Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Putting A Value On Priceless": New Study Reports that Librarians Deliver ROI of $5.43 Per Dollar Invested

Library Week has brought us a gift from “the land downunder.” The Australian Law Librarians’ Association
(ALLA)  and 3 other Library organzations (The Australian Library and InformationAssociation (ALIA), Health Libraries Inc (HLInc),Health Libraries Australia (HLA)) collaborated on a study to measure the Return on Investment of Australian special libraries.The partners commissioned award-winning firm SGS Economics and Planning  to study special libraries across the nation. This week,  the final report was issued “ Putting a Value on Priceless”  which provides an independent assessment of the return on investment provided to organizations which have their own special libraries and information services in Australia.

The Survey was conducted between June and September 2013 and was supplemented by in depth case studies. 5% of Australia’s 2200 special libraries participated.

Conservatively, special libraries are estimated to deliver $5.43 in value for every one dollar spent. The true value is likely even higher

The study does not calculate the additional economic benefit of two benefits which information professionals provide. 1. improved quality of results provided  and 2. the savings negotiated by librarians in procurement and assessment process. So it may not be a stretch to assume that if these other factors were calculated in the ratio of value to cost might be 10 to 1. So the 5.43 to one ratio is quite conservative.

The report concludes that an increased investment in libraries and hiring of more information professionals would “ unleash the potential for significant incremental benefits.”

 Benefits Provided by Information Professionals

·         Assure that decisions are supported by solid facts

·         Develop a customized suite of print and digital resources to support the organizations needs

·         Provide access to non digital resources though expert knowledge of external resources and resource sharing from other special and academic libraries

·         Source obscure facts. Saves time and costs less per hour to accomplish result than if project assigned to a non-librarian

·         Higher quality results. The average researcher uses a basic Google search and never looks past the first 2 pages of results. 98% of non-librarians have never used the advanced search on Google.

·         Libraries  support organizational due diligence and reduce risks of ill informed decision making. In the case of law firms this means providing bad advice to clients and risking malpractice claims.

The Report Identifies The Services Provided by Information Professionals:

·         Fast and thorough searches, presenting the latest, most comprehensive and accurate information to executives and practitioners.

·         Training to enable library users to carry out their own searches of electronic databases more efficiently and effectively.

·         The expertise of the information professionals is what drives the $5.43 ROI per dollar.

·         Filtered, evaluated and packaged search results.

·          Relevant, tailored, current information from national and international sources.

·         Assistance for people who are studying for a tertiary qualification and training to achieve a higher level of competency.

·          Manage a dynamic collection of physical and online resources, so staff can access   up-to-date, authoritative resources, and make well-informed decisions.

·         Negotiate with publishers of books, journals and online resources, to achieve the best value for the department.

·         Ensure the materials and the ways they are used are copyright compliant.

I want to thank all of the Australian Library Associations for undertaking this study. Library Directors  around the world have been seeking the elusive ROI metric for years. AALL is undertaking a Value of Law Libraries Study and it will be interesting to see if they can also provide a solid RIO metric for US law libraries. If the studies deliver consistent results it will strengthen the credibility of  these metrics as reliable benchmarks.  I am happy to celebrate Library Week with the highly useful metric provided by the Australian Special Libraries/SGS Economics and Planning report.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Law Librarians in the Digital Age: New Identities Beyond the Bookshelves

"The word “librarian” hardly covers the breadth of our universe.  We are strategic leaders, research analysts, taxonomists, teachers, digital pioneers, app developers, knowledge managers, information literacy evangelists and competitive intelligence gurus. In short, we are both  educators and digital cartographers who build the bridges and help researchers chart the course  between knowledge from  the past and data which will become knowledge of the future"

A version of this post  first appeared as a Foreword in the book Law Librarianship in the Digital Age, edited by Ellyssa Kroski. It highlights some of the important themes to consider as we kick off  "Library Week 2014."

My first reaction to Law Librarianship in the Digital Age was, “I wish there had been a book like this when I was in graduate school.”  But eBooks, iPads,  virtual reference, webinars, cloud computing, web scale discovery, apps and avatars  were the stuff of fantasy. So if there were such a book it would have been classified as “Science Fiction.”  In the 30 years since I entered the profession the externals of librarianship have been wildly transformed. But the core mission of the profession, which is matching people to knowledge, remains intact and drives a vision of the future which distinguishes our profession from all others. We are charged with preserving and optimizing access to knowledge. We wear all the hats: grinding, finding, minding and connecting. For those who still think of the “bun headed” cartoon  librarian  stereotype, this book will be a rude awakening. The editor has assembled an impressive line-up of thought leaders to provide strategic insights into the various facets of digital information preservation, presentation, access and management in a variety of contexts.

This is the proverbial best of times and worst of times. Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 the law firm market has been thrown forward into an altered world where technology, client pricing pressures and globalization have generated a truly “ disrupted market.”  New kinds of legal practices are emerging such as virtual law firms,  coupled with  the emergence of offshored legal drafting and e-discovery centers.  As law firms have retrenched, their hiring of new associates has reduced. Law schools are faced with  falling enrollments due both to the high cost of legal education and the uncertain job prospects. We will all adapt what we do to address the changed environments and reinvent ourselves and our services as we have done before.

Graduate curriculum for legal information professionals needs to focus on cultivating the wide range of professional competencies outlined in the book. The word “librarian” hardly covers the breadth of our universe.  We are strategic leaders, research analysts, taxonomists, teachers, digital pioneers, app developers, knowledge managers, information literacy evangelists and competitive intelligence gurus. In short, we are both  educators and digital cartographers who build the bridges and help researchers chart the course  between knowledge from  the past and data which will become knowledge of the future

But this book isn't just a practical handbook for students, it contains  a wealth of “state of the art information” for practitioners and those thinking of a career change into law librarianship.
The editor has selected a range of topics which offer an exploration of both the core practice issues and the transformational initiatives in  law school, government  and law firm library environments. Each kind of library may adopt new practices ahead of each other, and then inspire and cross-fertilize new initiatives in another environment. Seeing how an academic library promotes distance learning provides inspiration for law firms that are increasingly globalized. The competitive intelligence initiatives in law firms may be adapted to customized faculty research needs.

The Intersection of Technology and Humanities. Steve Jobs attributed the success of Apple to the fact that it existed at the intersection of technology and humanities.  Jobs was referring to the kind of  multi-disciplinary thinking which our professional excels at.  We connect technology, law and the multitude of social, literary, technical and scientific issues which stream through legislation, case law and commercial activities.

I have to admit I was someone who entered the profession because I liked books.  I especially loved breathing the air in a cloistered alcove of a research library surrounded by aging volumes. And yet I entered the profession as it was about to tumble into decades of technological change and professional uncertainty. Libraries as places are shrinking  As we all know, change  leads to opportunity and we face the opportunity to radically transform both libraries and our profession. Law Librarians in the Digital Age provides a panorama of how traditional functions such as research, collection development,  technical services and administration have been and will continue to be transformed by the innovative professionals who contributed to this book.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

LexisNexis Has a Birthday, Inspring Flashbacks and Adds ABA eBooks to Digital Library

A post on Above the Law today noted the launch of Lexis on April 2nd 1978. I recalled reading that there was an Ohio Bar system which predated Lexis so I did some research. Lexis created a  history of online research Timeline  for its 30th anniversary. This timeline points to the initiatives by the Ohio State Bar Association. In 1965   bar members James F Preston Jr and William G Harrington created the seminal definition of electronic legal research as a "non-indexed, full text, online, interactive, computer assisted service"

The bar association later created a non-profit called Obar (Ohio Bar Automated Research  Corporation) which retained a small technology company Data Corp. to create a database of the Ohio cases and statutes. The company was subsequently purchased and became Mead Data the original owner of Lexis.

The Original Lexis DeLuxe Terminal
All this mental time travel reminded me of my first encounter with a Lexis terminal when it was wheeled into the Pace University Law Library in 1979. The Deluxe terminal shown here was the size of a washing machine and despite its weight and girth it was remarkably "dumb." It had no computing power. It dialed up and searched a remote database over telephone lines. It could not print out a full case, but you could print a section of "key words in context" KWIC  on exotic silver paper. I mused about the empty directory screen which listed only 4 databases - cases and statutes from New York and Ohio. I wondered for nano-second why I hadn't pulled out my iPhone in 1979 and taken a picture of the barren black screen on the Deluxe terminal ---  ooops the iPhone was 30 years in the future.

More Shots From "The Lexis Museum"

The Pre-GUI Lexis Display

The Deluxe was replaced by the compact Ubiq terminal.
The many faces of Lexis

Lexis And ABA Enter eBook Agreement
ABAToday LexisNexis and the American Bar Association announced an agreement to have over 200 ABA eBook titles available through the LexisNexis Digital Library-- the LexisNexis eBook platform. Access to the ABA Library will be available on a subscription basis through theLexisNexis Digital Library. Single user titles will continue to be available through the ABA bookstore

While I applaud this initiative, I am a proponent of the multi-modal approach -publishers should make information available through many platforms. Let the users decide how they want to consume the information. There was a time when Lexis offered a searchable library of ABA publications on the LexisNexis platform, maybe we can go back to the future....

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Practice Innovations: Legal Pricing, Professional Development, 360 Reviews, CRMs, Infographics and Legal Education

 The March Issue of  Thomson Reuters Practice Innovations has been released.

The Power of 360-Degree Feedback: One Firm's Experience By Sharon Meit Abrahams, Foley& Lardner LLP, Miami, FL and Merrick Rosenberg, President

and cofounder, Team Builders Plus,Marlton, NJ

The Future of the Law Chain and Evolution of Law School Curriculum By Jeffrey Brandt, Principal, Brandt Professional Services, Ashburn, VA

By Ari Kaplan, Principal, Ari Kaplan Advisors, New York, NY

By Lynn R.Watson, Director of Information Resource Technologies, Hogan Lovells US LLP, Washington, DC

Is CRM a Dying Resource or Is There a Place for it in Today's Law Firms? By Silvia Coulter, Principal, LawVision Group, Boston, MA

LLC, Boston, MA

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tandem Law: Non-Attorney Owned Law Firm in DC, Stay Small -- Understand the Client's Business

In the second installment of Mimesis TV, Lee Pacchia interviews Michael McDevitt, the non-attorney CEO and owner of  the Tandem Law Group @tndgrp. McDevitt's interest in owning and being CEO of a law firm arose from his frustration at being a CEO who was a law firm client. He found that law firms  were not responsive to his business needs. He jumped at the opportunity to become a CEO and partial owner of an innovative law firm Tamdem Law Group. McDevitt sees his role  as helping the organization run effectively but he also participates in business development and meetings with new clients.

There has been a fair amount of  legal press covering the emergence of  alternative business structures  for UK law firms  Here in the US, The DC  Bar Ethics Rule 5.4  also allows non-lawyer ownership of law firms. To date it has mostly been used by lobbyist-law firms.

Pacchia's interview with McDevitt explores the unqiue  structural goals (stay small) culture (hire the right kind of lawyers and help them thrive) business development strategy ( referals from existing clients) and fee structures ( hourly, success rates and taking equity interest in the client)

Yet accoding to McDevitt, building the law  firm of the future has a lot in common with small law firms of the past... watch the video...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

ALM Law Firm Support Staffing Report: Optimizing Staff Ratios & Increased Demand for Analytical Skills

ALM Legal Intelligence just released a white paper Finding the Right Balance: Nonattorney Law Firm Staffing Trends. ‘ (Cover title: Law firm staffing—Finding the Optimal Mix. ")   The survey was conducted during January and February 2014. The report studies the ongoing efforts by law firms to "optimize" support staff functions and ratios.

It appears that law firm pulling back from the relentless focus on shrinking staff and management t is now trying to focus on  staff optimization. Optimization includes upgrading functions and identifying the right mix of talents. Providing lawyer with billing support used to mean clerical help. Today billing support requires staff who can provide analytics. Libraries have shifted from managing books to overseeing competitive intelligence and knowledge manageme nt.

Key findings
  • Large law firms spent 16-6% of overall revenue on non attorney staffing. For 3-4 of respondents staffing is the same or  flat for 2014. (51% flat   22% increase). I guess the good news for the market is that only 25% may be reducing staff. 
  • Library services is the most thinly staffed non attorney staff function. 
  • Legal Support, Marketing, Litigation Support and Library Service are still largely staffed with law firm employees. Office services is the function which is most commonly outsourced. 
  • Legal support/secretarial  is the area that experienced the most widespread reduction in 2013. 69% of firms report reductions in this area. 
  • Marketing and Business Development is the area that saw the most increase. 48% of firm report an increase in  full time part time or contact staff over the past 3 years. 23% expect to increase. in 2014.
  • The technological self sufficiency of young lawyers is having an impact on staffing.
  • Legal Support/secretarial is taking on more timekeeping and client support  functions.
  • Libraries are morphing into centers of competitive intelligence and knowledge management.
  • Amlaw ranked law firms spend a lower proportion staff support to revenue 15.3% 
  • Although outsourcing  has  been trending up,  15% of firms reported that they had returned a function in -house after outsourcing. For the vast majority of firms non attorney functions remain firm owned and on site. 
  • Firms need increasingly sophisticated staff. Billing work used to be clerical now it is analytical. 
  • Shift from print to digital resources means library staff must support managing access, passwords training. Everyone can do their own basic research, librarians perform more complex and specialized research.
  • Cost of Marketing is justified by business expansion, protecting competitive advantage, client retention. 
  • Staff morale can be a competitive advantage for the firm.
  • The prospect of layoffs is the number one factor impacting staff morale. 
Optimal staffing  is not low staffing. Optimal staffing allows  a firm to enhance productivity and profits. Sophisticated clients want to know that the firm has sufficient staff to support their work effectively. Law firms are only as good as their people -- and  non-lawyer support staff are important  for successful business management and client support.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dewey LeBoeuf Staff Indictments: Time For Law Firms to Have Whistle-blower Programs?

DISCLAIMER: this blog does not now,  and never has had any connection to Dewey LeBoeuf. The last time I wrote a post about the colllapse of Dewey LeBoeuf some people thought I had worked at Dewey. Last week a reader asked me to settle a bet about my blog name. Did it refer to Melville Dewey or the fictional law firm "Dewey Cheatem and Howe?" Dewey Cheatem & Howe has been used by humorists from The Three Stooges to The Car Talk  Magliazzi Brothers, as a parody of the most negative stereotype of lawyers as scheming scam artists....

In recent  weeks the space between Dewey LeBoeuf and "Dewey Cheatem and Howe" was narrowed with the filing of a 106 count indictment of Dewey LeBoeuf’s former senior leadership team. I am reminded of country singer Kinky Friedman’s line that "it is only one small step from the limousine to the gutter."

Zach Warren Follows Dewey Leaders (c. ALM)
The Indictment in "The People of the State of New York against "Steven Davis, Stephen DeCarmine, Joel Sanders and Zachary Warren" is in the running to be the most depressing and appalling read of 2014. The stars of this document are the Managing Partner, The Executive Director and the Chief Financial men who were foolish enough to leave a trail of damning emails. But the indictment wasn't limited to people in "the C Suite."

The emails cited in the indictment suggest the insidious way in which Dewey LeBoeuf’s leaders turned staff into accomplices in "cooking the books". An email from Sanders the CFO asks an employee to "find another clueless auditor for next year:" There are references to the CFO offering to take employee C to lunch to reassure him because "he is hearing and seeing too much." Employee C asked Employee N for backdated checks. The sinister web appears to have threaded its way into many corners of the finance department. The section entitled "overt acts"  introduces employees  A,B, C, D, E , F and N who testified about various aspects of the fraudulent activities which they observed or participated in. Additional staff members are subjects of a related  SEC indictment. 

The NY State indictment alleges that staff were asked to "make adjustments" to business records, reclassify disbursement payments, reclassify " of counsel" payments, reverse disbursement write-offs. charge firm costs to clients, miscode credit card expenses, reclassify salaried partner expenses, .produce back-dated checks, apply loan repayments as revenue. The "grand scheme" was designed to hide the true financial condition of the firm from the partners, the firms auditors and investors. Were staff really supposed to second guess the decisions of the managing partner, executive director and CFO? Are staff supposed to discern the line of demarcation in gray space where sharp lawyering" and "creative accounting"  techniques morph into fraud?

Count One Hundred and Six: Conspiracy : Is Your Staff Bonus a Deal with the Devil?

Dewey’s Managing Partner, Executive Director and the Chief Financial Officer are charged with 105 counts of grand larceny and falsifying business records. At count 106 the name Zachary Warren appears. Warren was a 28 year old client relations manager. He is charged with the crime of "conspiracy in the 5th degree ."  A recent New York Times article "A Dragnet at Dewey Snares a Minnow" details the plight of Zach Warren. After graduating from Stamford University, he applied for a job as a paralegal at the pre-merger LeBoeuf Lamb firm but was offered a job doing client collections. He was then promoted to a role as Client relations manager where he fell into the orbit of the "two Steve’s" shenanigans. After leaving Dewey LeBoeuf in 2009 he went to Georgetown Law School, was admitted to the bar and clerked for 2 federal judges. He has a job offer from DC law firm Williams and Connelly. And now he has been indicted for trusting the leadership at Dewey LeBoeuf. A bit of a "curve ball" at the start of an otherwise promising career.
As Bruce MacEwan pointed out in his keynote at the 2013 PLL Summit : "the law firm world is still highly stratified. There are lawyers and non-lawyers." The lawyers give the orders…. Staff follow them. Is someone in the  New York County DA’s Office actually confused about the pecking order in law firms? Certainly there have been cases where a staff member "goes rogue" on their own and commits fraud without the knowledge of firm leadership – but that is not what happened at Dewey. .

A Colossal Failure of Culture

Since 2007 law firms have thinned both lawyer and staff ranks with layoffs, outsourcing, onshoring and automation.  While these activities may be both necessary and great for the bottom line,  firms should consider how the chronic state of uncertainty may be fraying the threads of common culture. Not only may staff be losing touch with firm culture i.e. not recognizing when they are being asked to do something which is unethical, but staff may become more likely to keep their heads down and be compliant if they witness inappropriate behavior.  Will staff feel they are risking their own jobs by questioning the judgment of their boss?

In organizations with a strong culture there are cues about the ethical boundaries. The firms of Dewey Ballantine and LeBouef Lamb had undergone the cultural trauma of "a merger of equals." In the wake of a merger, staff are working under enormous stress and uncertainty: new bosses, new processes, new technologies, new  rules. Suddenly no one is sure what the cultural norms are. To make things worse, the Dewey LeBoeuf  merger occurred in October 2007 right as whole legal marketplace was tumbling into  the seismic upheavals of the Great Recession.

Are Whistle-blowing Programs the Solution?

The ABA rules require a lawyer to report unethical behavior, but what about staff? Will Dewey LeBoeuf be a wake up call which prompts firms to create a clearly defined and safe protocol allowing staff to report questionable activities to an ethics partner or the firms general counsel?

Rule 8.3  of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct  requires lawyers to report misconduct of another lawyer but most staff are not lawyers. I could not locate any rule requiring lawyers to create mechanisms such as a Whistle-blower program to facilitate staff reporting of misconduct within the law firm environment. Law firms have gotten bigger and it has gotten harder for lawyers to have direct knowledge of misconduct being orchestrated down the hall but executed by staff in the back office.

The indictment of Zach Warren should be a wake-up call for staff and for law firm leaders. Staff need to do a"gut check" and seek a second opinion from Human Resources or the firm’s ethics partner if they have any suspicion that they are being asked to do anything illegal or unethical. The price of  just "going along"  is too high. I am sure there's little comfort in knowing your former boss is walking ahead of you in handcuffs. Just ask Zack Warren.  
Related: Dewey Leboeuf and The Due Diligence Imperative