IMGP1885 [2011-12-13]
Image [cc] JAM Project

We live in what is referred to as “The Information Age”, but I think that we may have shifted into a new phase that might be called “The Collaboration Age.” There was a very interesting article from The Business Insider a few weeks ago that discussed an Indian Intern’s impression of life in America, and one of the ‘weirdest’ things he found about the culture here is that people are highly collaborative. He talked about how students collaborate and the goals of the collaboration wasn’t to simply complete a project, but it was rather to use collaboration as a way to share, teach, train, and learn until everyone “got it.” This was in an environment (John Hopkins University) that a few decades ago was know for being so competitive that students would hide important books in the library in order to gain a competitive edge over other students. In addition to the need to collaborate, he notices that the students take an ethical approach to the collaboration, and a desire to accomplish something that they will be proud to attach their name to. Therefore, actions that once may have been seen as “cheating”, are now seen as valuable collaborative efforts that help everyone achieve the desired goals. When you step back and think about it, it is really a monumental shift in culture.

There was one part that this intern mentioned that is probably true not only of the assignments within the university setting, but also found in today’s professional work environment. Assignments are extremely difficult, complicated, and complex. Attempting to complete a project on your own is no longer the best option. Whether it is completing an assignment in school for a professor, or answering legal issues for a client, the questions are difficult, and the process of getting to the answers/solutions are complex. Today’s professional workers need to collaborate. We see it in our personal lives, and it is making huge inroads into our professional lives as well.

So that was my long introduction to this week’s Elephant Post answers to what tools do you use to collaborate at your work. There are some interesting answers that range from very old-school tools to some of the new resources available. Enjoy the answers, and think about your work environment and ways that you currently collaborate, and ways that collaboration can be improved.

Steve

We use Jabber from Cisco as an instant messaging, and easy way to pass files to each other. It is a great informal method of communications that is much faster than email, and it also connects to our phone and Outlook calenders so we can tell when others are in a meeting, or on the phone. It is very informal, so it makes it easy to ask questions without feeling like you are filling up someones email. It also allows you to chat with multiple people at once.

Anonymous

I use Box in my law firm. I use it to access my documents from my mobile device when I am away from my office. I also use it since it allows me to easily collaborate with my clients and coworkers easily. It eliminates the need to send multiple emails when working on a legal document, and I can just add a collaborator and we can work on the document by adding comments and tasks in one string of communication. Lastly, I like how I have control and visibility over my documents. I can see when and by whom my documents have been viewed and downloaded, and also password protect access to my documents.

James

We use Confluence quite a lot to facilitate wikis (team collaboration spaces as we prefer to call them) and blogs to some extent. We’ve also looked at using Yammer to encourage teams to collaborate and communicate with each other.

David Glenn

Trello

Anon

SharePoint

Bert Gregory

Microsoft SkyDrive primarily. Box.com as secondary. It used to be Google Drive until they made their public statement that nobody should expect privacy with their services. Our business has 36 employees.

Chad Burton

With our team, we use Box (document management), Clio (internal client matter communications and other matter-specific collaboration) and Yammer (for general idea sharing unrelated to client matters and as our virtual water cooler). Oh, and there is always the dreaded email (Google Apps for Business). We use these platforms because they all integrate.

Anonymous

We are using MS Lync in our firm quite often and everyone seems to like it. We are able to have quick just-in-time chats with one person or multiple people. We have are using it for at your desk video conferences. Right now it is just 1-1 video conversations, but may expand to multiple parties. People are still getting used to the video thing, but it is a good way to connect over long distances. We also use Lync to share documents, charts, web pages, etc…, for comparison and review.

Ketan

  • Google Docs (paid to increase security, despite NSA monitoring)
  • Shared and layered calendars (cross platform)
  • Wunderlist
  • Google Hangouts for video chats
  • Google surveys/forms!

Previously:

  • Yammer
  • Skype messaging

Let me shake your hand
Image [cc] Nathan Rupert

At any given moment, I may have one, two, three, four, or more collaboration tools at my disposal that allows me to nearly instantaneously communicate with my friends, peers, co-workers, and staff. Be it the old fashion telephone (although mine has video build in… ’cause I’m special like that), or email, or Instant Messaging, or Twitter, or Facebook, or even getting up off my duff an walking next door to actually verbally communicate face-to-face, there are tons of ways to communicate.

I’m kind of a big fan of the Private Facebook Groups, and the flexibility that it gives me to send out actual business related questions to a set of peers, or to send out classic viral cat videos to the same group. It can be formal, but it tends to be very informal. It is extremely convenient, and we really hope that it remains behind a privacy fence (although, I think we unofficially know not to say anything that would get us into too much trouble if that fence were to fall down.)

So this week’s Elephant Post question is this:

What Collaboration Tools Do You Use?

Tell us about some of the interesting resources you use, including any non-traditional tools, or maybe some resources that are so old-fashioned, they are actually new again!! I’ll pull these together and post all of the answers on Friday. Please take a moment and either fill out the embeded form below, or email me (xlambert at gmail dot com). You can see what others have answered by going here.

 

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elephant show
Image [cc] Alex Faundez

The three-year law school program. Is it too long? President Obama hinted that it may be when he suggested that law schools seriously look into making it a two-year program. Does a third-year law student have a better grasp of the practice of law than his or her second-year counterpart? We asked, and you answered.

Is two-years enough time to teach students to “think like a lawyer”? Some think that it two years would help to push students out into the real world faster, and essentially better prepare them to handle the day-to-day questions, practices, and procedures that lawyers actually face in their practices. Some think that it is a step in the wrong direction and that it would throw these graduates into a world that relies upon law firms or lawyers to bear the burden of training (and paying) unprepared lawyers. Some think that those cost actually should be pushed onto the market rather than having graduates burdened with the vast amounts of debt that will take decades to pay off. However, some are skeptical that those costs would actually be pushed back onto the student by law schools raising tuition rates to make up for the loss of the year.

Enjoy the response. Again, if you missed your chance to contribute (shame on you) and you have your own opinion on the topic, take the more traditional route and let us know in the comments.

Anonymous
Last I heard firms were up in arms about the (non-existent) practical skills of new associates and clients, at least Big Law clients, were fuming over high hourly rates for law firm “trainees.” Rather than producing more “practice-ready” lawyers, 2-year programs would pawn off more of the costs for training onto firms and clients. How is this not going backwards???

Susan Hackett – Legal Executive Leadership
It seems to me that the real question isn’t the length of the stay in school, but the relevance of what’s taught. I’d be supportive of a shorter curriculum if the focus was on practical skills and their application; the current 3-year curriculum teaches legal theory and caselaw, with only a sprinkling of classes geared to serving a client or participating in a law practice. While I don’t think law schools should become technical institutes, I think most of us with fancy JDs felt ill-prepared to actually serve a real client when we graduated after 3 years of curriculum focused on theory without application to real-life practice.

For those worried that 2 years is not enough time to make a legal professional out of a college grad, perhaps we could focus on two years of formal training in law school, followed by additional time outside of the school/classroom in practical apprenticeships, from which – if successfully completed – a student could be passed forward for admission to the bar. Doctors, for instance, are required to combine schooling with residency or other clinical work to assure that they’ve been vetted in a manner which tests not only their memorization of theory and principle, but their ability to actually treat and heal a patient.  Why not consider this with law?

I blogged a while back about the topic of re-framing law school educational models if you’re interested:  http://www.legalexecutiveleadership.com/2011/blowing-up-the-box-starting-a-conversation-about-re-engineering-the-us-law-school-educational-model

(Next up: the need to talk about whether the US bar exam is a meaningful way to test for competency to practice, either!)

Cheers –
– Susan

Bob Wells
I am a proponent of two year law schools, with a third year being optional if the student sees value in the course offerings.  A good friend is a law school dean, and he believes that a person who goes directly from undergraduate to law school will not be ready to take on the legal issues of another.  Another friend believes that two year schools will only bring on more for profit law schools.

GRR

  1. That the elite schools will up the cost of tuition to cover the losses (look at the cost of two year MBAs at the elite schools if you don’t think that this likely to happen).
  2. That a two year program will require that low tier schools just teach the bar subjects and bar prep for students to pass the bar.  There will be no time for practical skills course. 

I understand the need to reformulate the law school experience but this is not the way to do it.

Adam Ziegler, Lawyer & Co-Founder of Mootus
What matters more than the length of the program are (1) the cost to students and (2) the value of what they’re being taught. Right now, students are spending $150K to acquire knowledge and skills that employers and sophisticated clients seem not to value. Whether it’s two years or three years, we need to attack those fundamental problems directly.

Norse Elephant
Image [cc] kaiban

President Obama made an off-the-cuff remark last week when he was quoted in The Washington Post, “that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years.” Apparently he knew this would cause some controversy, but he took solace in the fact that he doesn’t have to run for a third term and can make controversal statements like this.

Now, remember that the President is on his “College Affordability Bus Tour” so the topic is focused on the overal cost of school, not the actual numbers of lawyers that our 200+ law schools are pumping out into the industry these days. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun/conversation on the comment and what the overall outcome would be of removing the 3L class out of law schools and just releasing fresh faced 2L’s out into the world.

Therefore, this week’s Elephant Post question is simply:

What Could Possibly Go Wrong With Reducing Law School To A Two-Year Program?

Here are the rules for answering the EP:

  • Fill out the form below, or email me (xlambert at gmail dot com) with your answer
  • You can give us your real name or stay anonymous
  • I’ll put out the answers on Friday
  • See what others have answered

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Fuller Classroom with elephant
Image [cc] PainterWoman

Training… something we do every year for incoming Fall Associates, yet somehow most of us walk away feeling like we really didn’t help integrate the newbie lawyers into the firm the way we’d really like. Of course, many of the Associates are too concerned with the billable matter that was assigned to them right before the training began, to worry about little things like learning how we bill back to the client for our online resources, or file items in the DMS, or reserve meeting rooms. So, we asked if we could start over, and create the training the way we really wanted, how would you do it?

There were some themes that ran through the answers. Two specifically.

  1. Real Simulations (bring your work to class)
  2. Make Training Mandatory (no billable work assigned until training is completed

There were a couple of other items that stood out to me. First, one of the answers expanded our Fall Associate idea to all lateral hires. We tend to think that Fall Associates have certain technology skills (which they don’t), but even worse, we assume that Lateral hires understand all of the basic principles of how a law firm works (which they don’t.)

The other item that stood out to me was about the format of training. It doesn’t have to be classroom style, and it doesn’t have to be a set time for everyone. Why not have parts of the training set up as on-demand style and let the Associates take the training at their own pace (of course, they still have to actually do the on-demand training.)

Lots of good stuff. If you didn’t get a chance to submit your own answer, there’s still the option of putting it in the comments.

(1) Adam Ziegler

  1. “Real” simulations, with immediate, direct, high impact feedback from supervising lawyers. For litigators, this might include drafting a small-bore motion (like a protective order motion), a discovery meet-and-confer, taking a minor deposition, a substantive legal brief, a client meeting. Impose time limits. Reward for out-performance.
  2. Basic, practical tech training, both “how to” and “best practices.” Excel, Word [e.g. redlining], Dropbox/Box, PPT, Outlook. Reward for out-performance.
  3. Business development, marketing and networking. Off-line and online activities. Set specific goals, measure and report, and reward for out-performance.
  4. Creative, collaborative problem-solving. Give small teams of associates a tiny budget and very short window of time, and require them to identify a discrete problem relevant to practice area, build a prototype solution and pitch it to the entire group. Reward for and implementation of best work.

(2) Steve

I have one word that would help more than any other: “Mandatory”

Actually, now that I think about it, two words, “Mandatory” and “Graded” (applied to both the Associate, and the Partner responsible for that Associate.)

The biggest pitfall of training is the dreaded “I can’t go because Partner X has given me an assignment.” If there is no reprecussions from skipping training, or forcing Associates to pick between training and actually working on something that counts as billable time, then training will always come in second. By putting some accountability on both the Associate and the Partner, the firm shows that training is important and that everyone is expected to do whatever is needed to make sure that the newbies learn the ropes of the way work is performed at the firm.

(3) Anonymous

  1. Make training mandatory.
  2. Remind partners/mentors/supervisoring attorneys that training is for the benefit of the new associate and is mandatory.
  3. Have real life scenarios in training sessions.
  4. Implement quizzes during training (especially for library & IT.)

(4) Anonymous

I would do two things:

  1. Provide a 45-60 minute individual training orientation to the new associate on the print and electronic resources that are of general applicability, and also specific to their practice. Give them an opportunity to ask questions about the resources. I would also use this time to provide helpful knowledge and insight as to how the firm is organized and operates.
  2. Provide a once-yearly, 1.5 hour universal session to all new associates to showcase and optimize the firm resources available to them. The session would demonstrate why the resources are relevant to their law practice, and provide instruction as to how to access and search them. The underlying theme of the session would be to transition the associates from law school theory to real world practice.

(5) Anonymous

I can’t wait to see what others say! I just wanted to drop a line and suggest that training (at least at big law) should also include laterals. I was a five-year government lawyer went I went to big law. I was given a day of training on the office computer system. I had no idea how to use a copier that required a user ID and matter number. (I was told to have someone else make the copies). I also had no idea how to bill or even how to drum up assignments. (Certainly those were necessary skills). Not that any of it really mattered. I didn’t have a performance review until year 5. But then again, big law hired me as a staff attorney or third-class citizen.

(6) Anonymous
Our concept of the ideal fall associate training program, including library orientation, would start with a multi-disciplinary group (MDG) composed of representatives from various departments responsible for providing information to new hires. This group, working with the departments, would select and centralize resources (handouts, handbooks, recordings, etc.) and make them available to the fall associates in an online environment (e.g., SharePoint). SharePoint would also provide a place where the MDG could share information with each other (e.g., associate names, practice groups, start dates).

A timeline and deadlines (e.g., calendared appointment reminders) would keep associates on track in reviewing resources, tests would be incorporated into the process and some review would be mandatory. The MDG would schedule live sessions or in-person meetings. Fall associates could review resources as needed after completing orientation.

In the library, brief audio and/or video presentations providing just-in-time information would be accessible via a mobile platform for ease of access. We would link appropriate resource use to associate evaluations.

Attendance and successful test completion would be automatically tracked online and metrics would be compared against benchmarks (in the case of the library, use and cost benchmarks) to determine success.

Elephant Train
Image [cc] Venson Kuchipudi

It’s Fall Associate time again. Newly minted law school graduates, fresh off their taking of the State Bar Exams, are moving into those empty windowed offices, given a computer, assigned one-fourth of a secretary, and told to start working toward hitting the benchmark of 635 billable hours for the rest of the year. In the first few weeks there is some formal training set up for the associates, which the Associate may or may not be required to attend. After having informal conversations with many of my peers, the common reaction when I mention training ranges from an uncomfortable chuckle, to a full-on eye-rolling and physical shutter.

Therefore, I thought that a great Elephant Post question would be to ask our readers to comment on how they would like training of Fall Associates to be structured. So, let us know:

If You Could Have A Blank Canvas, How Would You Set Up Fall Associate Training For Your Area?

Once again, here are the rules for answering the EP:

  • Fill out the form below, or email me (xlambert at gmail dot com) with your answer
  • You can give us your real name or stay anonymous
  • I’ll put out the answers on Friday
  • Just let us know what you think… it’ll make you feel better, and it will help your peers by knowing they are not alone in their pain
  • You can see what others have answered here
vipezz 631
Image [cc] vipezz 631

We asked… you answered. Law firms are not exactly known for being the epitome of efficiency, but there are still some basic operations and tasks that law firms simply do very poorly. Many of you chimed in with your own personal observations and gave some candid answers on what processes you think law firms need substantial improvement.

Enjoy the responses (or cringe because they hit a little too close to home.) If you didn’t get a chance to submit your own answer from the original question, please add your thoughts in the comments section and share your pain and frustration with your peers. It’ll make you feel better.

We’ll be back next week with a fresh Elephant Post question for you.

(1) Anonymous 
Maintaining Practice Group Forms

One of the things that firms still struggle with is managing forms. It was something that has been discussed for years (decades?), but we still have problems assigning responsibility to maintain standard forms and best practices. The main issue revolves around getting the attorneys to review the forms from time to time. Even when a system is set up, it quickly gets out of date because of the lack of action on behalf of those that benefit the most by having a good forms database. So simple, yet still not happening.

(2) Anonymous
Budgeting Processes

Budgeting. Holy God, budgeting. I came to law firm IT from 20 years of experience in other industries (from manufacturing to software development to finance to medicine) and I have never had so many problems creating and maintaining annual budgets. It’s not just my firm, either – I’ve now worked in two large firms with similar issues, and talked with IT directors and CIOs in other firms who’re running into the same problems. No one talks about next year’s budget until September, and they want it finalized in October. Which means they won’t even talk about it until the depths of the annual summer slump, then when it pulls out in the fall they want to add a dozen projects and have them fully planned and budgeted in six weeks.
Then they wonder why they’re inaccurate…”

(3) Ron Friedmann
Work and Business Processes

The set of processes for legal and business support that a lawyer should do on her own versus delegate to staff. Many firms have cut back on secretarial support. The theory is that lawyers need less support. Few firms, however, have carefully analyzed the set of processes lawyers and firms require to do their work and to ensure that each step of each process is conducted by the right resource.
Daniel Myers “Within our firm, that’s simple – document production and management.
We have electronic storage space for PDF and MS documents that are redundant to ALL physical documents which are printed and stored on- and off-site.
It is a struggle to have all stakeholders (shareholders) to agree on either moving toward any form of document management as it took them 7 years to agree to replace the 20 year old copiers and upgrade server drives.

(4) Anonymous
Effective Employee Interaction

360-degree feedback. Grassroots input / employee initiatives. Really any standard concept of business management predicated on the idea that “non lawyers” add value.

(5) Scottish Big Firm
Remembering What We’ve Done

We struggle to have an effective database to set out all of the transactions we have done. This would enable staff to see if anyone had done something similar to avoid re-inventing the wheel and either over-billing or under-recovering time accordingly. In my department, we now have access to a central deals database (a good thing, but only to be used ofr “big” transactions) but one of the partners also wants to operate a department specific deals database (all deals) and we are to run our own sub-file separately. The three do not join up so to do this properly, lawyers are doing three times as much work as is needed.

(6) Peggy Gruenke
New Matter and Client Intake

I think they struggle with implementing basic forms and processes around client intake – which is the foundation of the engagement. They get written and developed but used inconsistently or incomplete. That bad data in, bad data out phenomenon. Which circles back to maybe the problem centers on understanding how to collect client information, setting up a good database to store it and having a way to easily retrieve the data. Sorry, kind of threw 2 ideas into one steam of consciousness.

(7) Amy
Sharing Work Product

We have about 90 lawyers and it is frustrating to me that everyone lives in their own silo in terms of sharing work product. If I need to write a Daubert brief, for example, I start from my own past work product, from scratch, or I directly contact people who I think recently did one. We have tried “brief banking” both in paper (years ago) and electronically, but compliance with putting research and briefs in the bank is very poor and the organization/file structure is horrible. It seems so wasteful to me.

(8) Anonymous
Controlling Expenses in a Smart Way

There is a disconnect between firm upper management attempts to control expenses and the granular decisions that firm librarians have to make. For example, firm management often does not understand how the negotiation of an online contact impacts what must be kept in print and what can be discarded in favor of the online versions. Does user preference for one of the other matter? How does the shrinking physical library space affect the decision? Does anyone really decide or are the end results just what happens inadvertently.
Like it or not, most firms are pregnant with these contracts, recoveries are or will be soon a distant memory and the librarian is left to hold the pieces in place often without management understanding of long or short term impacts

(9) Anonymous
Obnoxious Distinction Between Lawyers & Non-Lawyers

Law firms usually cannot let support staff at any level participate meaningfully in decision making even when the staff people have a much better understanding of the issues. Full participation is not possible in most cases and this denies firms the benefit of what these staff people know.
What other profession describes others at various levels in an organization as NON something. There are no non doctors, non dentists etc. Why are there NONlawyers? The pejorative nature of this classification shows the failure of law firms to understand their nearsightedness.

(10) Anonymous
Bureaucracy Limits Innovation

In our AmLaw 200 firm, implementing a way for librarians to be part of the C-level decision making process has been really difficult. The hierarchical structure that has been in place for decades discourages innovation in our library. The newish librarians have been told not to bother the attorneys, not to go above one’s supervisor’s head, and not to contact the C-Level people. It ends up with a lot of ideas that never get beyond the head librarian, who just doesn’t understand the value of getting a seat at the table. It leads to our being in a silo while other departments (eg bizdev) are moving forward and are being included in strategic planning.
Our firm is pretty innovation and is working hard to become more so, but the hierarchy does get in the way of getting work done in a collaborative fashion.

(11) Anonymous
Not Calling Out Bad Vendor Practices

CCH is pulling indexes off the print they sell and forcing our hand to electronic.
Lexis is tripling the price of Law360 now that they own it. (We assume to ultimately secure a their place against the single provider-Westlaw option). Perhaps the only affordable or available interface will ultimately be Lexis for Law360– we’ll see.
PLC keeps splintering off subsets of their product and selling at ridiculous prices.
As you know, once in electronic– clearly vendors can charge and sell product ANY WHICH WAY. Pricing for electronic is not publicized and not standardized (unlike print).
For example, even if the firm doesn’t need practice group coverage– they often are required to pay for a ridiculous number of seats. You know the score– the larger law firms are particularly vulnerable.
Is anyone watching? Can we rally the ABA step in– I doubt most lawyers are aware of what is going on in the publishing world — although the librarians are watching it unfold.
Can we do more to expose these trends?
Why aren’t there consumer laws to protect us?

(12) Anonymous
Bad Document Management

Documentation is such a HUGE part of the practice of law yet so many firms still struggle with templates and forms. They start with “Should we even bother to use templates?” when meanwhile hours are being wasted with dupe and revise documents gone corrupt, or the user who *wants* to use styles but builds them piecemeal into each document, individually. Or the firm invests in a really nice template suite but no one uses it. These documents are the bread and butter, the work product, the piece de resistance if you will; yet so many firms (eh hem, decision making attorneys) put next to no effort into knowing how to create, edit and manage them.

(13) Karen Lasnick
C/M#s

Putting a correct matter number in anywhere.

(14) Anonymous
Budget Cuts Without Strategic Reasoning

Random edicts from on high telling librarians to cut. Yes, our stuff is expensive, but look at:
-work flow interruption
-effect on billable hours

(15) Mark
The practice of a law.

Legal advice is largely given differently every time it is requested, even if the request comes from a repeat client. A lawyer may approach a task differently on many different occasions and not necessarily improving efficiency each time. Different lawyers within a same firm will respond to the similar requests for legal advice in different ways.

Wow what a sense of balance for a big animal !
Image [cc] vipez

From time to time I run across things within law firms that I find simply amazing… and not in a good way. Whether it is basic time entry or matter reporting or even expense reimbursements, it just seems that there are simple processes that are either overly complicated at a law firm, or are just flat out missing within the firm. I got to thinking that there is no way I am alone in this frustration. Therefore, since we’ve already brought the Elephant Post back from the graveyard for the recent Nina Platt Challenge, I will bring it back again to ask our readers to let us know:

What Basic Processes Do Law Firms Still Struggle With??

Here’s the rules:

  • Fill out the form below, or email me (xlambert at gmail dot com) with your answer
  • You can give us your real name or stay anonymous
  • I’ll put out the answers on Friday (and maybe even ask a new question)
  • Just let us know what you think… it’ll make you feel better, and it will help your peers by knowing they are not alone in their pain.
  • You can see what others have answered here

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Ruby the Painting Elephant
Image [cc] leesean

I wasn’t sure if dusting off the old Elephant Post idea would work, but I’d have to say that we had a lot of people step up and answer the call. Nina Platt threw out the challenge to Law Librarian Bloggers, and like the true delegator I am, I asked all of you to step up and answer that challenge. There are still many outstanding questions, but this was a good start.

I will have to say one personal note about the challenge, from the standpoint of a blogger. I blog, and many of those that I know that blog, do so simply as an outlet for our own personal ideas and experiences. We sometimes stumble upon a suggestion that helps others, but we tend to ask more questions than we answer. All of our situations are unique, and we all have the ability to step up and solve most of our own problems.

Blogs like this one create a quasi-community. However, most of the conversation in this community is one-sided. It helps with getting the idea out there, but it takes someone on the local level to actually do something. In order to make that happen, I suggest that we all go beyond the writings found on a blog and find someone that you can bounce your own ideas off of. That might be a peer within your firm, a peer or friend outside your firm, or even a consultant if the issues are really tough. The key is to find someone to have that conversation and will act as your sounding board.

It was fun bringing back the Elephant Post idea for an ad hoc issue like this. Hopefully, we’ll have additional reasons to do it again in the near future. Now, enough of my waxing nostalgic, here are the answers that you provided:

Brian L. Baker
Better Treatment and Help for Those Laid Off in 2009

Having been on the outside, for almost 4 years, after being laid off in 2009, I wish the profession would have done a couple of things.
  1. Better prepared librarians who were laid off, with survival skills. I was adrift, and I know many others went through the same thing.
  2. Be more open, when hiring, to older applicants who used to make a lot of money. We just want a chance to prove ourselves. We would reward that chance with loyalty, because, no matter what the salary cut would be, it is better than unemployment, minimum wage, or spending retirement money to survive.
Maybe I’m to sensitive. Who knows? 🙂

Anonymous

How will libraries need to be staffed in the future?

Be responsive to internal pressures on expenses by outsourcing all non-core services. Ensure that each member of the library team spends the majority of their time directly supporting the business of the firm. 
Al Podboy
How we can support changes in the legal industry

By using our voice. Speak up, share ideas, be fearless. Tell them (employers, bosses, vendors, educators etc.) what you need and what you think. Honesty and the best policy. Being a ʺyesʺ person does not grow anyone or anything.
Anonymous
Digital Transition

Our libraries will not be a physical place very soon and yet many of us have never figured out how to replace the visual field that would allow a user to see what is actually available on a given topic. Instead we live in vendor silos and endless link lists. We need better visual graphic skills. If we don’t figure this out, our users certainly won’t.

Rebecca C.
What skills will librarians need to have that they don’t have now?

I have two years post MLIS experience in special libraries, but no experience in law libraries, nor do I possess a J.D. Would someone like me have a shot at a future working in a law library, or is the existing barrier too difficult to breach?

Tony Chan

How we can support changes in the legal industry?
I would rephrase the question as “What can we do in our individual roles to support firm initiatives that are catered to changes in the legal industry?”
As information (I) & technology (T) professionals, we must collaborate with our firm’s COOs, CFOs, CIOs and other relevant business units to ascertain how IT affect practice efficiency and firm economics in response to market changes.
The firm as a whole must identify and ready to tackle those changes and a cultural consensus among the firm’s stakeholders is critical for its success.
So my suggestion is to:
  1. Start/restart conversations with the firm’s leadership with the goal of identifying knowledge gaps that would help bridge the firm’s business solutions.
  2. Educate yourself on technology issues by staying current on new tools/services.
  3. Keep your finger on the pulse of various practices by dropping in on meetings and organizing CLEs.
At the end of the day the dotted I and the crossed T mean little when there’s no real impact on improving current practices to meet the clients’ wants and needs.

Shirley Crow
What staffing, research, resources, services, processes, etc. will we need to have in place?
Clients are declining to pay for first and second year lawyers (the people who generally do legal research). There is an oversupply of lawyers in the marketplace, and many of them are available to put their skills to work in ways other than the traditional. I don’t think it is feasible for law firms to do without research resources. Putting those pieces together, I see the librarian of the future being a revenue-producing resource, who conducts legal research efficiently and cost-effectively, the way clients want their law firms to do their work. It is possible that law firm library managers need to prepare themselves to manage a cadre of JDs who are qualified to research efficiently as well as interpret the law. In my opinion, wise is the law firm library manager who starts *now* to promote her staff’s ability to conduct efficient, cost-effective, and *valuable* research.
Lucy Curci-Gonzalez
What staffing, research, resources, services, processes, etc. will we need to have in place?
And how to get C levels to understand the receptionist can’t do this at all!
Casanova
What staffing, research, resources, services, processes, etc. will we need to have in place?
I think what depresses me most is how little actual control we have over any of these changes. Publishers are going around us to the end user with their e-books; they dictate the licencing; in my experience, my budget gets cut, but the demand for texts / services doesn’t diminish. I guess the skill we’d best learn is juggling. In the end, you can run the perfect library, have your clientele bowing in gratitude before you, and it all goes to heck when some 5yr associate decides he/she wants your job, because you’ve made it look easy, and its an easy way to guarantee his/her longevity. Maybe the best skill we can learn is schmooze and schmooze HARD!!!
Steve Lastres
Rebooting Legal Research in a Digital Age [See PDF article]
Law Librarians need to partner with publishers and others in the
legal profession. We cannot stand alone as an isolated profession. ILTA is a
good example where IT, KM, Librarians, Records, Conflicts and lawyers all come
together. Below, is a white paper I just published based on research
underwritten by Lexis but independently conducted by a research firm. In order
to understand how we can be valuable to the practice and business of law, we
must be intimately aware of the pain points. Lack of research skills is one of
the pain points. This white papers seeks to address these pain points and
provide an opportunity for law librarians to fix the problem. Our clients will
no longer pay for training our young lawyers.

Business Research and Competitive Intelligence Skills
Anonymous
I am surprised no one mentioned the tremendous opportunities librarians have to leverage their skills toward the development of business research and competitive intelligence. Of course, this career move is interesting to those who have both an analytical bent and training that prepares them for this work.
I would like to hear more from law firm librarians who have made this transition to business research/intelligence. I know of only a few firms that have utilized their library staff well in this way. I also know some librarians who have transitioned completely from the library to research/intelligence units. However, most librarians don’t seem vert interested in playing this kind of role. Why not?

How Will Library Eduction Need to Change?
Chris Graesser

Many experienced librarians who are back in the job market are seeing jobs requirements they never had to learn on the job and for which training is rarely offered by association programs.
Proposition #1:

Change the basic library degree to a four year undergraduate BS, with graduate degrees in library management, law, medicine and others I can’t think of.

The economics don’t support requiring a librarian to get an undergrad degree in something else, then a Masters (and in many cases a JD, Masters in Biology, or other discipline) just to land a job that might start at 35K.

Besides, I think there is a lot more to learn to be an effective librarian these days, enough to fill four years. Multidisciplinary stuff like accounting, IT, communications and marketing, effective writing and presentation. Stuff that will make a librarian valuable right out of the gate.

Proposition #2:

Library schools should offer continuing education courses to librarians in the field. Much of what I see in library school curricula and in job requirements these days don’t match what many librarians have been able to learn on the job or in association programming.

Proposition #3:

Close the gap between library schools and the profession. In my experience, the twain never meet once a librarian has graduated. The schools rarely make an effort to interact with practicing librarians, at least not in the law library world. Maybe it’s different for public and academic libraries.

 

Olifant
Image [cc] ScreenPunk

[Note: The Answers are now posted]

In case you’re wondering, it was November 28, 2011. That was the last time we rolled out the Elephant Post here on 3 Geeks. However, there was a message in my email in-box this morning that made me think that it might be time to travel into the Elephant Graveyard and resurrect the platform one more time and cover something important as a Parade of Elephants. Therefore, we trot out the Elephant Post one more time.

PinHawk “Librarian News Digest” Editor, Nina Platt, threw out the following challenge to law librarian bloggers today:

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but many of best and most prolific law library bloggers have been publishing posts that are almost exclusively about the future of law or legal publishing news rather than writing about the issues we, as law librarians, need to deal with to assure a place for us in the future. After thinking about this, I decided to make a plea to all law library bloggers to take a step back and think about what topics are most important for us to be writing about. [emphasis added]

Nina lists a number of topics that she thinks are important to the law librarian profession, but are not covered extensively enough by the bloggers within the profession. I think there are some legitimate reasons why some bloggers do not go deep into some of these subjects, but let’s see what we can do as a group and share some thoughts on some pretty important issues.

Here are the topics she lists:

  • How we can support changes in the legal industry?
  • What technology will help get us through these changes?
  • What staffing, research resources, services, processes, etc. will we need to have in place?
  • How we will need to deal with licensing, copyright, budgets, marketing, management, and other issues that face administrators within law firms?
  • What skills will librarians need to have that they don’t have now?
  • How will library education need to change?
  • How will libraries need to be staffed in the future?
  • [insert your own question to answer] 

So we will take Nina’s challenge and see if we can crowd source some of the possible answers, in the old Elephant Post style. For those of you that may not remember how it works, we offer you a few ways to post your responses. First of all, you can simply pick one of the questions and email me directly (xlambert at gmail dot com) with your response. If you’d rather just jump in and answer one of these directly, then you can edit the embedded form below, or go to the Google Docs site directly and fill out the form. I’ll pull these together throughout the week and post the results at the end of the week. If we get really good responses, we may post those up separately as a stand alone answer.

You now have a platform. The Elephant Post only works if you’re willing to share your thoughts with others. We even give you the chance to share them anonymously. Stop stalling, and start writing!! [click here to see the ongoing responses]