Notes from the Technology Trenches – March, 1998

Elizabeth H. Klampert is the Director of Library Services for the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Ms. Klampert was formerly a litigator for five years, specializing in professional liability litigation. Before attending law school, she was a corporate librarian for twelve years, holding management positions in libraries in a number of large organizations, including Rainier National Bank in Seattle, Deloitte & Touche, and Merrill Lynch, both in New York. She received both her BA in English and MLS from the University of Washington in Seattle. She received her JD at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York.

For those of you who were not able to make it to PLI’s “Managing the Law Library” seminar held in New York on February 2, it was well worth attending and was also well-attended (106 registrants showed up). I’m just sorry I can’t make the one being held in Chicago near the end of March. Caveat: Most of this column was posted (by me) on the PLI Librarians Listserv for those of you who think this looks vaguely familiar.

The focus this year for all the “Managing the Law Library” seminars is on knowledge management and intranets. I think all of the speakers made good presentations, although one individual did not have a requisite understanding of the professional role of the audience to whom he was speaking.

He waxed enthusiastic about Lotus Notes and what this program was able to do for him in terms of organizing his case files, including the addition of case law, codes, articles, etc. When asked who was going to maintain this for him (clearly he couldn’t do it himself and still bill his time), he seemed somewhat taken aback since he expected that the “library” would be responsible for system maintenance. So, the library has now assumed the role of “back office” operations? Audience response to this concept was not altogether positive.

The other presentations were on a much higher level. As I’ve noted in the past, the consulting firms seem to be way ahead of the law firms in their approach to “knowledge management,” and Shireen Kumar, Manager of North American Information Resources for Russell Reynolds Associates, bore this out in her presentation. While RRA is at the beginning point in terms of knowledge management, she expects the role of the information professionals to grow rapidly.

She described the kinds of qualifications and skills the knowledge management staff should possess, including flexibility, creativity, a research or information background, good judgment, ability to keep one’s “eye on the ball,” collaborative ability, willingness to ask questions (and the humility to do so), and the willingness to embrace technology and be somewhat techno-savvy.

Similarly, Louisa Zammit, Senior Manager, Information Professional Community, Booz, Allen & Hamilton, discussed that firm’s approach to knowledge management and the vital role the information professionals, aka librarians, are playing. She emphasized the need for management’s backing for a knowledge management effort or it wouldn’t work, noting that, even so, most programs fail (35%). She then gave a number of examples of how certain knowledge management programs work in practice and what benefits have accrued.

Louisa noted that the move to knowledge management at Booz, Allen has created opportunities for librarians: Library Science professionals now make up 30% of the 85 information professionals worldwide. There is also more of an affinity with the IS folks — both the information professionals and IS personnel report to the Chief Knowledge Officer and they work together to develop solutions as part of various teams.

In the afternoon, the focus was on intranets. Denise Lipkvich discussed “Designing and Managing the Intranet,” noting that not only should you have a champion for this project, but you also need to keep the firm’s business goals firmly in mind as you develop it. She went on to suggest that you should involve all stakeholders as you develop your intranet proposal, while carefully planning the intranet’s capacity and scale and choosing the technology to run it.

Ann Walsh Long of Hunton & Williams continued this theme with her presentation on “How to Have Input in the Design Process.” She described a multi-phase intranet project that became a model for all other departments in the firm, but which took a year to create. Interestingly, at some point, the firm brought in a consultant to critique the system and, as a result, some changes were made, but generally, the intranet the Library was instrumental in creating appears to have passed muster. She stressed that the intranet is very much a work in progress and that she works on it closely with the IS department.

In another approach to intranets, Gitelle Seer, Director of Library Services at Dewey & Ballantine LLP, discussed the Library’s electronic bulletin board, using Lotus Notes as the platform. She described the advantages she saw to Lotus Notes, as well as some of the disadvantages and then turned to specifics of what is provided on the EBB. I didn’t see the attorney who spoke in the morning, but he would have learned a lot from Gitelle’s presentation.

Nathan Rosen, Assistant Vice President, Legal and Compliance Department, Credit Suisse First Boston Corporation, presented the view from the corporate legal department, noting that the intranet creator must focus on the users. He has developed an intranet that, as are most of those in existence, is a work in progress, responding to the needs of the users at many different levels. Unlike some intranets described, he provides a direct connection to the Internet from the Credit Suisse intranet, taking care not to require too much “drilling down” for his users.

The final presentation of the day was given by David Strom, President of David Strom, Inc. who discussed “push technology.” He noted that he was neither an attorney nor a librarian so wasn’t sure how he fit. Not a problem — he was quite funny. You can take a look at his presentation, “The Push Technology Survival Guide,” by going to his Web site to view his speeches. He noted that he has used and then uninstalled all push technology products out there. For those of us who thought the whole concept was pretty overrated, his remarks were quite welcome. I note, however, that SDI by any other name is a form of push technology, albeit one usually chosen by the user!

I have no idea what will be the hot button issues discussed at next year’s seminar, but commend PLI on this year’s program.

On another note, I mentioned that Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison has been one of the few firms to have not only a page on their Web site for their library, but also includes a library services form for clients to fill out and send back to the library. I’ve come across another law firm that also provides this service, Ice Miller Donadio & Ryan, located in Indianapolis, Indiana. On that page, click on “Library Services” and you’ll be taken to the library’s home page where you can select the library request form.

Not content to confine my musings to this column, I published an article in the March 2, 1998 issue of the Legal Times on page S38, entitled “Don’t Forget Your Librarians.” The focus of the article is why attorneys need law librarians and querying just why librarians aren’t being considered for those pricey Chief Knowledge Officer spots. I’m sure most of you can add to the short list I compiled for the article!

Posted in: Notes from the Technology Trenches