Thursday, April 18, 2013

No Room in the C-Suite for Strategic Information Leaders (a/k/a librarians): The Long Shadow of "Help Wanted Female?"

NY Times Mar. 20, 1969

Several weeks ago I wrote a post about the lawsuit brought by the researchers at Newsweek who in 1970 figured out that they had been hired into a "female ghetto" of research, which was valued less than the "male" role of reporting . It was also a position from which they could not be promoted. When I read "Good Girls Revolt" by Lynn Povich I was not thinking... "this is ancient history." I was thinking that there is an echo of this story in the "glass ceiling" facing of law librarians in 21st century law firms.We have not revolted, but we live with earnest and unrequited hope that our invitation to the C-suite must be in the mail. We keep thinking that we have to change our titles, our brand, our message, ( and this all may be true ) but I now suspect the problem runs much deeper and is almost impossible to document except by considering  the history of the profession, the statistics and observing the outcome. So let's look at the evidence.

Help Wanted-Female. When I was in college, jobs in the New York Times classified section, were divided into male and female. No surprise --the job of "librarian" was listed in the Times under "help wanted female." I have often told young colleagues about this, and they have reacted with head-shaking disbelief. The segregated ads are gone but I suspect that to this day, that our profession suffers the consequences of unconscious bias. Yes, yes, I know we have male colleagues, but overall they are a minority in the profession, and they also suffer the consequences of the gender baggage our profession still carries, so let's call the problem by its right name and start dealing with it.

Bring on the Cartoons. As if gender were not enough of a problem, there is the relentless stereotyping of librarians. Name one other profession for which there is such a universally accepted and cartoonish image. We can all recite it: hair in a bun, sensible shoes, glasses, drab clothing, humorless, prudish, and forever "shushing." Who would invite this character into the C-Suite! Earlier this year Lego released a "librarian" Lego that is remarkably similar to the 19th century stereotype.But "updated" with the word "shush" printed on her coffee cup. These are not empowering images and yet they are a cultural fixture. I don't think a month passes in which  I don't encounter the  "bunhead librarian" in an advertisement, in a movie or  in an news story. This is the professional equivalent of a minstrel show character, that persists when all ethnic and racial stereotypes have been banished. Maybe you are thinking I should just "lighten up." but consider the possibility that stereotypes create real professional consequences.

The Music Doesn't Sound Good if You are Wearing Lipstick.  If you think I am over-reacting, just consider the impact of stereotypes on female classical musicians. Several months ago, I came across this in a
book by Malcolm Gladwell." Blink, the Power of Thinking Without Thinking", which concludes with a chapter "Listening with Your Eyes." It describes the difficulty which classically trained female musicians faced getting hired by orchestras. Conductors almost universally thought women were unsuitable for orchestras because their hands were too small, their lips were the wrong shape, their lungs couldn't hold enough air… get the picture. No one thought they were being unfair to women. When women showed up for auditions, they just didn’t sound as good as the men. Then something happened. The mostly male musicians began to unionize in an effort to counteract favoritism and unfairness of conductors who sometimes  only hired candidates who they knew or favored graduates from certain schools. One of the reforms that was instituted was called the "blind audition," in which the musicians audition behind a screen. The conductor can only hear the music and makes judgments based on the quality of the music alone. Guess what, following the introduction of "blind" auditions, the number of women in symphony orchestras began to increase. In 1970 only 5% of the musicians were women. The number had increased to 25% in 1997 when a study was conducted by Claudia Goldin of Harvard and Cecelia Rouse of Princeton. ( Orchestrating impartiality: the impact of blind audition of female musicians.)"

What Else Could Explain the Low Numbers of Librarians in the C-Suite? Law librarians are among the most highly credentialed administrative staff in law firms. Most have at least one Masters Degree. They often have  2 advanced degrees,  a Master's Degree plus a JD, MBA or PhD. Law librarians have been in law firms longer than any other "non-lawyer" professional. Their positions date back to at least 1930. Information Technology folks arrived in the 1970's and Marketing folks in the 1980's and Professional Development folks in the 1990s. We had a 40 year lead and yet we have fallen behind in opportunities for professional advancement. The numbers of  Finance, IT, Marketing and Professional Development Human Resources professionals in the "C Suite" far exceeds the number of librarians. No one can convince me that implementing the right information strategy is less critical than having the right technology, marketing, recruiting or lawyer training strategy.

 At the first PLL Summit in 2010, 3 Geeks and a Law blogger, Greg Lambert raised some uncomfortable issues.. He pointed out that in the past 20 years librarians were continually at the forefront of introducing new initiatives and technologies. These innovations include providing firms with the first link to the Internet and introducing  knowledge management (which by the way librarians invented in about 2000 BC), competitive intelligence and formal professional development programming. But instead of having their roles elevated, a strange thing happened… someone else was hired to lead each new initiative. Worst of all  the people hired into these new roles were then elevated to the C-Level. The persistence of the pattern is too dramatic to be ignored. I am open to other explanations, but right now unconscious stereotyping and gender bias get my vote.

And now... I can't help but wonder if during all these years when I was talking strategy and risk anyslyis, my words were drowned out by sound of a cartoon "shushing" in the Executive Director's and Partner's heads.

Leaning Up for the Next Generation. This is a subject no one wants to discuss. I can't  recall ever seeing an AALL program that addressed the issue of gender bias faced by our profession. The ABA and every law firm is trying to increase advancement opportunities for women  lawyers to reach partnership. So why, as a profession that is about 80% female are we afraid to name the problem and begin to look for a solution. I want the next generation of  information professionals to have a a shot at a seat in the C-Suite, but the first step toward recovery is admitting you even have a problem... and then call the problem by it's right name.


Special thanks to Jamie Furillo for assistance with archival research.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

When Law Books Ruled: A Video Celebration for National Library Week

Welcome to National Library Week. I thought I would start out with a celebration of law books which I found my deep archive of "law librariana." This is a segment of a longer video which I believe was produced by those great "fans of librarians"  Craig and Bill from West Publishing ... decades ago. I can no longer even guess the date...  But this book segment is priceless and timeless! Thanks to Thomson Reuters as the heirs of the West Publishing legacy!

When Law Books Ruled!

Friday, April 5, 2013

American Law Institute To Clarify "Black Letter" Law of Information Privacy in New Restatement

According to a report in BloombergBNA Electronic Commerce and Law  Report the American Law Institute is about to begin untangling the morass of conflicting state and federal privacy laws. The goal of the new project is to  write the "black letter"  principles of privacy law  which will ultimately be published as, "The Restatement Third, Information Privacy Principles."

The ALI website describes the purpose of the project as follows:

"Information privacy law, concerning the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information, is currently an assortment of laws and regulations that differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. This new project aims to bring clarity to American information privacy law by restating and fleshing out a set of Fair Information Practice Principles that will bring greater order and consistency to privacy law and provide guidance to courts and legislatures."

The Reporters  The American Law Institute has tapped two well-known privacy law specialists to lead the project Prof. Paul M. Schwartz, of the University of California Berkeley School of Law, Berkeley, Calif., and Prof. Daniel Solove of the George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C., have been designated the project "reporters." Consultive Group currently includes 20 lawyers from the government, law firms and law schools. The full committee will include 35 to 40 lawyers who are experts in the field of information privacy.

According to the  BNA  story Schwartz described  the project as being "designed to bring clarity to a body of common law that has become a bewildering array of conflicting and overwhelming rules differing from state-to-state and the federal government." Schwartz said that he and Solove will attempt to draft a volume that “is concrete enough to be explanatory but with abstract enough [principles] that we'd be good for ten to 15 years.”

What's A Restatement? Restatements of the law are addressed to courts and others who apply existing law. They are intended to present clear formulations of common law and its development in statutes. They are meant to reflect the law as it presently stands or might plausibly be stated by a court. It will operate to produce agreement on the fundamental principles of the common law, give precision to use of legal terms, and make the law more uniform throughout the country.

The ALI also drafts Model Codes. Model or uniform codes or statutes and other statutory proposals are addressed mainly to legislatures, with a view toward legislative enactment. Statutory formulations assume the stance of prescribing the law as it shall be.Principles may be addressed to courts, legislatures, or governmental agencies. They assume the stance of expressing the law as it should be, which may or may not reflect the law as it is..

The Drafting Process. A restatement  is developed in a series of drafts prepared by the Reporter and reviewed by the project's Advisers and Members Consultative Group, the Council, and the ALI membership. Preliminary Drafts and Council Drafts are available only to project participants and to the Council. Tentative Drafts, Discussion Drafts, and Proposed Final Drafts are publicly available. Once approved, Tentative Drafts and Proposed Final Drafts represent the most current statement of the American Law Institutes's position on the subject and may be cited in opinions or briefs until the official text is published.

Additional background on the history of the restatements and the drafting process are detailed  in the Style Manual which is available on the ALI website.
The Style Manual: A Handbook for reporters and those who review their work..

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

PLL Summit Headliners Include Bruce MacEwen (AKA Adam Smith Esq.) and David Lat (Above the Law)

The American Association of Law Libraries  PLL Summit, now in its fourth year, continues as a vehicle for examining the impact and opportunities presented by change in the law firm environment.  The Summit will be held on July 13th in Seattle in conjunction with the AALL annual conference.Last year, we looked at changes in the business and practice of law and envisioned what those changes mean for the future. Joan Axelroth and I  are Co-Chairs of the program.  This year's Summit, "SOS,Shaping Our Success" we explore how to take charge, shaping ourselves as well as the services we provide to meet these new world demands.  

Bruce MacEwen
Keynote Adam Smith Esq. This year's Summit with kickoff with a keynote address graciously sponsored by Thompson Reuters.  Bruce MacEwen, more popularly known as Adam Smith, Esq., grabbed the attention of law firm leaders in 2012 with his “Growth is Dead” series, which was recently published as a book entitled  "Growth Is Dead: Now What?: Law firms on the brink."

Morning Panel The keynote is followed by a panel discussion addressing librarian roles:  how do we identify, adopt and promote the roles that add value to our organizations?   

David Lat
Lunch, sponsored by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, will provide time for networking and insights into the legal market from the very special and no doubt humorous and iconoclastic perspective of David Lat, Managing Editor, Above The Law.

Afternoon Sessions. In the afternoon, interactive break-out sessions will investigate the practical aspects of social media, the art of branding and the user experience.  The sessions will be repeated twice so that each participant can benefit from two out of the three programs.

Register for the Summit here.

Thanks to the Summit sponsors:


Monday, April 1, 2013

Nancy McKinstry, CEO of Wolters Kluwer On Leadership Strategies and the Importance of Law Librarians In the New Information Environment.

Jean O'Grady and Nancy McKinstry

Two days after writing the "glass ceiling" story about "good girls revolting" at Newsweek in 1970, I had the opportunity and good fortune to have lunch with the CEO of Wolters Kluwer. I am embarrassed to admit that until recently, I had not been aware that the CEO of any major publishing company was a woman. Nancy McKinstry has been Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Executive Board at Wolters Kluwer since September 1, 2003, and Member of the Executive Board since June 1, 2001. Her current responsibilities include:  Corporate Strategy, Division Performance, Business Development, Global Shared Services, Technology, Legal Affairs, Communications, Human Resources, and Sustainability..Forbes named her one of the "100 Most Powerful Women." Ms. McKinstry is an American, with an MBA from Columbia University who leads a global company based in the Netherlands.

With all of her accomplishments she was stunned that after holding an important  press conference on corporate strategy, one newspaper reported that  they thought she was dressed like a "KLM stewardess."   Women do face special challenges in achieving and retaining corporate leadership roles...and being taken seriously. According to a Harvard Business Review  article, Women CEOs: Why so few? only 1..5% of CEO's in top performing companies are women.

The Vacuum: Women Legal Publishing Executives. In 3 decades of meetings with legal publishing executives, I silently wondered why I was always escorted through hallways full of professional women, then seated in a boardroom full of male executives. Don't get me wrong, I love men! I don't want to question anyone's achievement. I just need to wonder “out loud” why the numbers remain so skewed. Now that I am on roll, I will also wonder “out load,” why legal publishers court librarians for their expertise on legal content and product development strategy, but then recruit talented librarians who are steered into "glass ceilinged " roles in "librarian relations." I am not aware of anyone who entered the executive ranks from one of these positions. Nonetheless, the executive suites in legal publishing are changing.

There are finally some high level women executives appearing in legal publishing. Notably, Karin Lieber is VP Sales, Strategic Accounts at LexisNexis, Allison Guidette, is Managing Director Large Law Firm Segment at Thomson Reuters. Beth Mazzeo, is Chief Operating Officer at Bloomberg. But, Wolters Kluwer really has the edge here. In addition to McKinstry at the helm of the mothership, another woman Stacey Caywood is CEO their Legal and Regulatory business unit. Wolters Kluwer is the only legal publisher with women CEO's heading both the parent company and legal publishing divisions.

The McKinstry Strategy for Women in Professional Publishing

In our recent conversation, Nancy McKinstry made it abundantly clear that she is very proud of the progress women have made at Wolters Kluwer since she took the helm. A March 8, 2013 article in Forbes "C-Suite Sees More Female Leaders Reaching the Top." describes McKinstry's hands on approach to making sure women are rising to the top at Wolters Kluwer.. When she started as CEO in 2003, only 20% of top leadership posts at Wolters Kluwer were held by women, ten years later it is 33%. McKinstry believes it is easier to recruit top female talent because candidates see women leading different parts of the company. In her words." Diversity helps, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Team Work Talent McKinstry believes that the secret of success lies in building strong teams – especially in a knowledge-intensive company like Wolters Kluwer. She also believes that women are especially talented in managing teams and thrive in collaborative environments.. Good teamwork, both inside the company, and working with customers, is the only way to ensure high-quality, innovative products.

Flexibility A post on the website  HeadHoncha also cites Wolters Kluwer's 'Work from Anywhere" program as supporting women's career development.. The program allows people to work three days from home and two in the office, but not in a regular work-space. This has reduced the company's real estate footprint as well as introducing flexible working.

Job Swaps McKinstry also introduced job swaps to help stimulate international experience. This is particularly helpful for employees "earlier in their tenure." It provides the experience of working in a different country for several month without having to endure the upheaval of a major relocation.

Talent Management.Wolters Kluwer has a talent management program which identifies high potential executives and, says McKinstry, "We specifically work on programs to provide them with the right experience to ensure they're developing the kind of leadership skills that they would need to get to the top of the organization."

The Proof is in the Org Chart McKinstry is proud, not only of the statistics, but of the fact that many of the company's key businesses are run by women. "In some companies, women tend to take on functional roles but at Wolters Kluwer, women have responsibility for a P &;L. Profit &Loss reflects the utmost level of leadership and accountability for a specific business or division.. P&L responsibilities include “revenue” generation (products, sales, marketing), as well as the related “expense” management (operations, technology, editorial). She provides women with the kind of experience and track record they would need if they are to have any shot at being the CEO of a company or to sit as a non-executive director of a multi-national.

Some of the female executives who rose under McKinstry's tenure include:Guilietta Lemmi the CEO of Italy; Sasha Chang the CEO of China; Karen Abramson, President and CEO, CCH Tax and Accounting; Cathy Wolfe, CEO of Medical Research. and Stacey Caywood, CEO of Legal and Regulatory who "runs one of the largest divisions in the company."

McKinstry sums it up: "Getting diversity into the marrow of a company isn't rocket science. It needs persistent focus at every level of the organization led from the top."

A Word About Law Librarians I asked McKinstry to comment on the role and contributions of librarians.

“The world of information has exploded.  As a result, Wolters Kluwer sees the role of legal librarian--the ultimate expert in content-- as crucial, now more than ever. Particularly as the legal profession migrates rapidly to mobile and digital platforms, the information marketplace is more fragmented than at any time and attorneys need a highly strategic librarian to ensure their seamless access to 'gold standard' information sources like Wolters Kluwer in order to make the right recommendations to their clients.

As the legal industry has undergone significant transformation, the role of the librarian has only increased in importance, acting as a critical resource for legal professionals as they focus on increasing productivity. When librarians apply their specialized knowledge management skills to the specific needs of their firm (its unique processes, culture, and practice groups), law firms and attorneys are more successful, productive, and efficient. At Wolters Kluwer Law and Business, law librarians are our partners in finding new ways to help attorneys be more productive and get the mobile and digital content they know is right—both primary law and legal analysis—whenever and wherever they need it."

A Reason For Optimism Law Library Directors have always had the critical executive "Profit and Loss Responsibility" at the departmental level. Those skills have been honed even more by the challenges of increasing access, manging costs and mitigating risks related to information in an era of exploding content, multiplying platforms and reduced budgets. C-Suite anyone?