For many years working in the realm of law firms I have been described as a Non – a non lawyer. It is a rather strange predicament to define yourself and your skills based on what you are not, rather than what you are. I remember when my husband first graduated from university and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life, he took a series of jobs to try things out only to come to the conclusion a year later that he learned what he didn’t want to do. So he went back to school, twice, in pursuit of being a something. I on the other hand, graduated from grad school and shortly thereafter started on my almost two decade journey of being a Non.
It almost never fails when I run into someone I used to work with. The conversation starts with “Hey… how’s the law library world? It’s gotta be tough with all those books being online now.” (The implication being “aren’t you worried about becoming irrelevant?”) I reply with “Yeah, that makes it a whole lot more difficult to manage with all that information in a dozen different places than it did when it was a book in the library.” I’m not sure who they think is managing the information which is usually behind a very expensive paywall. I would guess they either think that it is managed directly by the vendor, or worse, that the Information Technology department is now the de facto library managers.
One of the benefits I get from being the current President of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is that I get to go to different types of meetings and engage with legal professionals who are not law librarians. These are law professors, recruiters, marketers, technology/security professionals, legal administrators, in-house counsel, and others in the legal industry. One of the questions that I’ve heard, especially from in-house and corporate lawyers is the fact that they need help managing their legal information. When I ask if they have a librarian or some type of specialized legal information professional, the answer is typically “no.” When I prod further, I find that many corporations downsized or eliminated their corporate library staff during the Great Recession period. I don’t think that is a surprise to many of us. Corporate libraries were devastated at the beginning of this decade. I think that is coming back to haunt some corporations.
This isn’t to say all corporate libraries were eliminated. There are still many out there that are around and thriving. But, more often than not, most were severely affected by the economic downturn, and seen as an easy cost reduction because the corporate management saw libraries as books and space, and librarians as keepers of books and space. In reality, librarians are managers of information, and we have more information at our disposal than ever.
It is time for the corporations to rethink how they are managing their information. My rule of thumb for law firms is that somewhere between 1% to 2% of revenue is spent on external information resources. It’s a guess on my part for corporations, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that same rule of thumb applies to them. If there are no information professionals, such as a librarian, or an information analyst, managing these resources, then I would bet they are being mismanaged.
IT departments are not equipped to manage these types of vendor relations, nor are they experts at understanding what type of information best fits the corporate environment, and what alternative products are out there. Information professionals do.
Corporate lawyers may understand some of the valued resources that are needed for their departments, but do you really want your attorneys dealing with vendors, researching new products or updates to existing resources, and establishing training? Information professionals do.
Secretaries and Administrative Assistants are great people and wonderful at supporting the corporations. However, many are just not experienced in what it takes to plan and create a strategy for what the information needs are for the entire company, or even for an individual department. Information professionals do.
In this era of readily accessible information, we do not suffer from a lack of information resources, we suffer from an abundance of irrelevant information that looks on its surface to be relevant. Information professionals are your line of defense against the abundance of information, and are your due diligence agents for identifying the resources which best fit your needs and your budgets.
If you are one of those corporations who reduced your library staff because you thought “all those books are online now,” it may be time to think about reestablishing those duties. I would suggest reaching out to a local library or law library association if you have one in your area. Or, get in touch with an organization like AALL, SLA, or other specialty library associations and have them point you to someone local who could advice you on where to start. That information is not going to manage itself, so step up and get the professional help you need to get your information resources under control, and part of your overall corporate strategy.
There has been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere and twitter this week about the Bloomberg Law article “Law Firm Librarians Feel Underused and Underpaid” and the accompanying survey. First off, I want to thank Bloomberg BNA for conducting this survey, sharing the results with the law librarian community and David Perla, President, Bloomberg BNA Legal Division and Bloomberg Law, for discussing these results with me.
I think this title was a bit misleading. Librarians were expressing their frustration that firms weren’t fully utilizing their talents. I think that leaner staffing and more recognition of Librarians as an excellent low cost resource have kept them extremely busy and useful. As David said, “Research is in its lowest cost place today. Research is being pushed down to the lowest cost research, the library.”
Q1: 81% cite pushing relevant information on client intel directly to individual stakeholders as demonstration of their valueQ2: 72% see BD and CI as areas currently handled has part of their jobQ3: 66% see BD and CI as logical areas for someone with a law firm librarian skillset to add value
The numbers clearly demonstrate a recognition by the law librarian community of the fact that this is a major contribution they can make to the success of the firm. However, only 18% say their law firm is currently using them in this capacity (Question 5). When taken into account with the previously discussed results, it appears that librarians are not being acknowledged for the BD and CI contributions they are making now. The reasons for this could be that these contributions are funneled through other departments, not recognized as BD or CI, or simply done on an ad hoc basis.
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.
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)
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
|Image [cc] mastermaq|
Yesterday, the Special Libraries Association, Competitive Intelligence Division hosted a free webinar on how to give a Pecha Kucha (PK) presentation. The webinar, sponsored by AuroraWDC, was entitled: Pecha Kucha: Learning the PK Presentation Method to Maximize PowerPoint Effectiveness and can be viewed here for those that missed it.
The presentations are all related in some way to competitive intelligence, but the real message is in the medium – I couldn’t resist the need to invoke Marshall McLuhan and get some Canadian content in this post. The basis of the PK presentation, is 20 slides in 20 seconds, heavy on the images and light on the text. The idea is that you can say all you need to say about a given topic in roughly 6 minutes and 40 seconds. It is a quick, fun and entertaining way to present a topic.
The PK, or other similar formats like Ignite are a great way to avoid the traditional death by Powerpoint presentations.
As a panelist in yesterday’s webinar (my first PK presentation ever, by the way), here a few tips in how to put a PK together:
- first and foremost, have fun with it;
- choose a topic you know something about so it will be easy for you to chat about it;
- keep a script, but don’t be wedded to it;
- find a series of images you would like to look at; and
- tell a story, have a beginning, a middle and an end in the
- 40 Lawyers as we well know, are busy people.
They like to get their information in quick easily digestible pieces, sound bites and bullet points. The PK format does exactly that. It is an ideal format for delivering client current awareness, or even for associate/articling student training. I think it is a brilliant format and one I will certainly use going forward.
Last night, I had the honour (that is spelled correctly, check Greg’s posting on the CLawbies for more detail) of participating in “Using KITs+1™ in Boosting Your Organization’s Analytical Fitness™ ” presented by Dr. Craig S. Fleisher, Chief Learning Officer/Aurora WDC, to a joint audience of members from the Toronto Chapters of Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals and Special Library Association . This was the first time Dr. Fleisher presented this material, and I can promise you it won’t, nor should it be, his last.
The talk was about the next generation of intelligence analysis – analysis 2.0 if you will and our analytic fitness levels. I won’t recap the entire presentation because I would likely mash it up horribly, but here are five take-aways, musings and thoughts on competitive intelligence (CI) and analysis 2.0 that I am still pondering (note the italics) today. The ability to provide good CI and to really know what your clients (lawyers or otherwise) need is predicated on trust. Studies have shown that it takes 7.3 years to build the kind of trust necessary to be seen as the kind of “trusted business advisor” our clients expect. Um… I knew it took a year to get your “legs” in a firm, but 6.3 more to be trusted??
In the last several years, we have seen a significant increase in our data storage capabilities. I carry a 3 gig thumb drive on a key ring for example, but all this data we carry around and have access to has a very short half-life. Why are we storing it beyond its shelf life and/or not using it sooner?
Analysis 2.0 is about dialogue and discussion – think crowd sourced analysis. This necessary means we, as CI practitioners, will have to recognize our own blind spots and prejudices, right?
The current CI cycle, no matter how many steps you include, always involves the definition of an issue or a Key Intelligence Topic (KIT), Data Gathering, then Analysis, etc. In the next generation of analysis, we will need to provide real time analytics. Can we do various steps concurrently? Perhaps the answer to real time analysis is more in keeping with the scientific method of stating a hypothesis and then collecting the right data to prove the point – is that CI or just cheating?
CI practitioners need to develop or maintain a sense of humility about intelligence and recognize that sometimes you will be wrong, and that’s okay. This goes hand in hand with being a trusted advisor. Think of it like the weather man (or woman). Each morning we trust our clothing choices to the forecasted weather. Often the weather person is right, sometimes not, but we rarely lose complete faith because the next morning there we are again, listening for the forecast and choosing outerwear based on what we hear. As the weather people, we have to know that we are trusted even if we are sometimes wrong. And sometimes as creators of intel, we have to realize that experience counts too. Sometimes you just have to step outside and feel the temperature yourself, right? Use your gut and be ok if you are wrong.
Dr. Fleisher is a dynamic and exciting speaker – he encourages discussion and forces people to think about CI in ways we haven’t yet. He is pushing the envelope and creating new paradigms. Are your analysis skills ready for the workout?
It has been almost a month since my trip to Philly for the 2011 annual SLA conference and INFO-EXPO. Over the course of the month, I have been thinking about what lessons I learned, and what I took away from the conference, and after letting it all stew, I am ready to share my thoughts. First off, I am not a librarian. I feel like I say that a lot, and I definitely had to say that and explain it a great deal at SLA – but I digress. Despite my being a member of the non-librarian, non-library technician crowd at SLA, I still find the conference one of the most satisfying events to attend. SLA 2011 is an important conference for professionals like me who are entrusted to have the right information, insights and trends to make good decisions and gain competitive advantage. SLA is many things to many people. It allows me to be targeted and specific in the type of sessions I attend, but it is also far reaching in its scope and divisions. I can take advantage of sessions in CI, KM, portal development, information management, as well as those hosted by the Legal Division and Business and Finance Division. So what did I learn in all of this goodness? Here are my top five musings:
- The jury is still out and will likely be out for a long time in determining if CI is a set of competencies, or if it is in fact a profession. The discussion of this topic never seems to get boring and for good reason.
- The Pecha Kucha presentation tournament hosted by AuroraWDC at the CI Dvision open house was a very fun event that introduced some great topics in a creative and quick format, which I believe has been discussed on 3 Geeks in the past.
- CI is all about framing and context. This is likely my favourite.
- I learned that many law firms still think they are the only ones doing CI. Since the conference, a new LinkedIn Group has been started to address this faction of the population and hopefully stimulate some good online networking and sharing of best practices.
- Social media, ethics in primary source collection, trend forecasting and evolving information needs continue to be the cornerstones of what the CI community is currently discussing.
Addressing these issues from a law firm perspective continues to be a challenge. Some food for thought for the 3 Geeks and subscribers.
Dear Private Law Libraries Special Interest Section Member, The PLL Executive Board is proud to be part of an exciting new collaboration. Along with our colleagues in the Special Libraries Association Legal Division and the Private Law Libraries Special Interest Group of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (l’Association Canadienne des Bibliothèques de Droit), we are delighted to unveil On Firmer Ground, a blog that seeks to promote the VALUE of Law Firm Librarians. You can find it at http://www.firmerground.com . More than just a blog, On Firmer Ground is designed to be a celebration of who law firm librarians are and what they do. We encourage you to share your thoughts on the featured postings and engage your fellow law firm librarians in meaningful discussion. This new blog is the first international collaboration of its kind and represents a chance for us to develop a common voice and strategies for success that transcend geographic boundaries. We hope to have even more global partners signed on soon! It is a great time to be part of this profession and, working together, we raise its profile. We invite all our law firm librarians to get involved, represent your profession and SIS, and make the most of this powerful new resource. This initiative directly fosters several of the goals in the new PLL Strategic Directions Plan 2011-2013 to have the voice and value of the law firm librarians heard and communicated throughout the greater legal community. On Firmer Ground is an important step in that direction. We invite the entire legal information industry to join the conversation. Check out On Firmer Ground today ( http://www.firmerground.com ). The first post is an excellent piece on Cost Prevention versus Cost Recovery. We look forward to your thoughts. Let the discussion begin! Is your library on firmer ground? PS: For you Twitter users, you can get the latest from On Firmer Ground’s feed by following @FirmerGround
PLL Chair-Elect Posted By Steven Lastres