[Ed. Note: Please welcome guest blogger Michael Robak, Director of the Schoenecker Law Library, Associate Dean and Clinical Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas (Minneapolis) School of Law. Michael did want me to mention this quote about his enthusiasm in writing this post -“The biggest challenge after success is shutting up about it. (Criss Jami)” – GL ]

It is hard for me to be objective about the first official TECHSHOW Academic Track but, I think, it is fair to say that what transpired was an overwhelming success. And the best part – the Academic Track will be part of TECHSHOW2019–so we need to start planning!

Before I get into more detail about the Track, let me say, TECHSHOW2018 was in and of itself a smashing success.

This year saw a new venue with more space and with more attendees. Except for a small glitch with registration on Wednesday (which led to an open bar, so seriously, not a downside at all!), everything worked incredibly well. Co-Chairs Debbie Foster and Tom Mighell, and the TECHSHOW Board and ABA staff, are to be commended for their dedication and diligence in putting together such a terrific TECHSHOW.

But let me get back to the reason for the post, to let the world know the Academic Track was a complete and wonderful success at TECHSHOW2018. My gauge for declaring success has several measures.

Continue Reading TECHSHOW2018 & the Academic Track = Success! No, it was a Spectacular Success!!!

[Ed. Note: Please welcome guest blogger Michael Robak, Director of the Schoenecker Law Library, Associate Dean and Clinical Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas (Minneapolis) School of Law]

I read with great interest Zena Applebaum’s Mandatory Classes a Wish for 2018 post. And, while I can’t say this post will make her wish come true, I do think the creation of an official Academic Track at the ABA TECHSHOW is a step in the right direction, particularly for helping the Academy “get it” when it comes to creating offerings for new competencies.

Getting the Academic Track created and off the ground has been an interesting journey, some of which Greg has generously let me chronicle here and here, so I know there many loyal followers of the Geeks who are aware a number of us have been working to create the Academic Track.

So it is amazing to announce the ABA TECHSHOW 2018 will feature the Academic Track as an official part of the show!! So many thanks are in order but Steve Best, Debbie Foster, Tom Mighell and, particularly Adriana Linares, are the primary people behind making this an official part of the show.

Here is the skinny: the show is March 7- 10, 2018 in Chicago. Change of venue this year as it will be held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago and not the Hilton Towers. Early bird registration ends 1/22/18. Sign up now! Conference Hotel rates are $189 which, for downtown Chicago, is terrific. Also note there is an extraordinary student rate available.

The Academic Track has five sessions over two days (Thursday (3/8) and Friday (3/9)) (Complete Schedule is here and some screen shots from the website)

The sessions are designed to allow plenty of time to attend other Track sessions as well as spend time in the vendor hall. All the sessions will be terrific and I want to particularly point out two of them. The first is the Mentoring Women and People of Color in Legal Tech. This outstanding panel will be led by Irene Mo one of the ABA Center for Innovation’s inaugural fellows! Irene’s panel promises to be an attraction for many outside of the Academy as well.

I should note we think all of the sessions will be of interest to practitioners and the vendors, especially the last session which is the second one I want to highlight.

This session, Planning for the Future, is designed to be an interactive discussion for continued development of a framework for moving teaching Tech forward as well as building on the other initiatives, e.g., the AALS Section on Technology, Law and Legal Education, CALI, the AALL Teaching Legal Technology Caucus. And we need to hear from practitioners who can give us the best insight on what they are seeing as day to day needs for practice today…and for 2020.

I can say, with some certainty, the Academy is still very much in a state of “fits and starts” when it comes to deciding the what and how of teaching Tech. So let’s move beyond fits and starts and come to TECHSHOW and help further the discussion, create direction and gather momentum.
A final note, this programming applies not just to law schools and we hope to see fellow educators from Paralegal and other affiliated legal training programs.

[ED. NOTE: Please welcome guest blogger, Michael J. Robak, Associate Director/Director of Information Technologies, Leon E. Bloch Law Library, University of Missouri – Kansas City. -GL]

Such great news! – thanks to 2017 TECHSHOW Chair Adriana Linares (Viva Adriana!) and
University of Illinois Jenner Law Library Director, Faye
Jones
, the first ever Academic Track will
be part of this year’s TECHSHOW which will be held March 15 – 18, 2017.  The groundwork for the track was developed
last year at the direction of 2016 TECHSHOW Chair, Steve Best and has been
many months in the making.
Here’s the skinny – the Academic track will be a conference
within TECHSHOW.  Faye, and the
University Illinois College of Law, are generously sponsoring a series of
panels and sessions that will occur on Thursday March 16 and Friday March 17.  These are designed to allow those from the
Academy to move between the TECHSHOW and the Academic track.  In fact, that was the concept behind the
conference within the conference, maximize the opportunity for practitioners,
and particularly members of the ABA Law Practice
Division
, to help inform the Academy on what’s needed in the curriculum.  The schedule is designed for faculty,
administration and (we hope) students to move between TECHSHOW and the track
and to bring ideas and people into the track conversation.  And we’ve designed the track to create
working takeaways that can help expand and supplement conversation at the 2017 AALL Annual meeting with the Teaching
Legal Technology Caucus
as well as add to CALI’s page supporting
the caucus.  In addition we will create follow
up opportunities for the AALS Section
on Technology, Law and Education
.
With Greg’s permission, I’ll provide additional posts about
TECHSHOW’s Academic track to give updates and provide ideas about how to
maximize what I know will be an amazing event.
To register for the Academic track you register for
TECHSHOW, which provides full access to TECHSHOW and the vendor hall.  There is a reduced rate for academics and
even more reduced rate for student attendance. 
Early registration closes January
30
so sign up
ASAP
!
One final note for this post – the Incubator
Consortium’s 4th Annual Conference
will be held at the same time
at Texas A&M and hosted by Professor of Law and Associate Dean for
Experiential Education Luz
Herrera
.  There is quite a bit of
crossover with the Consortium’s focus on technology for Incubators.  So we’ve decided to link the two conferences
and we will have a virtual panel on Friday, March 17, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. that
will be a technology plenary at both conferences and which will talk, in part,
about how Law Schools can build Lawyer Referral Service platforms and the
opportunities for data analytics with such a platform. 

More to come…. Please sign up today!

[NOTE: Please welcome guest blogger, Michael J. Robak, Associate Director/Director of Information Technologies, Leon E. Bloch Law Library, University of Missouri – Kansas City. -GL]

The movement to establish a true Technology instruction track and andragogy (meaning Susskind, Kowalski, et. al.) in the legal academy is gaining real momentum.  As readers may recall, on March 16, 2016 the ABA TECHSHOW provided an opportunity for an Academic specific event tied to TECHSHOW which 3 Geeks generously allowed me to advertise.  This first ever Dean’s Roundtable, held at IIT Chicago Kent College of Law (which was enthusiastically supported and hosted by Professor Ron Staudt,), was incredibly successful and helped set the stage for creating an Academic track at the 2017 ABA TECHSHOW.

The event was so successful that the 2016 ABA TECHSHOW Chair, Steve Best, thought a second edition of the Dean’s Roundtable would provide an even greater opportunity for dialogue if it could be held in conjunction with the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco in early August for a West coast version.  Those who attended the Roundtable, including the first Roundtable’s generous sponsor, Thomson Reuters, thought a second event would be well worth creating.


And so we are announcing the Dean’s Roundtable Part 2 to be held at UC Hastings College of Law on August 4, 2016 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. And I am pleased to announce Thomson Reuters is again generously sponsoring the event.


If you are at a law school in the San Francisco area or if you are attending the ABA Annual Meeting or if you are interested in helping build technology teaching or the ABA TECHSHOW Academic track please consider attending the Dean’s Roundtable Part 2 on August 4, 2016. 


And we particularly extend the invitation to practitioners, we need comment and recommendations from outside the ivory tower.

This is a free event and registration can be found here.

We hope to have in attendance a number of the members of the ABA Law Practice Division, including members of the Executive Committee, to create an even stronger dialogue about the “how and what” of teaching technology, particularly from those practitioners most engaged with serving as technology evangelists.  The second part of the dialogue will focus on helping design the academic track for the 2017 ABA TECHSHOW.  2017 TECHSHOW chair, Adriana Linares, is an avowed and immensely supportive proponent of the track and is working with her Board to develop the track.  Input from the Roundtable will be very important to getting this organized.

Besides the ABA TECHSHOW Academic track, there have been two other important developments in the month of July.  The first was a discussion that occurred in early July at the SubTech 2016 Unconference, hosted by the University of Richmond Law School (and thanks to Marc Lauritsen for organizing and Roger Skalbeck (and Dean Wendy Perdue) for hosting) the event for connecting law schools that have engaged in the substantive teaching of technology. During this unconference,   John Mayer, law tech dude extraordinaire, (where would we be without John!) sua sponte created a website to serve as a connector for those wanting to teach technology.  Among other services, the website will collect syllabi from anyone who wants to contribute.  If you are on the Teknoids listserv you’ve probably seen the conversation.

The second terrific development occurred during the AALL Annual meeting last week.  Elizabeth Farrell Clifford (who attended SubTech 2016) organized a flash meeting to discuss teaching technology.  This amazing event had about 30 people in attendance with another 15 or so expressing regret to Elizabeth they could not attend.  The meeting had each of the attendees discussing what they taught or planned to teach and clearly demonstrated law schools are recognizing the need to formally move in this direction.  The attendees unanimously supported the idea of creating an AALL Caucus focusing on teaching technology.  Elizabeth and I are moving forward on this proposal.

The half day conference Agenda is as follows:

8:30 a.m. – Registration
9:00 – 10:15 – Moderated Panel Discussion
Moderator – Dean Ellen Suni – University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law
Panelists:
Professor Oliver Goodenough – Vermont Law School
Professor Alice Armitage – UC Hastings College of the Law
Professor Dan Linna – Michigan State University School of Law
Professor Jeff Ward – Duke Law
Assistant Dean Bobby Ahdieh – Emory University School of Law School
10:15 – 10:30 Break
10:30 – 12 noon – Discussion Forum
The panel will lead a discussion with members of the audience to move toward consensus regarding the next steps for advancing teaching technology in law school and examining how the ABA TECHSHOW can be part of these efforts going forward.

12 noon – boxed lunch and further discussion
(Generously provided by Thomson Reuters)
 

Please feel free to email me (the man behind the curtain) with comments, thoughts, ideas or any suggestions.  There will most likely be a discussion about the Academic Track and this topic generally at the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) at the January, 2017 meeting in San Francisco.

[NOTE: Please welcome guest blogger, Michael J. Robak, Associate Director/Director of Information Technologies, Leon E. Bloch Law Library, University of Missouri – Kansas City.]
This
year’s ABA Tech Show is from March 16 – 19, 2016. (http://www.techshow.com/ )   It is also the 30th anniversary
of the Tech Show.  This year, for the
first time, an academic specific event is going to be tied to the Tech
Show.  The half day conference, on the
morning of March 16, 2016 is an opportunity for law school faculty and
administration, law students and practitioners to discuss the “how and what” of
teaching technology as well as develop a framework for adding an academic track
to the 2017 program.  Law students are
particularly encouraged to attend the event and the show.  Pricing for law student admission to the 3
day event is $100. (Registration link here: http://www.techshow.com/pricing/ )
Below
is the program description – if you are planning to attend the ABA Tech show,
this will be a great way to start the event!
Teaching
Technology in the Academy:  Are we
finally at the Tipping Point?
A
Law School Roundtable discussion held in conjunction with the 2016 ABA Tech
Show
Hosted
by IIT-Chicago Kent School of Law
March
16, 2016
9:00
– 12 noon
No
charge for registration
Roundtable Description
2016
marks the 30th Anniversary of the ABA Tech show.  In 1986 the idea of “micro-computers” in law
practice, to quote Jeff Arresty, one of the show’s founders, “was at its
complete inception”.
Much
has changed in those 30 years when it comes to legal technology.  But law schools have not yet fully embraced
the importance of technology competency for law students.  Even though law schools have begun to bring
technology courses to the curriculum and to experiment with innovative concepts
like legal hackathons, much remains to be done. 
In
July, 2014 and again in April, 2015, the University of Missouri – Kansas City
hosted two conferences on Law Schools, Technology and Access to Justice.  These conferences were supported by the Ewing
Marion Kauffman Foundation and brought together academics, legal technologists
and members of the Access to Justice community. 
One of the stated goals of the conferences was to produce a specific
direction for the teaching of technology in law schools.  A set of principles, referred to informally
as the Kansas City Principles, were developed and state as follows:
Fundamental Principal
#1: 
In their role of
ensuring that the lawyers of tomorrow have the core competencies to provide
effective and efficient legal services, law schools have the responsibility to
provide all students with education and training to enable them to understand
the risks and benefits associated with current and developing technologies and
the ability to use those technologies appropriately.
Fundamental Principal
#2: 
In order for lawyers
to fulfill their professional obligations to advance the cause of justice, it
is essential that economically viable models for the delivery of legal services
be developed that allow all members of society to have access to competent
legal representation or effective self-representation regardless of income, and
law schools should assist in the development of technologically-supported legal
marketplaces that help identify available alternatives and, where legal
representation appears most appropriate, to empower those seeking the services
of a lawyer to identify and retain a competent lawyer of choice at reasonable
cost.
Fundamental Principal
#3: 
As part of their
responsibility to assist in providing access to law and justice, law schools
should use their legal knowledge and technological capabilities to make the law
more comprehensible and readily available to the public so as to empower people
to use the law and, where appropriate, lawyers, to improve the quality of their
lives, and should include in this endeavor, among other initiatives , working
with national, state, and local governments to provide the public with free
on-line access to statutes, regulations, cases and other primary law at all
levels of government.  
Fundamental Principal
#4: 
In order to encourage
community economic development and contribute to a strong global economy, law
schools should educate lawyers who can stimulate entrepreneurship and
innovation and assist in developing technology that can support economically
viable means of providing affordable legal services to small businesses, social
ventures and start-up enterprises.
Fundamental Principal
#5: 
Because technology has
the potential to reinvent the processes of law in ways that can help achieve
access to justice, law schools should encourage their students, faculty and
graduates to research, teach and implement non-traditional, technological
approaches to legal innovation that will maximize the ways in which individuals
and entities can achieve the benefits of law and legal process.
The explicit goal of this
half day event is to not only continue to drive the discussion that led to
these principles, but to develop an agenda for how to proceed, including how to
involve the ABA Law Practice Management Section and leverage the opportunity
provided by the ABA Tech Show.
In addition, there has never
been a better opportunity for practitioners to help influence law schools on
the best directions in which to proceed with technology training.  It is expected that the roundtable audience
will include not only members of the academy but also practitioners, law
students and vendor representatives, and the participation of all these
segments in the conversation will be beneficial to determining next steps.
Agenda
8:30 – registration
9:00 –
10:15 – Moderated Panel Discussion:
Meeting
Technology Competencies for the 21st Century lawyer: The Role for
Today’s Law Schools
     Moderator:            Dean
Ellen Suni – University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) School of Law
     Panelists: Professor
Ronald W. Staudt          – IIT Chicago- Kent
School of Law
                        Professor Oliver
Goodenough      – Vermont Law School
                        Professor William
Henderson       – Indiana University
Maurer School of Law
                        Dean Andrew Perlman                   –
Suffolk Law School
10:15
– 10:30 – Break
10:30 –
12 noon – Discussion Forum
The
panel will lead a discussion with members of the audience to move toward
consensus regarding the next steps for advancing the teaching of technology in
law school and examining how the ABA Tech Show can be part of these efforts
going forward.
12
noon – boxed lunch

If you’re an academic with twenty-six peer-reviewed articles sitting out there, what’s the next thing you want to do? If you are creative, you turn that into a potential twenty-seventh paper by doing an experiment on them. At least that’s what Melissa Terras from the London School of Economics and Science (LSE) did. Terras wanted to see how others would react to those open-access academic articles located on the University College of London’s (UCL) Discovery platform if she did follow-up blog posts and tweets about them. She wrote about her results in the LSE Impact of Social Science Blog, and it appears that the additional blogging and tweets made a significant difference in the number of downloads of her research.
(note: hat-tip to bespacific blog for finding the article.)

Terras didn’t do what most of us think of when it comes to promoting previous work on Blogs or Twitter (a.k.a. “blatant marketing”), instead she filled in the pieces of the research that didn’t make it into the original publications by giving the background details of what went into the process. Instead of just tweeting “go read my paper Digital Curiosities: Resource Creation Via Amateur Digitisation,” she actually wrote a blog post where she talked about the issues surrounding why she wrote the paper and injected her personality into the blog post (which is usually lacking in those peer-reviewed academic papers.) The results were pretty good and Terras could see that there was value in taking these additional steps. After her first post and tweet about the article, she monitored the downloads to see what happened next.

She blogged about the article, then a couple days later started tweeting about the blog post. As you can see from the graph above, the results show a significant increase in downloads of her article. She then went on to test some other papers with the same process, and left one paper in the series out of the process… it’s pretty easy to see which one got left out.

Although she admits this isn’t exactly going viral, it does help in getting your work out in front of others. Terras’ advice is really two-fold and increasingly important for the academic community:

Ergo, if you want people to read your papers, make them open access, and let the community know (via blogs, twitter, etc) where to get them. Not rocket science. But worth spending time doing. Just dont develop a stats habit.

I’ve actually been thinking about how this relates to the legal community, especially in the large law firm environment that I live in. Try as I might, I can’t talk lawyers into stopping with those rigid and legalese “client alerts” that flood in-house counsel’s email boxes every time Congress passes a law, or the Supreme Court issues a ruling. However, could the approach that Terras did with her academic papers work with client alerts? Could a lawyer that wrote the client alert turn around and actually write a more personable blog post explaining the background of why he or she wrote the client alert (add in some personality, maybe a little humor??) and then tweet about it? Could the results be similar to what Terras discovered with her papers?

I’d love to run an experiment to see. So, if you’re an attorney and you are forced to write one of those lovely client alerts, how about guest posting here about what you wrote, and why you wrote it? Make sure you tell your Marketing Department first so we can get them to monitor the stats for how many downloads you get in the following days after the post and after the tweeting begins. If it works like Terras’ experiment, then maybe firms should rethink how they promote client alerts and start this three-phased process of client alerts, follow-up blog post, and Twitter.

Image [cc] Tulane Public Relations

While visiting the Law Libraries Society of Washington DC chapter (LLSDC) last week, my host, Roger Skalbeck had a group of us sit down for a question and answer session at the group’s town hall meeting. Roger gave us five minutes to cover a question, and then we moved on to the next question regardless of if we had finished addressing the issue or not. It was a lot of fun, and it was challenging to stop talking when his iPhone timer went off… but we did. One of the questions he asked us, however, has stuck in the back of my mind, and I wanted to address it for a couple more minutes here on the blog, and hopefully get some responses from the readership as well.

Should Law Schools Teach Students (legal research) Processes or Products?

Is it enough to teach legal research skills to law students in ways that make them proficient in jumping from legal resource to legal resource, or are firms really wanting newly minted lawyers to be very good at specific tools like WestlawNext, or Lexis Advance? Of course, most of us in the room picked item “B” from the list and said that it is better to teach them the skills that can be used regardless of the product they end up using at the firm. That sounds good on paper, but in reality it is becoming harder and harder to identify what makes up those skills in today’s legal research environment. The skills that worked well in Lexis and Westlaw’s web based products, may not transfer very well to the latest generation of WestlawNext or Lexis Advance. Many students would argue that being proficient in ‘Google-Like’ searching is a much more valuable skill than the Boolean and keyword searching we’ve been teaching for the past twenty-plus years.

If the process of searching is changing, should law schools start focusing on teaching more specific skills based on the big two products of Westlaw and Lexis? One member of the audience chimed in and reminded us that even those two products are now really four products once you brought in the new generations platforms. Not only that, but now there’s Bloomberg Law that is making a play for the law student’s attention. Just with these three players, there are five different platforms, and that’s before you start adding in the secondary resources that may or may not work within those platforms.

My comment on this topic actually took a different angle and suggested what I know to be nearly impossible for law schools to teach their students – don’t let students fall into the vendor’s trap of only learning one platform. The law student that finds him or herself at the end of their third year of law school that hasn’t activated their Lexis ID because they like to use Westlaw better (or vice-versa) has played into the hands of the vendor at the expense of their own experience. Those students that go to their Summer Associate jobs this year and use their Bloomberg passwords to do firm work (which apparently Bloomberg is allowing them to do), is making a tactical error in their understanding how the law firm works, recovers costs, and tracks expenses of the work performed. Students should take the opportunity to learn a broad variety of resources while in school because never again will they have access to so many platforms with no pressure to think about the cost of the product.

Is there a best practices when it comes to teaching law students how to use legal research tools? Is it simply a matter of picking process or product, or is there something else that we should be teaching them? What would you teach?

There were many eyebrows raised in 2008 when John Palfrey was appointed the new Vice Dean of Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School. Many questioned whether a man without a Library Degree (he does have a JD and a Masters in Philosophy) could run one of, if not the most, prestigious Law Libraries in the world. After a three and a half years stint in the job, Palfrey is now leaving HLS to go to become the Head of School at Andover in July of 2012. The question that this outsider would like to ask those that worked with Palfrey, and those that attended HLS during the Palfrey period is – Was this a success? Do you think the HLS Law Library actually benefited from putting someone that comes in from a non-traditional approach?

How well did the experiment of asking for all HLS law library staffs’ resignation so that they could be reassigned to fit the goals of not looking at the library’s mission as building the best collection of books in law, but rather as “How do we make information as useful as possible to our community now and over a long period of time?” What types of changes has HLS law library taken on that was an extension of this new mission statement?

I’ve argued in the past that having a non-librarian in charge of a law library is a unique way of running it, but not necessarily a bad thing (or for that matter, not necessarily a good thing, either.) From those of my fellow law librarians that know Palfrey (as I have only met him in passing) they have many good things to say about him. Many have also mentioned that it is good to shake up tradition from time to time in order to see if it really stands the test of time, or if it is simply an old way of thinking and whose time has passed.

HLS isn’t the only law library to be lead by someone without an advanced degree in librarianship, but it is the most well known. I think that there should be a serious look at how the Palfrey era compared to how other academic law libraries fared in the same period. Was there some strategic thinking that happened during this period that made HLS law library better? Should other academic law libraries copy this model? Could the idea of having someone from outside the profession be extended to other areas? If we could suspend the ABA and State Bar requirements, would it be better for the Law School President to be a non-lawyer – perhaps a former Senator/Governor/President/CEO? Someone with business or political experience could shake up the establishment and make it a better overall experience for its community? As someone in a law firm, could the same be said for us? How about a large law firm being run by someone that was a successful CEO or Financial Market Guru?

Obviously, I have more questions than answers here. I’m actually quite curious as to how those at HLS think this period of having someone of John Palfrey’s talent in charge of their prestigious law library went. Is is something that HLS will repeat? Or, was Palfrey kind of a one-off type of guy that was just the right person at the right time, and may not be repeatable?

I do wish John Palfrey the best of luck in his new job of handling all those High Schoolers!! As a parent of a Freshman, I just can’t imagine the stress of handling 1,100 gifted and talented students and the parents that pay up to $42K a year in tuition. It would be interesting to see if Palfrey’s first order when he arrives in July of 2012, is to ask for every Andover employee’s resignation in order to realign the goals of this very traditional institution to better serve the needs of its community? That would be interesting to follow.

Image [CC] by Mr. Ush

You’ve probably heard the saying that “Youth is wasted on the young.” After seeing the list of participants in the program, “The Future of Law Libraries: The Future Is Now?” put on by Harvard Law School’s John Palfrey on June 16th, the thought of “Idea generation and future planning of law libraries is wasted on the Academics,” crossed my mind. Now, before Academics get their noses bent out of shape, bear with me for a minute because I’m going to take the law firm librarians out behind the woodshed as well.

Take a look at the participants for this collaboration who were there to “discuss and critique blueprints for the next iterations of our future.”

  • Academic librarians: 107
  • Gov’t/Court libraries: 13 
  • Vendors/Stakeholders: 10
  • Firm Librarians: 7
  • Corporate Librarians: 1
These were the participants. When it came to Firm Librarians actually sitting on panels or presenting at the meeting, that number drops to zero. That is a serious shortcoming of the meeting, and causes the end results of such a meeting to be unfairly skewed away from an important subset of the profession.
As someone that has worked in the Academic setting (twice), the state court and county system, and at an AmLaw 100 firm, here’s my take on what each of these subsets of the law librarian field brings to the party:
  • Courts – “Where the story begins”
  • Academics – “Where the ideas roam”
  • Private Law Firms – “Where the money is”
Each piece is important, but as many of us know, it is the Academics that really are designed to think about the process of law librarianship and develop theories about how to improve processes and procedures so that the profession continues to thrive and be relevant over a long period of time. The academics are truly those that like to toss out ideas, develop theories, and predict the future, and debate all of these among each other to see which of them hold water as judged by their peers. The only problem is that they are predicting the future using a formula that is missing a significant variable … the Private Law Firm Librarian’s perspective.

It is not totally the Academics’ fault for this missing variable, however. At least half (probably more than half) of the blame rests on the shoulders of the law firm librarians. Here the Private Law Librarians have a chance to really participate and leverage the strengths of their Academic brethren, yet without fail, I usually hear one or more of the following excuses on why they won’t participate in these types of future planning meetings:
  1. My firm won’t pay for it, therefore I can’t attend
  2. I’m too busy billing work and can’t afford to take time off
  3. The ideas that come out of these meetings don’t work in my specific situation
The first two excuses I can somewhat forgive… that last one really pisses me off when I hear it. And I hear it a lot! One of the biggest problems I’ve run across in the Private Law Librarian field is that there are those that believe that when they go to a conference or meeting that they have to come away with a specific answer to a specific problem that addresses their specific need. If they don’t get that specific answer, then they gripe about what a waste of time and money it is and how it “failed” them by not giving them the answer they need to take back to their boss. I think I’ve written this before… what these people are wanting is a consultant, not a conversation. These types of meetings/conferences are set up to bounce ideas off of one another and to debate the validity of the ideas within the three major subsets of the law librarian profession. If you don’t participate, then you’re causing the results to shift toward the subsets of the profession that do participate.

Now, back to the Harvard meeting.
These types of meetings need to continue, but they need to be better balanced when it comes to the subsets that make up the law library profession. Academics talking to Academics is not the way to define the future of the profession. I’m going to challenge John Palfrey that when he sets up 2012 edition of  “The Future of Law Libraries” that one in five (20%) of the speakers be from law firms. I’m also going to challenge the Private Law Firm Librarians, especially those in Chief or Director levels of large and mid-sized firms, to answer the call when Palfrey asks you to participate. If you really care about the profession, then find a way to contribute to meetings like this so that Private Law Firm Librarians aren’t left out of the equation.

You gotta love my Alma Mater (plus, I actually worked right behind that circulation desk to the left!)

Thousands of students celebrated the (near) end of the semester by throwing a rave at the library. I applaud the fact that they could turn the circulation area into a mosh pit!! According to reports, no damage was done to the library and the police came in and sent them all back to study for their remaining finals.

Boomer Sooner!!