambert 13:07
No, he’s my information dealer. I don’t know who yours is, but I know a guy. Yeah, you’re from New Jersey, so you know a guy so not to be left out on the enhancement news. LexisNexis has also announced the release of Lexis analytics keeping up with Lexuses idea of the single ecosystem for their information on Lexis Advance. Lexis is unifying the recent acquisitions of Lex Machina, intelligence and Ravel law into the Lexis advanced ecosystem. The platform now organizes the information into overall US legal structure of litigation, regulatory and transactional categories. Of course, you need to own Lexmark and intelligence and Ravel to get the full functionality of Lexis analytics. So we’ll see how well, Lexis gets users to purchase the entire set in order to get this full functionality. And I was talking with somebody and I think you and I have a slight disagreement on this. At the conference, he pointed out something interesting when it came to evaluating the progress that Lexis and Westlaw have made in enhancing and transforming their products over the past decade. It was this person’s opinion that Lexis has now been lapped twice by Thomson Reuters on their transformation of the Westlaw platform. Now, sure, I totally agree that Lexis has to lapse down but I do kind of agree that they’re behind. What do you what do you say?

marlene gebauer 14:26
Well, I mean, I wanted to make that point in a couple of ways. You know, first Lexis has had the lead in offering this analytic capability for several years. So they also have a lead and getting users to the platforms. And you know, you know how hard it is to get users to move away from something they already know, the integration into the main platforms and next step to get users more ingrained into the Lexus environment as a whole. And the second point is, since they have the lead in the analytics platforms, they also have had more time to enhance the product offerings and work out the kinks. Now I saw edge on the exhibit floor and the presentation was pretty slick, I will admit, but I found when I asked more detailed questions about how the sausage was made, I was not getting clear answers. These are questions I’ve gotten answered by other vendors. So I’ve scheduled a deeper dive demo to look into it further, you’ll

Greg Lambert 15:16
have to let us know how that goes if you can, if they don’t make you sign an NDA. All right not to let Thomson Reuters completely off the hook. However, I did also have someone point out to me that their AI functionality with edge is producing approximately an 80% success rate, give or take, the rest of the data is being reviewed by humans to identify those items that the AI didn’t identify another attendee at the conferences with the startup mentioned that T RS ability to roll out a product where the AI is 80% effective, and they have to make up with the other 20% with humans makes them a lot more hopeful that they can leverage their own automation tools with an 80% or higher success rate. And then finding ways of correcting that other 20%.

marlene gebauer 16:00
So in the category of other interesting vendors to know, have you participated at the Evolve law Shark Tank event that I mentioned earlier? CaseText was there and also courtroom insight propyl on and simply agree, simply agree is a deal closing accelerator platform, it’s cloud based, it allows automated creation and distribution of custom signature packets, you can track outstanding signatures on a dashboard, and you can create closing binders, apparently in minutes. propyl on is a consolidated legislative management toolkit that handles all aspects of the legislative process regardless of your role in it, it helps manage drafting in Tchibo, recording committee management and voting. What’s also interesting about pro Falon is that during the Shark Tank pitch, it said it will work with firms on developing in house solutions beyond the legislative arena. So they might be a group to look at in terms of development, if there’s something you want to do in house sounds very interesting. Yeah. And Mark torgiano, who just got a Fastcase 50 Nod is the CEO of courtroom insight, which is a KM platform that integrates analytics on experts, judges, and arbitrators, and he was doing the pitch for that product. So some of the things you can do with the platform are look at historical retentions of an expert by party to see what sort of relationships there and as well as look at expert appearances by jurisdiction and judge.

Greg Lambert 17:27
One quick thing that I did want to talk about was, was Fastcase is leveraging their new partnership with docket alarm to create what they’re calling the analytics workbench. Get your tool belt on.

marlene gebauer 17:38
Yeah, what do you carry in an analytics tool?

Greg Lambert 17:40
Not sure, apparently, apparently, a giant mainframe computer is what I want. Alright, well, so the idea behind this enhancement is to allow the attorneys and researchers who use Fastcase to create their own version of analytics and a custom insight for their specific clients and their legal practices. Sounds good, I haven’t really had a chance to check it out. But I’m hearing good things about it. You know, one of the things that we’re seeing here is that the Legal Information Industry is leveraging all the stock and information now in ways that they just simply couldn’t or wouldn’t. In the past, the innovation has come from a number of smaller companies coming up with these ideas on how to take the raw docket details and those documents and making sense of them. So I had to tell you, I’m a serious Doubting Thomas, though, when it comes to some of the claims of the AI and machine learning. But it does look like it’s working with the massive amounts of data from the federal court dockets. Now, if they could only find a way to make sense and make public, the state and local court dockets. That’s where I’m where I’m looking. Well,

marlene gebauer 18:40
I mean, I know. You know edge is talking about being able to do that. There’s also a new company called gavel addicts who does this for some of the California State Board

Greg Lambert 18:54
My friend Laurent with justly he’s doing some things with the state courts as well. So So again, the smaller companies are really taking the initiative to bring that information out and make sense of it using the AI and machine learning tools. So maybe, maybe that’s what you put in your tool belt.

That’s right. All right. Well, let’s let’s jump in and change gears here and talk about the issue of privacy and how vendors are working with the government to expose public records and other personal data information. And I gotta tell you, I’m not one for conspiracy theories, except for Elvis. Elvis is still alive. Pretty, pretty sure that’s true. But one of the issues with this massive improvement of AI and machine learning is just the overall data input that’s causing some of our peers in the Legal Information Industry to become more worried about how our legal information vendors are compiling how they’re using other sharing and how they’re selling this data, specifically to government actors. So it’s a really slippery slope out there on how these mega information vendors like Thomson Reuters, Lexus’s, parent company relics, Bloomberg and others are compiling the information on individuals, how they’re packaging that information and then selling it or creating special interfaces for government agencies. There’s a whole balance of how government can use information to keep its citizens safe versus keeping its citizens quote in check and, quote, add to this the whole argument of you know, what authority and actions an agency like ice should be able to do. It makes for an uncomfortableness in the Legal Information Industry of such which I haven’t seen since the USA PATRIOT Act, if you think about it. So if you’ll recall, it was the librarians who were the few groups that stood up to the federal government to say, hey, we’re not going to lay down and let civil liberties be trampled. So I think we’re getting another round two of that. So double A double L members are angry at what’s what’s possibly going on. And I know firsthand, because more than one of the members felt free enough to come up and tell me about it. In no uncertain terms, I can tell you that it’s something that WWL leadership has been researching and has been discussing for a while now.

marlene gebauer 21:25
Yeah, well, I think it’s great that the members are questioning the these these issues. And I know that WWL has been, you know, researching and discussing it for a while. I’m very curious to see what the position of the organization is going to be and what they’re, you know what they’re going to do.

Greg Lambert 21:44
Me too. Me too. So well, on a on a lighter note. Let’s, let’s talk about the keynote.

marlene gebauer 21:50
Yeah, the keynote, John Waters.

Greg Lambert 21:52
Wow, is all I got to say. That was a terrific for those of us that weren’t there or that slept in on Sunday morning. You missed a show. So we get to listen to John Waters give his his opening keynote around 915 in the morning on Sunday, but I also made sure that there was a Bloody Mary and Mimosa bar open at 8:05am That morning, you know, because hey, it’s brunch time, right?

marlene gebauer 22:21
Yeah. So I got to share with you. Did you know I was literally the first person there that was not part of the setup crew. I was like, Wait, there’s no line yet. I mean, granted, I was there an hour early, but I seriously thought this was going to be like rock concert status. I mean, you know, this guy’s on IMDb. And we’ve never had brunch cocktails for the keynote before. Perhaps this will be the beginning of a wonderful tradition. Hope.

Greg Lambert 22:44
So we’ll see. We’ll see how it goes in DC next years. You know, I call I called what John Waters did a keynote. But I did have a couple of people come up and tell me that it was more of a stand up routine. So I won’t argue with that assessment waters did start off by tipping his hat to law librarians and other librarians by saying that librarians are brave, they’re smart, and sometimes pissed off, and that they stand up for the citizens that America sometimes left behind. I thought that it’s like we just like we just talked about exactly. So you know, the talk was very provocative. It was shocking. It was a little filthy.

Marlene Gebauer 23:19
Oh, no, no, no, no, no, it was a lot. Funny, but a lot

Greg Lambert 23:24
Yeat it was kind of filthy. So but you know, I think there was something in there to offend practically everybody in the room. So you’re, you’re a handful of people did walk out. But when I took the stage after waters finished his talk, the room still look packed to me. So I didn’t shock everybody. You got a standing ovation. So I knew last year when we locked in John Waters as the keynote that I wanted to make sure that we placed no boundaries on what he could say, you know, we educated them on what a law librarian was versus a public librarian because I know if you’re like me, you hate it when somebody gets up and talks to a law librarian and just talks about how they love their school library and Republic librarian when they were growing up and I’m a dude, we’re not not that kind of librarian. Love those guys. Yeah, we’re not those guys.

marlene gebauer 24:12
Yeah, I’m just like you about that.

Greg Lambert 24:14
So I think I think John made us all laugh. He made us cringe as well, as you know, think about how we look at ourselves, how we look at others and politics, religion and culture, and society as a whole. So He also explained some pretty dirty jokes at the same time. So you get the whole spent

marlene gebauer 24:32
I learned a few things that I didn’t know. I heard people question whether whether John was an appropriate keynote speaker, and I think he was keynote speakers are supposed to be inspirational and provocative tours. I made a music reference there.

Greg Lambert 24:49
It’s the rank of tours without Jack White. Right.

marlene gebauer 24:52
So keynote speakers challenged the audience to challenge the status quo. I agree that John had something offensive for everyone in his speech. But throughout he was touching on themes of freedom of expression, religion in the law, legal rights of the underprivileged and unrepresented being an activist and standing up for what you believe. And these are all areas that impact all of us and where we can all make a difference. I thought in sharing his experience, John Waters showed us how far we’ve come and also how easily we could slide back into more intolerant today,

Greg Lambert 25:23
man, so I was glad to have him there. So it was a great to overall conference, I think we’ve done a pretty good job reviewing it. And you know, what, Marlene?

marlene gebauer 25:32
Why, Greg?

Greg Lambert 25:33
We made it through our first podcast with no special guests. How about that?

marlene gebauer 25:37
Yay, that’s awesome. We talked the whole time and

Greg Lambert 25:42
these four people have been listening patiently. They have to sit to probably waiting for a guest and now they’re gonna wait. There’s no guest. So you said so why don’t why don’t you go ahead and leave us out?

marlene gebauer 25:53
I will. So this has been The Geek in Review. Special thanks to our employers for giving us the opportunity to attend the AALL annual meeting this year and for all the wonderful employees of W WL and its volunteer members who make the conference such a shining success. And thanks to Kevin MacLeod for his original music.

Greg Lambert 26:10
All right, well, I am in France next week. So unless we do a transatlantic podcast, we’ll probably skip next week.

marlene gebauer 26:18
Probably. We have enough technical problems just doing it here in the states that Oh, enjoy yourself and listeners. We will be back in a couple of weeks. Bye bye

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