It was roughly ten years ago when I learned that half of my library co-workers at my law firm had been let go due to the financial crisis, and the downturn in the legal market. Thus ushered in “The New Normal” of having to constantly do more with less. But it also kick started a new era of change in the legal information field, and opened up opportunities for those willing to lead and guide the profession through that change. A decade later, it is time to evaluate where we are, and the current state of the profession.
The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) recently released its State of the Profession 2019. The report provides a data-driven inventory of the things law librarians and legal information professionals do for their organizations, which runs the gamut from AI implementation to legal research and writing instruction to pro se expertise to customer service to metadata management. It’s the first time this data has been assembled in one place for all law library types, and I’m pleased that it gives me an opportunity to toot our collective horn.
First, for those who don’t know (see page 7), law libraries are product experts with purchasing power. For example, 100 percent of firm/corporate law libraries manage their organization’s research databases and 97.3 percent are responsible for negotiating the contracts for these services.
Second, I’m thrilled that the report showcases law librarians’ adaptability. Of the 27.4 percent whose law firm/corporation had an AI/machine learning initiative, 68.4 percent involve the library. Law librarians also regularly manage or contribute to: competitive intelligence, business development, marketing, professional development, management, and strategy in firms/corporations. Our peers in government and academic law libraries showed the same ingenuity and productivity.
Third, the report is very helpful as an informational tool for benchmarking services, staffing, operations, budgets, professional development, and strategic planning. It’s available in print and digital from AALLNET.
The ABA Journal published a more extensive article on what’s in the State of the Profession 2019, including quotes from AALL President Femi Cadmus. As the immediate Past-President of AALL, I am quite proud of the work that was put in on this report, including work by my podcast co-host, Marlene Gebauer. Law Librarians and Legal Information Professionals have a lot to offer, and this is one way of putting the data behind our collective actions.