Oftentimes we get stuck in a rut and just don’t know how to get out. I sometimes feel this way about the current status of law librarianship and how we communicate with firm management. This is especially true these days as we try to defend our budgets and perhaps our very existence in the organization.
So what should we do? Since most of us are in the same rut, I’m always a big fan of looking outside our profession or industry for inspiration and new ideas. Recently, I came across this video (also embedded below) on Twitter and it immediately resonated. The basic message from Laura Patterson is: impact not output. While the video and the topic might be geared toward redoing a marketing budget, the general message applies perfectly to law librarians. Like many, we typically think about the ‘numbers’ from an output perspective. For example, how many reference requests did we have during the month of February? How many new titles were added to the catalog this month? But I wonder if this is enough? Is this meaningful to anyone? Does it show value? It hasn’t worked, so how do we change the message?
In the video, Laura recommends focusing instead on these three things:
- Acquiring new customers
- Customer retention
- Customer growth
This could be a real game-changer for librarians. Instead of the number of reference requests, what if we focused on increasing the number of new attorney users to a recently purchased product? How can we grow the customer base? You could then measure the cost of the subscription on per attorney basis and watch the value increase month over month. Another opportunity: We know that only a fraction of the potential customer base uses the library, so how can we acquire new customers and retain them? How can we expand our services to existing customers? How can we increase the IMPACT of the library on the organization?
Bottom line: stop measuring the ‘stuff’ we do and start measuring the outcomes we achieve.
When you’re at the proverbial cocktail party, and someone asks you what you do, do you have an answer? As a professional in a field known by virtually no one (knowledge management), I can tell you that one of the situations I used to fear most was getting the dreaded “what do you do?” question. It sounds so innocent, doesn’t it? And yet it used to set my mental cogs into a twisting, mostly downward, spiral. I had no idea how to answer that question (a) briefly [in case the person isn’t really that interested], (b) coherently [so that I don’t sound like I’m making it up], and (c) substantively [so that I actually answer the person’s question and explain what I do]. But about a year ago, I finally came up with my elevator speech — a way of describing what I do briefly, coherently, and substantively. This is quite a point of pride for me not only because it took me so long to figure out, but also because I’ve found that my speech actually works! Each time I share it to respond to the “what do you do?” question, I’ve been greeted in return with genuine understanding, and even an interest in hearing more. So, what is this 30-second pitch I’ve developed? Well, here you go — I explain that: “What I do is parallel to what Google did for the web. All the websites it searches already existed and were already out there available to be viewed, but suddenly with Google people were able to find those websites much more easily.” One of the reasons I like the comparison for the layperson of knowledge management to Google is that it leverages the distinction between access to content and the content itself that, prior to Google, most people simply did not get, but which Google has since made infamous. Certainly one part of knowledge management is content development and aggregation, but that part is typically easier to explain. The aspect that always tripped me up in the past was how to express the access part of knowledge management. I could say I design, build, and launch a tool that searches; a tool that files email; a new portal; a practice toolkit; a tool that tags documents; a more streamlined process to create documents; etc etc… but listing out projects is hardly the right response at that party to the person asking what you do. So I’m pleased to say that I now have an elevator speech. But I’m always interested in hearing how others describe what they do to those completely outside the legal industry. So if you have an elevator speech too, please comment here and share it with me.
Parent to child: Here Johnny, follow this link to understand your blind spots.
Attorney to client: Hey client, I just posted a link on your extranet that relates to your case. Read it at your leisure.
Steven B. Roosa, partner with ReedSmith, wrote an enlightening client alert yesterday explaining that in the business world that requires secure communications over the Internet, it requires the company’s General Counsel to step up to that task. The alert focuses on attacks on electronic information conducted through websites that use the “Certificate of Authority Trust Model” (CA Trust Model). Once you read Roosa’s explanation of the holes found in the CA Trust Model, it will make you think twice about just how secure your electronic transactions really are.
Roosa points out that there are three major flaws in the CA Trust Model:
- Way too many CA providers.
Your browser trust more than 100 by default.
There are over 600 global CA providers.
Some are connected to governments or quasi-governments that you wouldn’t want to deal with.
- Even legitimate CA providers have proven themselves incompetent in providing secure transactions.
They poorly configure their digital certificates.
They’ve issued digital certificates without checking if the entity requesting it is legitimate.
- Any of the CA providers can issue bogus, yet technically valid digital certificates to any website.
In other words, a crafty hacker could be issued a legitimate digital certificate for a legitimate bank, even though the hacker has no relationship with the bank.
As an initial matter, it is important for General Counsel to determine which outside organizations can be trusted with the security of the organization. Although the IT department should certainly be involved as well, it is a task that is most appropriate for General Counsel because it requires legal and investigative resources to: assess the criminal and regulatory background of the CAs, analyze affiliations with state actors and quasi-governmental entities, and determine the governing law that controls the CAs’ conduct. The goal is for the organization to configure its browser platform so as to trust as few CAs as possible, and to “untrust” those CAs deemed to be unnecessary or untrustworthy. Additionally, the IT department may wish to explore the use of various plug-ins and software add-ons to assist in the detection of CA irregularities and CA-based attacks. Finally, businesses can also engage a CA in dialogue regarding the CA’s practices, both with respect to adherence to best practices, and also to address the issue of whether, or to what extent, the CA trusts other CAs.
Seems like solid advice. I’m wondering how many GC’s will actually follow this advice and work along side their CIO’s to identify which CA providers are trustworthy and which are not remains to be seen. I’d suggest that CIO’s need to send a copy of Roosa’s article over to their GC’s to stress the importance of working together on this one.
Today, an attorney needs to know how to leverage social networking as a way to become “part of the conversation”.
If they don’t hear your voice as part of the conversation, they will not know you are part of the community.
[Guest Blogger Mark Gediman]
There has been a lot of discussion lately regarding AALL committees, services and programs. What seems to missing from some of this discussion is a desire to see constructive change. In my mind, it isn’t enough to identify a problem, you need to also show a desire to fix the problem. The tone of this debate may be as important as the actual debate.
Anyone with kids knows that it isn’t enough to point a finger at someone and say it’s the other person’s fault. I know with my kids, the one who says “no” to a suggestion without making one of their own automatically loses the debate. In order for any discussion to succeed, it needs to be structured as a dialog, not a diatribe. Not doing so forces the singled out parties to be defensive and not willing to listen to what the other person has to say. This does not allow for a constructive debate. As someone who has contributed to the discussion, I can say from experience that you get further presenting your issue as a discussion.
AALL is an organization that is made up of different groups, and more importantly, individuals. It can only evolve through the involvement of the individuals collaborating together for change. I am proud to be a member of such a diverse organization that is made up of people that are genuinely committed to the growth of the profession. They may stumble along the way, but it is our job as members to help them as they go along. This is what makes the organization valuable to both the profession and its individual members. So much for my two cents.
I’ve seen a couple of articles on VaporStream’s “Electronic Conversation Software”. The idea is that you can send communications that look a lot like e-mail, but the communication is temporary, exists in the cloud, and resides in your computers RAM (temporary memory). Once the communication is over, it disappears and cannot be recovered, even through e-discovery methods. The product is pitched as a great resource for reducing e-mail server storage, reduce the cost of potential e-discovery litigation, and satisfy the two tenants of HIPPA requirements. I took a quick look at it this morning and found that it is more of an Instant Messaging (IM) replacement than an e-mail replacement, but that it looks to have some good uses.
When I first read about this in itWorldCanda, and then again in ECM Connection, the articles were structured in a way that made me think that this was something that could potentially replace e-mail. I started dreaming of a situation where all those crappy vendor emails that I get ALL DAY LONG, could vanish automatically after I read/skimmed/ignore them. However, I quickly learned that you could only send or receive communicate with others that are also on the VaporStream software. So, my visions of a magic vendor communications fell to the wayside.
So here’s the reader’s digest version of how the product works:
- Sign-up for VaporStream’s service (free 60-day trial… $7.50/mth after that).
- Get everyone that you want to have confidential, temporary communications with to also sign up.
- Use VaporStream’s web or app interface to send and receive communications from other VaporStream users.
- The messages are sent and read via SSL (secure) through VaporStream’s interface, and reside in your computers temporary memory (RAM).
- When done, the message disappears and cannot be recovered.
Today’s my last day in New York and I’m ready to get back to Houston where the bathtubs don’t sit in the middle of my living room, surrounded by two walls of plate glass windows, overlooking a park full of joggers. As I mentioned earlier this week, a few bloggers were asked to come to NYC to take a fresh look at Wolters Kluwer (WK) IntelliConnect product and give them some feedback about what we thought about it. I’ll give a more in-depth review later, but I did want to make some comments of what I thought about the people I met with yesterday.
The meeting was held on the WK training floor, there were four bloggers including me, and about eight or nine WK folks. After a short introduction and an overview of the product, we started having a real conversation about what was good, what needed fixing, and where the product and market were heading in the future. All of us seeded to have had some lightbulb moments throughout the day where some of our preconceived notions were challenged and most of us walked away at the end of the day a little better understanding of each other.
Wolters Kluwer is going through a transition right now where it is attempting to move away from being a ‘holding company’, to one that is integrating all of its different acquisitions into one platform. As many of us remember, WK’s IntelliConnect had a number of problems on its initial launch last year, and has been scrambling to regain its footing after stumbling out of the gate. I specifically asked them if they understood the image problem they had from some of its users, and they all said that they do understand that, and that was one of the reasons they asked us to be there.
One of the notions I had to overcome was the fact that IntelliConnect is not a legal research tool in the same way that Westlaw or Lexis is designed. IntelliConnect is designed for ‘power users’ in specific legal practices. It was interesting listening to the conversations between the bloggers telling WK that they need to make changes in the interface to work in a way that younger associates expect their online research to look and feel. At the same time, WK kept coming back at us with the fact that the product was developed to work the way that their advanced users wanted… And that was to make it more like using the books than using online research. That brought up the question that none of us could find a simple answer to, and that was how do you balance the needs of researchers that on one end of the spectrum are traditional treatise-in-the-books kind of researchers versus the incoming Google ‘give me a search box and let me go’ type researchers? That seems to be the $64,000 question… Which is probably how much this bathtub in my hotel room costs.