One of the best things about being President of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), is the advocacy I get to see first-hand that we do in fighting for the rights of our members, access to justice issues, and when we join in solidarity with peer organizations to urge that our government representatives take appropriate action against injustice.

Yesterday, AALL joined a coalition of 44 organizations today to urge members of the House of Representatives to vote “Yes” on the bipartisan USA RIGHTS amendment when it comes to a vote today. The amendment would provide protections against warrantless surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by establishing a search warrant requirement that closes the so-called “backdoor search loophole” through which the government searches-without first obtaining a court-issued warrant based on probable cause-for information about U.S. persons or persons inside the U.S.; make clear the government must give notice when it uses information obtained or derived from Section 702 surveillance in proceedings against U.S. persons or people on U.S. soil; establish a 4-year sunset of Section 702; and provide for transparency around the number of U.S. persons surveilled under Section 702. The letter urges members to vote No on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act (S. 139) if the USA RIGHTS amendment does not pass.

Here is a copy of that letter:
Dear Representative:
We, the undersigned 44 civil liberties, civil rights, and transparency organizations, urge you to vote “YES” on the USA RIGHTS amendment and “NO” on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act if the USA RIGHTS amendment does not pass.

 Many of our organizations have long opposed Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act because it has been used by the government to unconstitutionally collect Americans’ communications without a warrant or individualized approval from a judge. Our concerns regarding this collection are compounded by the government’s routine searches of Section 702 data for the information of U.S. citizens and residents despite the fact that Section 702 explicitly prohibits the targeting of such persons (a practice commonly referred to as “backdoor searches”).

The government conducts backdoor searches in broadly defined “foreign intelligence” investigations that may have no nexus to national security, in criminal investigations that bear no relation to the underlying purpose of collection, and even in the course of determining whether to open an assessment, which is a preliminary phase of investigations where there are no facts to believe someone has committed a criminal act.

The proposed FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act exacerbates, rather than resolves, these concerns. 

The bill does not meaningfully reform the government’s practice of performing backdoor searches. It would require the government to obtain a warrant only during a “predicated” (i.e., latter-stage) criminal investigation—a narrow formulation that even the FBI has stated will almost never be used. That’s because the government could continue to search and access Americans’ sensitive information without a warrant during the earlier, “assessment” or “pre-assessment” stages — which is when the FBI conducts these searches as a matter of routine.

In addition, the bill would allow warrantless searches for US person information for broad foreign intelligence purposes, which could include information about foreign affairs that are unrelated to national security, as well as for searches related to national security, or if the information sought could mitigate a threat to life or of serious bodily harm, irrespective of imminence. These searches violate the Constitution and undermine Americans’ privacy.

By contrast, the USA RIGHTS Act enacts meaningful reforms to Section 702, which are imperative given our government’s historical abuse of surveillance authorities, contemporary noncompliance with this authority, and the danger posed by potential future abuses.1

The USA RIGHTS Act would:

  • Create a search warrant requirement that closes the so-called “backdoor search loophole” through which the government searches—without first obtaining a court-issued warrant based on probable cause—for information about U.S. persons or persons inside the U.S. It provides an exception for emergencies, but requires a court warrant afterward.
  • Prohibit the collection of domestic communications and permanently end “about” collection, an illegal practice the National Security Agency recently stopped because of persistent and significant compliance violations that allowed for warrantless collection of communications that merely mention an intelligence target. Collections would be limited to communications that are “to” or “from” a target. The bill would also prohibit the intentional collection of wholly domestic communications.
  • Make clear the government must give notice when it uses information obtained or derived from Section 702 surveillance in proceedings against U.S. persons or people on U.S. soil. Notice allows a defendant to assert his or her constitutional rights, and is a necessary backstop to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance is not being misused, including in contexts that do not involve national security.
  • Establish a 4-year sunset of Section 702, which would terminate the surveillance authority unless Congress reauthorizes it again in 2021. This helps to ensure regular Congressional and public oversight of how the law has worked and what reforms or changes may be necessary.
  • Provide transparency around the number of U.S. persons surveilled under Section 702, unless the government says that conducting such an estimate is not feasible, and if it is not, the bill would require the government to provide a public explanation. Understanding the number of people surveilled under Section 702 is critical to gauging the intrusiveness of the law and how broadly the authorities are being used. The USA RIGHTS Act amendment would help to ensure we have an accurate count.

We urge you to vote “YES” on the USA RIGHTS amendment, and “NO” on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act if the USA RIGHTS amendment does not pass.

Sincerely yours,

  • Advocacy for Principled Action
  • American Association of Law Libraries
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • American Library Association
  • Association of Research Libraries
  • Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
  • Campaign for Liberty
  • Center for Democracy & Technology
  • Center for Human Rights and Privacy
  • Color Of Change
  • Constitutional Alliance
  • CREDO
  • Daily Kos
  • Defending Rights and Dissent
  • Demand Progress Action
  • Democracy for America
  • DownsizeDC.org, Inc.
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Essential Information
  • Free Press Action Fund
  • Free the People
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • FreedomWorks
  • Government Information Watch
  • Indivisible
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • National Center for Transgender Equality
  • National Coalition Against Censorship
  • National Immigration Law Center
  • National Security Counselors
  • New America’s Open Technology Institute
  • Oakland Privacy
  • Open the Government
  • PEN America
  • People for the American Way
  • Restore The Fourth, Inc.
  • RootsAction.org
  • Sunlight Foundation
  • TechFreedom
  • The Constitution Project at POGO
  • UltraViolet
  • Wikimedia Foundation
  • Win Without War
  • X-Lab

1 For further discussion, see “Institutional Lack of Candor: A primer on recent unauthorized activity by the Intelligence Community,” Demand Progress (Sept. 21, 2017), available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/demandprogress/reports/FISA_Violations.pdf; “A History of FISA Section 702 Compliance Violations,” Open Technology Institute at New America (Sept. 28, 2017), available at https://www.newamerica.org/oti/blog/history-fisa-section-702-compliance-violations/#; Letter to Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers on the risk of overbroad domestic law enforcement use of Section 702 (July 10, 2017), available at https://www.openthegovernment.org/sites/default/files/702-Coalition-Letter_July2017.pdf.

Since leaving the law firm back in June, I find myself in a really unique position to be able to provide CI consulting services and advice to law firms, law students and legal departments of all shapes and sizes. It is really amazing to me how legal CI has morphed and changed over the years, and now much more dependent law firms and legal departments have become on this scientifically artistic mash up of strategy and information.  As we move toward 2018, with Bitcoin, AI and Emerging Legal Tech in the spotlight, I encourage anyone who is thinking about law firm libraries, marketing, client service or operations to consider attending the CI Foundations course put on by AALL.  In a world that is rapidly changing, sometimes, it is the skills and abilities we already have in our firms that can benefit the most from a renewed purpose and injection of competitive advantage.
Here are the details on the course as promoted by AALL….
Competitive Intelligence competence has now moved to the list of “need to have” expertise. Legal information professionals and law librarians are uniquely equipped to help their firms maintain a competitive edge. AALL is stepping up to the call to prepare librarians with a new course designed to bridge the skill gap and move librarians into strategic service delivery.  Learn to establish and maintain a strategic competitive intelligence (CI) function in a law firm–from development to implementation–at AALL’s inaugural CI course. Those looking to make an impact and expand library services and professionals interested in being key contributors in a changing and complex legal market need to attend. 3 Geeks very own Zena Applebaum will be facilitating the course. More information can be found below and on AALL’s website. The program is open and the deadline is October 18.
CI Foundations
  • Friday, October 27 / 9:00 a.m. (CDT)
  • Sidley Austin LLP / Chicago
  • Members $450 / Nonmembers $675
  • Register today
  • Limited to 40 participants
Topics
  • Competitive Intelligence Concepts and Methodology
  • Establishing and Organizing a Competitive Intelligence Function
  • Leveraging Information for Action
  • Competitive Intelligence Analysis Process and Frameworks   
  • The Law Firm Difference: How is Competitive Intelligence Different for Law Firms?  
  • Implementing a Competitive Analysis Intelligence Program 
  • Integrating Competitive Intelligence into Strategic Practice and Firm Goals 

It almost never fails when I run into someone I used to work with. The conversation starts with “Hey… how’s the law library world? It’s gotta be tough with all those books being online now.” (The implication being “aren’t you worried about becoming irrelevant?”) I reply with “Yeah, that makes it a whole lot more difficult to manage with all that information in a dozen different places than it did when it was a book in the library.” I’m not sure who they think is managing the information which is usually behind a very expensive paywall. I would guess they either think that it is managed directly by the vendor, or worse, that the Information Technology department is now the de facto library managers.

One of the benefits I get from being the current President of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is that I get to go to different types of meetings and engage with legal professionals who are not law librarians. These are law professors, recruiters, marketers, technology/security professionals, legal administrators, in-house counsel, and others in the legal industry. One of the questions that I’ve heard, especially from in-house and corporate lawyers is the fact that they need help managing their legal information. When I ask if they have a librarian or some type of specialized legal information professional, the answer is typically “no.” When I prod further, I find that many corporations downsized or eliminated their corporate library staff during the Great Recession period. I don’t think that is a surprise to many of us. Corporate libraries were devastated at the beginning of this decade. I think that is coming back to haunt some corporations.

This isn’t to say all corporate libraries were eliminated. There are still many out there that are around and thriving. But, more often than not, most were severely affected by the economic downturn, and seen as an easy cost reduction because the corporate management saw libraries as books and space, and librarians as keepers of books and space. In reality, librarians are managers of information, and we have more information at our disposal than ever.

It is time for the corporations to rethink how they are managing their information. My rule of thumb for law firms is that somewhere between 1% to 2% of revenue is spent on external information resources. It’s a guess on my part for corporations, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that same rule of thumb applies to them. If there are no information professionals, such as a librarian, or an information analyst, managing these resources, then I would bet they are being mismanaged.

IT departments are not equipped to manage these types of vendor relations, nor are they experts at understanding what type of information best fits the corporate environment, and what alternative products are out there. Information professionals do.

Corporate lawyers may understand some of the valued resources that are needed for their departments, but do you really want your attorneys dealing with vendors, researching new products or updates to existing resources, and establishing training? Information professionals do.

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants are great people and wonderful at supporting the corporations. However, many are just not experienced in what it takes to plan and create a strategy for what the information needs are for the entire company, or even for an individual department. Information professionals do.

In this era of readily accessible information, we do not suffer from a lack of information resources, we suffer from an abundance of irrelevant information that looks on its surface to be relevant. Information professionals are your line of defense against the abundance of information, and are your due diligence agents for identifying the resources which best fit your needs and your budgets.

If you are one of those corporations who reduced your library staff because you thought “all those books are online now,” it may be time to think about reestablishing those duties. I would suggest reaching out to a local library or law library association if you have one in your area. Or, get in touch with an organization like AALL, SLA, or other specialty library associations and have them point you to someone local who could advice you on where to start. That information is not going to manage itself, so step up and get the professional help you need to get your information resources under control, and part of your overall corporate strategy.

One of the highlights of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) conference in Austin this year was the Innovation Tournament which pitted three librarians’ tech innovations against each other. With two prizes, each worth $2,500, up for grabs, the competition was pretty tough. There was a scanning project management innovation, a Virtual Reality presentation preparedness tool, and an innovative ChatBot for legal information assistance. The ChatBot really caught my attention as something that I would love to test out on a local level.

We’ve all probably seen ChatBots either on Facebook, or when we go to ask for customer service with our favorite online retailers. The idea is pretty simple in that it basically automates many of your frequently asked questions (FAQs) into an interactive chat session. From requesting a maintenance man out to fix your dishwasher to ordering a pizza, ChatBots are out there to handle repetitive tasks.

Imagine the FAQs for law libraries that a ChatBot could help answer.

  1. Point to practice groups specific materials
  2. Pull cases 
  3. Reset passwords 
  4. Identify book locations on a shelf in the office 
  5. [fill in the blank]
I would guess that pretty much anything that you have on your library portal page as a frequently answered question could be leveraged into a ChatBot.
There has to be a good role that vendors could play in helping law librarians out with some of these features. I can see where a citation pull could go directly into a Westlaw, Lexis, Fastcase, etc. citation box and retrieve the material automatically. Passwords could be reset through an API connection either directly from the vendor, or if you are using a content management system (CMS) like Research Monitor or OneLog, you could verify the person’s identity and recover the password from your CMS. The ChatBot could interface with the library catalog and use the wealth of content knowledge contained there to quickly isolate materials the attorney needs. It could even point out that obscure print material that you’ve kept updated for just this specific occasion. 
There is a great opportunity for a collaboration on the local level for the IT departments and the Law Library to create ChatBots which highlight the functionality of the organization’s web portal. There is also an opportunity for law librarian and legal information vendor collaboration for quickly pointing people to the right resources at the right moment. I understand that there are a number of logistical issues regarding whether ChatBots are locally hosted or cloud-based; is it only available on the local network, or can it be an app on the lawyers’ phones; and how do we work with the different variations of ChatBot platforms that are out there? Even with all these issues, I still think there is a great opportunity here for those willing to blaze a trail with using ChatBots in their law libraries. 

If there’s one thing that legal information professionals such as myself love, it’s a nicely curated newsletter of relevant information. There are a couple of new newsletters out there right now that I think the readers of the blog would be interested in subscribing. These are both very well curated newsletters which point out current awareness for legal information, and they are both free. That’s a win-win in my book.

The first one is something that all American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) members have been getting for months now, but is now available to non-members. The KnowItAALL newsletter is maintained by the staff at AALL and identifies current articles of interest to law librarians, and pretty much any others in the legal industry who are wanting to keep up on current events in legal information.

I am a little biased, but I really like this newsletter and find it to be very relevant to my current awareness needs. The other thing that I really like about it is the fact that it identifies articles written by members, or the article features an AALL member. It’s amazing the number of articles out there where law librarians and legal information professionals are involved in one way or another.

The other newsletter is from law professor and overall legal innovation guru, Gabe Teninbaum. Teninbaum has created the Lawtomatic Newsletter which covers article that he finds interesting and thought provoking. The newsletter has four issues as of today and is sent out sporadically, as the right type of content is uncovered. Believe me, if Gabe finds the articles thought provoking, then they are worth a read.

Both the KnowItAALL and Lawtomatic Newsletters are free to subscribe, and contain very relevant information for the legal information professional, and pretty much anyone in the legal industry. I highly recommend signing up for both.

Photo by Charlz Gutiérrez De Piñeres on Unsplash

What I am about to write is completely anecdotal, but I think is relevant to the current disruption that we are seeing in the legal industry when it comes to automation of legal tasks. I know, most of you are asking, “how does that vary from all your other posts, Greg?” Quite frankly, it doesn’t, but I wanted to warn the readers that this one is my experience, and your mileage may vary.

I want to paraphrase something that I heard last week from a guest speaker at the AALL conference in Austin.

Lawyers don’t like automation of tasks because it cuts into their billable hours, and thus it costs them money.

This is a good line to say to a bunch of law librarians and legal tech professionals, but it’s kind of a cheap line, and in my experience, not all that accurate. It’s a line that has been said in different forms for the twenty years or more that Knowledge Management processes have been hailed as best practices for law firms. Add to that the history of business process improvements, Six-Sigma implementation, and now Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and you’ve got a new platform to tell the story of “the attorneys won’t adopt these ideas because it will cut the time they charge their clients.”

I have to say that I have yet to talk with an attorney that hinted that this was a serious barrier for efficiency. Oh, I am positive that some of you have run into these attorneys, I’m just saying that it has not been my personal experience.

What I have seen, however, is the challenge of implementing these processes and tools into the workflow of the attorney without causing a major disruption, at least initially, in their ability to do the work. Sometimes this disruption lasts for months. Again, I’ll give you another anecdote.

When I was at ILTA last year, I watched an amazing presentation from some very forward thinking lawyers who created automation tools and machine learning techniques to process a type of transactional documents. The outcome was pretty amazing, and reduced the time to process documents down from dozens of hours down to a few minutes or hours. Plunk in the data… press the “go” button, and watch the machines do the work. The idea was to make the lawyers focus on what they are really good at, and that is dealing with the highest risks the clients face, and not waste time on no-risk, or low-risk items in the portfolio. Lawyers could then charge an alternative fee deal that still made them a nice profit, but at the same time, reduced the clients overall spend. On top of all of that, it also sped up the time spent on the matter.

Now, you might read that last part and say, “I can see why lawyers would refuse to do that. It cuts their own throats by making less revenue.” That sounds like a solid interpretation. However, let me add in one more detail to the story which I got after the presentation when I asked the presenters this question. “How long did it take you to automate this one type of deal, and how many people did it take to get it operational?”

The answer was that it took six to eight months, four or five consultants and programmers, and two or three attorneys who could test the system as it was being created, and give feedback. That was for one type of deal. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb here to say that the cost of this was probably in the mid six-figure range or higher.

Granted, the first item brought to market is the most expensive, and it is very possible that the next type of deal would only take a few weeks to bring online, and a diminishing amount of time for the next deal type, and the next deal type. How many law firms are going to take this risk with the upfront costs in the hopes that eventually they will get a return on their investment?

So let’s get back to the idea that lawyers don’t like automation because it costs them billable hours. I think that the real answer is that most lawyers don’t like automation because the change is too costly, both in time and money. High risk can mean high reward, but it is still a high risk.

Perhaps the story I’m using here is a situation where we attempt to do too much all at once. I’m a big believer that law firms don’t lack for resources which improve overall efficiency. What they actually lack is actually applying the existing resources they have. Instead of looking at the latest bleeding-edge technology that promises reducing months of time to seconds, look to the tools you’ve already bought that will reduce ten minutes off an hour of work. It’s not as cool, but it is more likely to work.

I’m finally back in my office in Houston today after taking a week to visit Austin and attend the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) annual meeting. Looking back on the last week, all I can do is take a deep breath and say… “WOW!!”

Here are just a handful of highlights:

  • AALL announced that it is removing Texas from consideration for future conference location due to the Texas Legislature, Lt. Governor, and Governor’s anti-LGBTQ stances and laws. (I got to be on local TV and in Texas newspapers.)
  • Bryan Stevenson gave perhaps the best keynote that I’ve ever seen, and inspired everyone in the audience to get proximate, change the narrative, stay hopeful, and make a conscious decision to do uncomfortable things. (AALL members can see a recording of the talk, here.)
  • AALL’s inaugural Innovations Tournament was held, and BakerHostetler’s Katherine Lowry, and University of North Texas’ Jen Wondracek, each won the $2,500.00 prize for their innovations. Georgetown’s Tom Boone and Matt Zimmerman were a close third. The fact that the top two winners were both women tech leaders speaks volumes for the Association, and is something that makes me very, very proud.
  • Speaking of AALL and technology, Bob Ambrogi had a wonderful write up of how AALL isn’t just a great conference for legal information professionals to discuss legal content and research, but that it is also a great legal technology conference. I want to quote Gabe Teninbaum (who gave a wonderful presentation at the PLLIP-Summit):
    “It’s [AALL Conference] got nearly as much legaltech as any conference branded as legaltech, but a fraction of the push toward selling products.”
    High praise, indeed!
  • John Waters…  yes, that John Waters, is going to be the 2018 AALL Conference Keynote speaker in Baltimore. I mean, it’s Baltimore. He was my immediate choice!!
  • About a million other things happened. (Please post some of your favorites in the comments, if you’d like to share.)
  • I officially became the AALL President for 2017-2018.
On Monday, at the AALL Business Meeting, I gave a talk on what my plans are for the upcoming year. The Baltimore conference theme is “From Knowledge To Action,” and I wanted to highlight some of the actions I would like to take. Now I have to get back to work!!
Here is the speech:
I am excited about the upcoming year, and proud to serve as your president. In the past 20 years, I have gone from academic, to government, to outsourced consultant, and to private law firm occupations. The constant throughout that change has been AALL, and I am honored to have the opportunity to lead an organization that has given me so much.
The Association has endured many challenges over the past decade. A global recession which decimated parts of our profession, especially in the corporate, private law, and government library sectors, and a retiring baby-boomer population which made up a large percentage of our overall membership. 
We face competition from other associations for roles which are traditional or law librarian created functions.  Now we face a legal educational market in retraction after decades of expansion. 
AALL faced these challenges and we have adapted to become a leaner association. Staffing levels are down, and we have adjusted how the Association spends money to ensure we are fiscally responsible and providing stability for the future of the Association. 
We are still losing more members than we are gaining. That is a situation we must address, and the long-term strategy of the Association must adapt to this trend. We have held off most of the losses through cuts. However, I am a big believer that you cannot cut your way to prosperity. 
The Association must look at new revenue sources, and I believe that there are many opportunities out there to find ways of increasing the numbers of new members, finding options for retiring members who want to stay engaged with the profession, inform stakeholders about the value of professional development for our members, and providing programs to attract those who do not think of themselves as law librarians or legal information professionals, either into the Association as members, or through other revenue generating offerings. 
We have so much knowledge and expertise in this Association that is of considerable value to the industry. We need to leverage that and put it into action. 
I have written many times in my blog that the law librarian, or however you refer to yourself on an individual or department basis, is one of the most valuable and most credentialed members in your work place.
We all work tirelessly for our organizations to support the overall strategic goals of our employers. Our voices should be heard, our leadership and expertise recognized, and our contribution to the success of our organizations acknowledged. 
Our professional Association should assist us in these efforts through leadership training, professional development opportunities, and promoting the overall value of law librarianship to our direct stakeholders, and others in the legal profession.
AALL is stepping up on this front to make the law librarians’ voices heard beyond our inner circles. This year we are working with a public relations firm to increase our reach and highlight the critical role we play within the legal community.  
Most importantly, we will begin to share all the content created by our members broadly with the media, both legal and non-legal.  We are confident these efforts will position us as the only national association committed to championing the essential role law librarians play in the legal profession. 
We have a wealth of knowledge within AALL, and we will put into action processes to expose that knowledge.
We are currently working to develop a knowledge management system which will capture, share and use content in support of members.  We are currently overhauling the AALL website, which will have more intuitive navigation, Boolean search, and taxonomic functionality.  We will expand the site’s Knowledge Center so information and work product can be easily shared across AALL entities. 
This will produce an evergreen process for identifying current and emerging competencies that will translate into knowledge points to apply to all or our education, publications, and programs. 
We are also expanding our education programs, and this October and holding a one-day Competitive Intelligence program in Chicago, facilitated by Zena Applebaum, a well-known expert in the field. 
The theme for is the 2018 Annual Meeting & Conference in Baltimore is, “From Knowledge to Action.” 
As I mentioned earlier, law librarians and others in the legal information profession are some of the smartest and most credentialed members of their organizations. However, this does very little when you’re not part of the decision-making team. We need to find ways of exposing the powers-that-be in our organizations to the power of people in their law libraries and knowledge resources departments. 
I want to see our members producing more White Papers, placing articles in journals and other publications that are read by those decision makers, and finding opportunities for members to engage with industry leaders. 
We need to have more interactions with our own stakeholders and others in the legal profession in ways that presses the question of why aren’t they leveraging this talent in better ways to benefit the law firms, law schools, government institutions, and other businesses which have law librarians and legal information professionals on staff.
A local Houston politician once told me, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” She is right. It is time to go beyond being smart, and credentialed, and helpful, and nice. It is time we take action and create success for ourselves, our profession, our Association, our work place, and the entire legal profession. 
It is my goal for AALL to work alongside you providing the tools and support to make that leap from knowledge to action.
As much as I have enjoyed having you all here in my home state of Texas, I’m excited to be in Baltimore next year. The AMPC committee, led by Kim Serna, is already in action, and will be reaching out to all of you to put your knowledge into action in Baltimore.
We have a lot to do between now and then. Please feel free to reach out to me with your ideas, and let me know of your own successes. I look forward to representing AALL and all of you this year. 
Thank you.

One of the best things I get to do as the incoming President of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), is reach out to new members that have joined the association and talk with them on the phone. I find that the new members genuinely appreciate that someone has reach out to them, and took the time to welcome them to AALL. I have found that I, too, get a benefit from talking to the newer members because they give me some insights that I might otherwise never encounter. One such event happened to me recently and it helped me understand what we should be pushing as the real narrative of law librarianship and legal information professionals.

The person I was talking to was a Research Attorney (JD w/license, but no MLIS, so not a librarian.) We were discussing the overall structure of the departments, and how her role fit in with the librarians and other professionals on the team. We talked about the reaction from the attorneys and others within the firm, and she said something that caught my attention.

She mentioned that the lawyers would make comments about how “nice” and “helpful” the librarians and other researchers are. She said she commented back that that’s completely missing the point of the true value. These law librarians and other professionals are smart, curious, creative, intuitive, and brilliant in the work they do. They do not waste your time. They are efficient and effective in finding the correct answers, finding it quickly, and making sure that it doesn’t cost you more than is reasonable for the issue at hand. Yes, we can do that with a smile, but that’s the icing on the cake. The real value is that we do what we do better than anyone else. That’s what we need to push as the real narrative. Of course, we can still do that with a smile.

This discussion left me with a smile on my face as well. Even better, it left me with a clear narrative to make sure that smart, curious, creative, intuitive, and brilliant are included in that discussion.

[Ed. Note: I asked Katie Brown, Law Library Director of the University of Charlotte School of Law, and fellow geek, to write a review of last week’s NCCSLM meeting in Boston. Please welcome guest blogger Katie Brown. – GL]

Last week (12/2/16) I had the opportunity to attend the Boston University Law School/ AALL hosted –National Conference on Copyright of State Legal Materials. This topic has seen an uptick in interest in recent years, mostly among law librarians and on legal blogs, as state copyright issues have arisen and have greatly affects both patron access to material and publisher pricing. As a self –proclaimed “IP Junkie,” was looking forward to this all-day event to further explore these musings with an audience of folks whom I knew would be just as passionate about this copyright issue as I am, and I can tell you AALL an BU did not disappoint.

The daylong event covered a host of subtopics within the state copyright arena. The agenda boasted everything, from a copyright issue overview; to a panel addressing who owns the copyright in the work of the United States Government; to how we make the content easily available to people; to journalists limited access to legal materials changing what stories find their way to print; and finally several organizations discussing aspirational examples for expansive, accurate and open access to state legal materials. I think the experience of the full day was best stated by one attendee, who after the event, shared on social media that he was now suffering from, “Gov’t info Overload.”

It is important to note his use of the word “overload” instead of overwhelmed. For me, the positive overload of content was a direct result of the wide breadth of speakers, who spoke passionately throughout the day about how they have been touched and limited by the copyright status of and access to United States law. Another wonderful take away I gleaned from the day’s event was each speaker seemed to be striving for a positive way to improve access and discussing exploring ways that this original public domain content will easily be available to all in the future.

You can always gauge if the content from your event is hitting a nerve with the speakers, audience and experts outside the forum when it gets the folks on twitter typing away. The event hashtag #NCCSLM throughout the day was aflutter with zippy one liners, links to resources, shout outs and retweets.

A few of my favorite tweets from the day are:

I encourage you to take a look at all the tweets from the day by searching #NCCSLM and listen to the day’s recording that will be made available from AALL in the near future.  ‬‬‬

As the Vice-President/President-Elect of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), I wanted to tell our 3 Geeks’ readers about the new visual identity and tagline that AALL officially rolled out last night. Leaders within the organization worked on this rebranding effort for nearly two years, and displayed the new logo back at the annual meeting in Chicago last July. I, for one, like the new logo, and the tagline that goes along with it. I applaud those that worked on the rebranding effort and I hope that members of AALL, as well as those that benefit from the work that law librarians, legal information professionals, take a moment to look at the new branding and take a moment to think about all the good work that the Association, its members, and staff provide to the legal industry.

I wanted to focus on the tagline, and the two meanings that it represents.


Your Legal Knowledge Network


Internal Meaning: To members of AALL the tagline represents the community of knowledgeable law librarians and other legal information professionals who identify with the ideals of access to justice, the dissemination of legal information, and the ability to reach out to that community in a way that adds value to the service we provide for our individual organizations. To me, the best thing about AALL is its members. It is your legal knowledge network because we learn from each other, and we form bonds that unite us and allow us to leverage the knowledge of the entire association, regardless of the type of work we perform, or the organization which we work. This is your legal knolwedge network of highly-educated and forward-thinking professionals are willing to give their time and experiences to help others within AALL and beyond is a valuable professional development tool which all law librarians and legal information professionals should feel proud to belong.

External Meaning: For the legal industry, AALL members represent some of the most educated, connected, and resourceful employees of your organization. AALL becomes your legal knowledge network and exposes your organization to advanced educational opportunities to keep your law librarians ahead of the curve for changes in the legal environment. AALL is your legal knowledge network to discover new legal information resources and provide access and understanding of how these resources may bring value to your practices within your organization. AALL is your legal knowledge network to fight and lobby for legal information to be open and available and not locked behind a government or corporate wall. AALL is your legal knowledge network that multiplies the talents and skills of your legal information professional by the diverse talent and skills of thousands of other law librarians and legal information professionals.

I may be biased in my appreciation for AALL and what it does for me, my organization, my profession, and the legal profession as a whole… but I am not wrong. I have written and talked about the value of law librarianship ever since former AALL President and Georgetown University Law Library Director, Bob Oakley, reached out to a very green law librarians some sixteen years ago and asked me to write about where he thought I believed the profession was going. AALL gave me a voice and an opportunity to leverage its members and resources to expand my own career. I hope that in the course of my journey I return the favor to another member of my network.

I think our current President, Ron Wheeler says it best. “AALL’s new brand honors our past, embraces our present, and emboldens our future as legal information professionals. The knowledge and talent of our members, combined with their unrivaled dedication to service, make our whole legal system stronger. I have never been more proud to be a law librarian.”

For those current members of AALL, thanks for being a part of this network. For those that have lapsed in the past few years, I encourage you to come back. If you’re a law librarian or someone who works in the legal information profession, I invite you to come join and make this network your own. For those who employ law librarians and legal information professionals, encourage them to join and leverage this network. After all, AALL is your legal knowledge network.