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.

Continue Reading My Non Life

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.”

My discussion with him about this survey was interesting. Their motivation for conducting this research was as a vendor of Business Development (BD) tools, they wanted to get a sense of the scope of the involvement of law librarians in BD. The overwhelming response of librarians answering “yes” to the question of could they be better utilized took them by surprise (95% of the respondents to Question #6). This is something I’ve been talking about for years (Here’s an example) and I’m pleased to see that this is becoming a universal point of view.
He also noted that law firm librarians see themselves as a resource for the acquisition of work for the firm. This is borne out by the following survey responses:
Q1: 81% cite pushing relevant information on client intel directly to individual stakeholders as demonstration of their value
Q2: 72% see BD and CI as areas currently handled has part of their job
Q3: 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.

One possible cause for this was identified by David in our discussion. He noted that firm BD initiatives lack consistency from one firm to the next. As result, the quality of the underlying research and analysis is not consistent. Using librarians in this capacity is an easy way for firms to utilize an existing resource to create a consistent high quality basis for strategic business decisions.
The most interesting post for me was from fellow Geek Zena Applebaum. Zena used the survey to point out a path to address the concerns that were expressed by the respondents. David agreed with Zena’s assessment that Librarians are natural sleuths and are good at figuring out the client’s needs early and identifying strategic areas for the firm to target. Let’s face it, the days of “they know what I can do and they know where to find me if they need me to do it” are long gone.   Her post should inspire each of us to take charge of our destiny. Pick up that phone and ask your Marketing counterpart to lunch. Meet with your practice group leaders and show them how you help them achieve their strategic goals. Now is the time for action!
 

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.
Earlier this week, I had the honour of attending the SLA (Special Library Association – for the non-librarian 3 Geeks crowd) Annual Conference in Chicago.  As one of the competitive intelligence guest Geeks, it should come as no surprise that I mostly spent my time at the CI Division sessions.  Each CI session was was better than the last. Topics ranged from Cross Cultural CI (how to get information, collaborate, and understand various cultures when doing CI) to the Evolving Role of CI in Law Firms (a session I would imagine would be of particular interest to the 3 Geeks subscribers).  Sessional information, including presentations, will be available here in the next few weeks.

In the mean time, I wanted to share a few highlights in no particular order:

·    Special librarianship is alive and well. We keep hearing about layoffs, decreasing budgets, shrinking floor space and such across libraries.  That all may be well and true, BUT the rallying power of librarians is astounding.  New titles are popping up, new roles are being created, and librarians are leading that change. The energy is amazing.

·    Big data is coming to a library/information centre/shop near you.  Get in front of it.  Start thinking about how you can help your clients manage and understand their data.  We need to think beyond taxonomy, even beyond knowledge management, to something tangible and actionable.  Internal and external data are the keys to AFAs, increased productivity, and competitive advantage.  Harnessing big data will be the differentiator for law firms in the next several years.  Librarians with their information knowhow need to be involved in this process in firms.

·    Get embedded.  We’ve heard it before and it is starting to stick.  Building relationships from the inside is central to garnering trust, and being able to provide proactive information. Even if your firm doesn’t operate on an embedded basis, keep your pjs nearby, and invite yourself over to the slumber party when the opportunity presents.  Figuratively, of course.
·    Librarians can do CI and can do it VERY well.  Wednesday morning, the last day of the conference, at 8 a.m. no less (following the famous IT Division Dow Jones Sponsored Dance Party), Michel Bernaiche of Aurora WDC and Chairman of the Board at SCIP and Fred Wergeles, a SCIP fellow, presented a workshop type session on analytical tools that deliver value.  The librarians/attendees learned a couple of new tools for analysis, but the real learning came when the participants blew the panelists away with their ability to digest, synthesize and pull out the actionable tidbits of information – i.e. intelligence.  Don’t be afraid of doing CI, embrace it.
·    Social media is not a trend.  For several years now, there have been sessions at all manner of professional development conferences related to social media.  SLA 2012 was no different.  Social media, whether you personally engage or not, is not going away.  And if you don’t believe me, check out the twitter stream #slachicago from the past week.  Or check LinkedIn updates or Facebook statuses.   Like it or not, if you don’t yet have a strategy to deal with it, get one.  There may even be an app for that.
Roles are changing, responsibilities may be increasing, and the data sources are becoming more layered and hard to control. But, whoa is not (or shouldn’t be!) you.   It is an exciting time for law librarians/information professionals/law firm CI practitioners. 

Competitive Intelligence in law firms happens.  I know it does because for almost ten years, I have been doing it. And still, it seems CI in law firms is a mystery, an enigma to those in the legal community as much as in the CI community.  I am writing this post as I fly home from the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP)’s annual meeting. The meeting was superb, one of the best conferences I have attended recently.  The energy levels were high, people were engaged, conversations spilled out of conference rooms and networking events were packed.  And yet, when people asked me what type of organization I worked for, I got questions like “law firms have CI?” or “how do law firms do CI?” No ever questions my colleagues in the pharmaceutical, consumer goods, defense or food services industries, so why me?  Or rather, why still me?
On one panel discussion I sat in on, which looked at the first 100 days of a CI program, Mark Greene, Chief Business Development Officer at Waller, suggested that advertising in law firms is relatively new – its only been around for 35 years, as compared to the other industries.  So, arguably, the need to be “competitive” and the need for intelligence to do may also be new or newish.  It seems a plausible rationale, but given that next month, the ARK Group will be hosting a one-day conference on CI in Law Firms (check it out if you will be in the NY area, it is usually a great conference). And at its annual meeting in July, the Special Libraries Association (SLA),’s Competitive Intelligence Division will be running a session specifically about the Evolving Role of Competitive Intelligence in Law Firms, I think the industry-in-its-infancy argument is tired. 
When I walked to exhibit hall and talked to vendors, very few service providers outside of data providers such as S&P Capital IQ had law firm clients. Shift Central, and InfoNgen were two of the few intelligence product vendors in the room with existing law firm clients.  Aurora WDC was one of the only primary research and consulting firms who were willing to engage in a needs analysis for the industry and recognize the needs of the CI industry in legal. 
There seems to be a significant disconnect between what service providers and professional associations are making available, and what the industry needs.  Why?  What makes legal different?  When it comes down to it – I can identify three areas that make law firms significantly different enough that vendors are at a loss for an approach and CI people such as myself may have a bumpier ride in influencing the decisions at firms. 
1.     Despite several huge national and International firms in existence, the industry is still relatively small and insular.  So companies such as Bloomberg Law and AmLaw which do cater to the industry, won’t have a presence at bigger trade shows such as SCIP. That being said, I believe most CI service providers are wiling to work with CI practitioners to tailor solutions.  This puts the onus on the CI practitioner however to figure out what he/she needs and then work with a selected vendor to make it happen.  Not always a preferable approach.
2.     The management structure of law firms is, despite many firm’s attempts otherwise, is still primarily a partnership structure with multiple bottom lines and conflicting priorities.  Even where CI sits within the organization can be a challenge.  The operations and budget of Marketing, Library, Business Development, and/or Knowledge Management within firms will vary widely, making the “home” of CI susceptible to even more scrutiny.  The only way for the law firm CI practitioner to deal with this challenge in my mind, is to work slowly, gain small wins and manage expectations.
3.     Finally, the third difference and difficulty I see for law firm CI practitioners is the notion that CI in law firms supports both the practice and the business of law.  This is a very fundamental difference between what we do and what practitioners in other industries do.  And, this is a challenge that those outside of the industry may not understand.  It is a subtle difference but one that makes all the difference.  Law firm CI is different in that we need to focus on not just the business but also what is happening from a legislative and regulatory point of view.  This presents a unique challenge, which when coupled with the other two points above, makes legal CI seem like a daunting task for the practitioner and an industry not obviously ready for outsourced or assisted CI.
So what do we do in the face of these differences?  We carry on.  Now more than ever, I am inspired to put legal CI on the proverbial map.  I feel confident that what the legal industry is doing in CI fighting above its weight in terms of its sophistication and tactical approach. Despite the challenges and the not-so-obvious-existence, CI in law firms is alive and well, if possibly under-served.  Time will tell, but I am willing to bet it won’t take long before the CI community in law firms is setting bar the for everyone else.
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:

  1. first and foremost, have fun with it; 
  2. choose a topic you know something about so it will be easy for you to chat about it; 
  3. keep a script, but don’t be wedded to it; 
  4. find a series of images you would like to look at; and 
  5. tell a story, have a beginning, a middle and an end in the
  6. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. CI is all about framing and context. This is likely my favourite.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

This morning members of the various PLL/SIS AALL groups on LinkedIn received the following notice from PLL/SIS Chair-Elect Steve Lastres. The group has announced a new collaboration among the PLL/SIS, the SLA Legal Division and the CALL Private Law Libraries groups that sounds very exciting.
This new initiative has launched a blog focusing on the value of law firm libraries, which sounds like a great complement to the SLA Future Ready conversation about the relevance of special libraries and librarians.

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 

Best Wishes,
Steve Lastres
PLL Chair-Elect Posted By Steven Lastres