[Ed. Note: Please welcome guest blogger, Colin Lachance, CEO of Compass/vLex Canada. – GL]


At no fewer than four conferences this lovely month of May, I will be speaking about artificial intelligence in law. Each event has a different focus (regulation, impact, libraries, family law), but as my comments in each will spring from my personal framework for considering issues, opportunities and implications, I thought it might help me to advance that framework for your feedback.

Continue Reading Le Joli M.ai

Q&A after screening of Blindspotting

I am back in my Houston office this week after spending the past week in Austin attending the South By South West (SXSW) event. I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a conference more than I enjoyed SXSW. I’ve always resisted going because I always thought that it was just about the music, and I couldn’t imagine paying $900-$1300* for a music conference… especially since you could catch some of the bands playing non-SXSW clubs for free during the week. After attending, I have to admit that I was way too narrow on what SXSW is, and I think I’m going to go again next year because it is a total experience of education and experience.

Continue Reading South By South West Was So Much More Than Music

It’s conference season again for many of us. I get to go to Chicago next week for the P3 Conference and then to Philadelphia in July for AALL. If I get really lucky, I’ll sneak in to the ILTA conference in Las Vegas in late August. I enjoy catching up with peers and friends, and attending the sessions to listen to speakers discuss hot topics, trends within the industry, and innovations that will revolutionize the way we provide services. That being said, I want everyone to take out a phrase that has been a trusty standby since 2008.  That phrase, of course, is “recent economic downturn.”

You all know how it is used to introduce change:

Since the recent economic downturn, law firms have significantly reduced / restructured / altered (yada, yada, yada) the way it does business.”

This phrase isn’t the first of its kind, nor will it be the last. Remember such similar introductory phrases as:

  • Since the collapse of Brobeck/Howrey/Dewey… 
  • Since 9/11
  • Since the Dot Com bubble
  • Since the collapse of the Soviet Union
  • Since the S&L crisis
  • Since the oil bust (insert relevant decade)
  • Since the OPEC embargo
  • Since the Great Depression
  • Since Noah landed the Ark
  • and so on…

I know we are all still feeling the effects of the financial industry failures of 2008 and 2009, but I think it is time to preface our reasons for changing how we conduct business on something other than subprime mortgage loan. This week, I’m starting to use “Since the Houston floods of 2015…”.

I am all for leveraging a bad situation to help change bad or outdated behavior. As Rahm Emanual, and other politicians are fond of saying, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” The problem with “recent economic downturn” is that it has run its course. It doesn’t have the punch it had five years ago, and I have started seeing smirks and eye-rolling whenever a speaker starts a discussion with that phrase. (Okay… maybe it’s just me that smirks and rolls my eyes.)

So all of you presenters out there who are writing your discussion points and filling in the bullet points of your PowerPoint slides, get out your red pens and cross off the phrase “recent economic downturn.” Find something a little fresher to put in its place. We’ll all be better for it.

In the meantime, I’ll start drafting next year’s blog post for outdated phrases. I think I’ll start with such things as “iPads” and “Bespoke.”

Navigating Rough Seas: Charting a Course for Success

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the annual NoCALL Spring Institute. This year the event was held in San Francisco at a hotel right off Union Square. It was a great opportunity to network with colleagues and friends, as well as, learning from one another through the fabulous programs.

I usually tweet during conferences as a way to keep my notes organized and accessible, but I forgot my laptop power cord, so I had to go the old-fashioned route and take notes with pen and paper. Egad! I wanted to share some of my personal highlights, if I can decipher my notes.

  • Karen’s presentation was extremely thought provoking. She is definitely challenging the status quo of the library catalog and how we organize information. As Karen pointed out, alphabetical is the cornerstone of library organization, however, Google isn’t alphabetical and neither is Amazon, yet people find what they need. As she stated, “meaning has replaced alphabetical order.”
  • Karen also showed us the kind of information that could be available using technology and analytics. She utilized WorldCat Identities to demonstrate how information could be presented to the end user. Here is a screenshot of a page for Neil Gaiman:
  • As you can see, there is information about the works authored by Gaiman, works written about him and if you slide down you can even see who is most often mentioned with him. This page is completely interactive. Karen believes in “making connections and surfacing the connections.”
  •  Karen closed with the mission of the library, “not to gather things into an inventory, but to organize things that have been inconveniently packaged”.
  • Context is Everything: Cost Recovery Models in Electronic Legal Research
    • This was a panel discussion with myself, Amy Wright from USF School of Law and Martha Campos from Morgan Lewis. A few of the highlights:
    • Amy detailed the USF placement statistics to help us understand why she focuses on cost recovery in a different way than others. USF sends a large portion of their graduates into public service work, and therefore, the overwhelming majority of students don’t really need to understand how large law firms recover costs. I thought this was a tremendous example of “knowing your audience”. Amy also stressed her constant refrain of “secondary sources”, which I know everyone appreciated!
    • Martha recapped a cost recovery program presented at the AALL Conference last summer. What was most interesting to me was that each of the panel members at that presentation had completely different cost recovery programs at their firms; from none at all to striving for 100%. This says to me that one size does not fit all and it doesn’t matter what someone else is doing, it only matters what works for your firm.
    • I spoke about the new research platforms and how the old cost recovery methodologies really don’t fit anymore. Usage is measured in completely different ways between the old and new, and current methodologies will have to change as your users start to migrate to these new platforms. Getting ahead of this trend is a great opportunity for information professionals to demonstrate value that goes right to the bottom-line.
  • Law Library Management in Challenging Times
    • This was a panel discussion between Kathy Skinner from Morrison & Foerster, Ron Wheeler from USF and Eric Wade from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. This diverse group had great insight into may of the challenges we face today. Here are some of my notes:
    • Kathy spoke about the usage of project management and utilizing the entire team to tackle the transition from a siloed organization to a virtual team that provides close to 24/7 access to services.
    • Eric and Ron both stressed their commitment to the people in their organizations over just about everything else. Ron highlighted professional development as a real priority even in the lean times. It was a good reminder that we are a profession made up of people who can bring great value into our organizations with the right leadership.
    • Kathy gave us a new term for the library coined by one of the partners in their LA office: the loungebrary. The library in that office is adjacent to a lounge/collaboration space, so it has become a integral part of the office.
    I would also be remiss if I didn’t also mention Loyd Auerbach and his guided chocolate tasting. Loyd is the proprietor of Haunted by Chocolate. In a past life, Loyd was a most excellent Lexis representative and law librarian. Thank you for teaching us so much about chocolate Loyd!

    Colleen Cable is a Library Consultant for Profit Recovery Partners bringing the “consultant angle” to Three Geeks.

    While the east coast is buried in another snowstorm, I am in sunny Naples, Florida today to speak at the Marketing Partner Forum. Full disclosure: It was a bit chilly, so I had to stop and buy a light jacket to handle the temps that fell into the 50’s and will dip into the 40’s tonight, so I won’t be surfing these waves.

    All kidding aside, I enjoy coming to these conferences mainly because it exposes me to people, ideas, and practices that are outside of my normal routine. In return, I expose the attendees and fellow presenters with ideas and practices that are outside of their normal routine. So it is a mutual benefit (at least I think so.)

    Today I am speaking on the concepts of data found inside and outside of firms that help develop Business Development/Business Intelligence/Competitive Intelligence programs. It’s something that I’ve been talking about for nearly ten years, and you’d think that I’d run out of things to say or learn. However, it is usually quite the opposite. In crowds like I’ll face this afternoon, there will be folks that will seriously question my ideas. There will be people that have failed where others have succeeded, and there will be people that succeeded where everyone else has failed. It is a somewhat cathartic process for both the speakers and the audience.

    One of the things that I’ve been thinking about lately, and will discuss in the talk today, is the idea of telling others to stop thinking of what we do as educating the attorneys about business development, or client risk exposures, or industry trends, and start thinking of ways to instruct the attorneys to make money off of the information placed in front of him or her. I imagine that this is not a new concept to Marketing and Biz Dev folks, but I think there is room to grow in creating a process where everyone along the assembly line of BD/BI/CI understands what the end goals are of the process, and what role they play in actually creating a chance to bring in new revenue into the firm.

    Too much of the time, we think of presenting the information in a way to educate the attorney. We throw out the phrase “actionable intelligence” when we present the information, but are we limiting the actual meaning of that phase to merely educating the attorney rather than directing the attorney? Have we become some type of quasi-CLE provider? Perhaps we could rename our group to Continuing Business Education, or Continuing Client Education, and be honest in what we are actually doing.

    When you are discussing a business opportunity with an attorney, be prepared to answer the following question: “How do we monetize this idea?”

    If that is what we are attempting to do with BD/BI/CI, then that needs to be known throughout the whole process. Every step along the way, from concept, to research, to engineering, to technology application, to analysis, to final product… how will this drive business and bring more money in the door? When you move it away from education and into revenue generation, it can help identify what is and what is not business driving concepts.

    I look forward to the audience blowing holes in my ideas this afternoon. At least I can then walk away with an idea for a follow up blog post.

    Kate Martin, Law Library for the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, is organizing an Access to Justice (A2J) Conference in Baltimore on March 21st. The conference is through the local law librarian chapter, LLAM, and anyone familiar with Kate should know that she tends to develop very strong programs that take on a life of their own (Martin established the Private Law Libraries Summit a few years ago.) More information on signing up for the conference will come in the next few weeks, but put a placeholder in your calendar for March 21st and get out to Maryland to enjoy the first day of Spring.

    Kate describes the relationships between law librarians and A2J as “a core value of law librarians – and it is becoming more critical as professional legal assistance becomes more expensive and beyond the reach of even average, middle-class Americans.” Many of the public facing law libraries have seen the increase of self-represented litigants over the past decade, and Martin believes this trend will only continue to grow. However, she does not think that the responsibilities of A2J lie on the shoulders of court librarians alone. Just because you may be a firm librarian, Martin believes you,  too, can help with A2J issues.

    “We’re especially targeting private law librarians by showing them a way to use A2J to raise their profile within their firms and support their firm’s pro bono efforts,” says Martin. “A2J will also offers a way to give back to the community.”

    The conference is being marketed on the national level, and will be the first symposium on A2J that is completely organized for librarians. There will be several tracks covering A2J issues and hands-on sessions discussing and advising on the current issues. Martin already has speakers coming in from Alaska, Montana, Minnesota, Utah, and Georgia, with more lining up across the country to speak and join in on the discussion. The registration (I’ll post a follow-up when the official announcement goes out), will only cost $65, and the seminar will be held at the University of Baltimore during Spring Break, so you won’t even have to fight students as you make your way around the building.

    This post originally appeared on the HighQ Solutions blog.

    I
    was in London last week and some colleagues and I were discussing blogging.
    One asked a very pointed question: How do you get people to comment on a
    blog post?  The short answers is, you don’t.  You never will.
    Occasionally, when the stars align and you’ve written a brilliant post
    on a hot topic, then and only then, you will get a comment or two.  But
    even then, it is very likely that at least one of those comments will be
    correcting your grammar.

    When I attend conferences there are
    always a handful of people that come up to me and say they read and
    enjoy my blog.  About half of the time they will follow with a
    discussion about something I have written in the last few months.  These
    are the comments that people don’t leave on the website.  At first, I
    was bothered by this.  I thought, “Well, why didn’t you just say that
    when I wrote it?”  But I’ve come to think of blogging as starting a
    conversation with whole group of people, many of whom I have never met. 
    Some of those people will continue that conversation with other people
    they know.  Some of them will run into me at a conference and will
    continue the conversation with me directly.  And some of them will only
    continue the conversation silently in their own heads. I have come to
    see any continuation of a conversation that I start as a sign of a
    successful blog post.

    But still there is the question of how
    to write a blog post that interests people and gets them to continue
    that conversation? There is no short answer here, but I have a few tips:

    • Forget about any other kind of
      writing you do.
        Blogging is not journalism, it’s not letter writing,
      and it’s certainly not legal writing.  In fact, I would argue, blogging
      is less like any other kind of writing and more like speech.  Write the
      way you speak, without the “ums” and pauses, of course.
    • Read your finished posts aloud. This
      engages a completely different part of your brain and you will find that
      you stumble over words and phrases when speaking aloud that didn’t
      trouble you when you were reading silently to yourself.  These are the
      areas to rework.
    • When you rework your post, make
      clarity of purpose your only concern.
      You will find that otherwise
      unacceptable punctuation, grammar, spelling, and formatting sometimes
      gets your point across more succinctly than writing “correctly” does. 
      Go with it.
    • Be personable. Remember, this is a conversation. Nobody wants to talk to a boring person, no matter how interesting the subject.
    • You are not reporting the news.  This
      is a big one for external facing law blogs to remember. If you are
      reporting content that you found on Lexis or the New York Times, then
      chances are your audience has already read it somewhere else, written by
      someone who actually writes for a living. Why compete with
      professionals? Link to those other articles for the details and instead
      write about your take on the subject. 
    • If you are funny, use it.  If you are
      not, please don’t.
        When using sarcasm or satire, always make it very
      clear. I don’t care how obvious it is to you, someone will not get it
      and that can be very dangerous. Make sure Sarcasm or Satire are included
      in the Tags on your post when you use them.
    • Be provocative.  Never lie, or argue
      against your actual position (unless doing satire – see above), but it
      doesn’t hurt to take a slightly stronger stance than you would
      otherwise. Nothing gets attention like a bold statement confidently
      made.
    • Don’t forget to use the title. Only
      on a personal blog can you choose your own title, usually you have an
      editor giving your post some boring title that YOU wouldn’t even click on. The
      title should get your audience’s attention, but it also creates a frame
      that sets up their expectations.  Use those expectations to your
      advantage, make people see things differently than they expect from your
      title.
    • Choose topics that bother you. 
      Things that happen, that surprise or upset you; things that you find
      yourself day dreaming about at inopportune times; ideas that get stuck
      in your head; these are the best topics, because they will also get
      stuck in the heads of your readers.
    • Publish immediately.  When you feel you have your ideas down, publish.  Do not sleep on it.  Do not wait to see what you think the next day.  You will hate it.  You will see every flaw and error.  If you wait, you will never publish.  If you cannot publish, or you are not done by the end of your writing session, then start over from scratch the next day and publish as soon as you’re done.
    • Don’t write too much.  You do not
      have to be comprehensive. Set up the conversation.  Throw out a few
      points to think about and then let it go. Remember, you want to start a
      conversation, not finish it.  (This post is already too long and chances
      are good that you haven’t actually read this far.)
    • Leave the audience with a rhetorical
      question, a bold statement, or a thoughtful turn of phrase. 
      Give them
      something short and concrete that summarizes your post. Find a phrase
      that sticks in your mind and it will stick in theirs too.

    Which
    leads me back to the issue of comments. After writing a blog for about
    three years, I think I now understand why my favorite posts, the ones
    I’m most proud of, are the least likely to get comments.  I think it is
    precisely because they make people think.  Readers are left with an idea
    that is new to them.  It is probably an idea that I have spent days or weeks
    formulating, and I’ve just dropped it on an unsuspecting public.  If I
    have expressed myself well, and gotten my ideas across, then the readers
    too will have to sit and mull over my ideas for a while.  By the time
    they realize they have something to say on the subject, they are no
    longer on the page, or near a computer.  They may not even remember
    where the original idea came from. But when they see me at a conference,
    or a seminar, or on a train, or waiting in line for a bathroom, that’s
    when they will come up and say, “I read your blog.”  And then our
    conversation – the one that I began writing by myself, weeks or months
    earlier – will continue, as if we were old friends who had simply paused
    for a moment.

    Postcard - Painted Map of Canada
    Image [cc] Adam79

    I’m not sure why, but I seem to have a high percentage of Canadian law library and legal industry friends. Plus, as far as I can tell, they are all much smarter than I am, too. So maybe I should just consider myself lucky that they are willing to be seen with me in public.

    The Canadian Association of Law Libraries is hosting its annual conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba (that’s directly north of North Dakota, in case you’re looking for it on that map over there…), and the ever so lovely Karen Sawatzky has asked me to speak at the conference as a plenary for the conference themed “At the Confluence: Where Knowledge Meets Inspiration.” The conference will be held in a reportedly haunted hotel, and I hear that Winnepeg is actually quite nice between May 25th and 28th. 

    Karen asked a favour of me to push out the CALL’s Call for Program Submissions. If you have any program ideas, please visit the page and fill out the submission.

    I am really looking forward to going up and hanging out with many of the folks I see on Twitter or SLAW and going out for one or two or three of those strong Canadian beers after the sessions are over. If you’re going to be there, contact me and let me know!!

    Tomorrow is the deadline for early bird, discounted registration for the upcoming P3 Conference. The Conference, on Pricing, Practice Innovation and Project Management, will be a unique experience for those interested in these topics. 

    The Conference was designed around the goals of the Client Value Shared Interest Group of the LMA. These goals are: 1) professional development for those serving in pricing and project management roles, 2) developing a knowledge base of best practices, and 3) driving the development of products and services suited for the new, emerging needs of firms and clients.
    To #1 – the Conference will have advanced content on the subjects involving top experts from each field. For #2 – there will be sessions talking about best practices related to each topic and finally for #3, providers will be talking about their new offerings and soliciting input for future development from conference participants.
    To see the full Conference schedule with topics and confirmed speakers, check out the website. You can also secure discounted hotel lodging there.
    Registrations are coming in fast. So secure your spot now, and save a few bucks with the early bird rate.
    See you there!

    2013 Conference LogoThe Canadian Association of Law Libraries is holding their
    annual National Conference May 5th to 8th in beautiful
    Montreal. The conference theme is: Librarian:
    a multi-faceted professional
    , which was inspired not only by the current
    demands of our profession, but also by the city of Montreal.

    I will be attending the Conference as the representative of
    the Special Libraries Association Legal Division, and I couldn’t be more
    excited. This is a fabulous opportunity to network with colleagues and friends,
    learn from all the fabulous educational sessions and explore a beautiful city.
    I wanted to take a quick moment to highlight a few sessions I’m planning to
    attend and provide the Twitter information (#callacbd2013) in case you want to
    follow the discussion and/or comment.

    Date & Time (Eastern)
    Session Name
    Monday May 6, 2013 @ 9:00 a.m.
    Plenary Session: Thriving on Chaos (Winds of Change:
    The Future of Law Librarians)
    Tuesday, May 7, 2013 @ 9:00 a.m.
    Librarians Under Pressure: Stress Management Secrets Shared
    Tuesday, May 7, 2013 @ 3:30 p.m.
    Librarians as Innovators
    Wednesday, May 8, 2013 @ 9:00 a.m.
    Plenary Session: Land of Confusion: EBooks’ License Negotiation
    Demystified

     

    Colleen Cable is a Library Consultant for Profit Recovery Partners bringing the “consultant angle” to Three Geeks.