Monday, December 15, 2014

Share Your Wisdom With Your Colleagues: Invitation to Take the 2014-2015 START/STOP Poll

The Poll: Please take the brief (11 question)  2014-2015 Start Stop Poll here.

New Year, New Beginning I am a great believer in the New Year as offering us a New Beginning. I have been fortunate enough to have spent my career in a profession where colleagues have generously shared insights into their victories, hot tips,  short cuts, false starts and  just plain old bad choices. We are living in a whirlwind of change: new products, new processes, new roles,  new organizational options, new expectations.  We can't do it all so let's help each other decide what's worth doing. Let's leap boldly into the future together.
Did you outsource? Centralize? Switch to a single online provider? Stop distributing deskbooks? Start offering eBooks? Embed your team? Start a competitive intelligence newsletter? Develop an app?
Knowing When to Stop. I am a big fan of Jim Collins author of the business classic "Good to Great." He counsels readers that deciding what to STOP doing is as important as deciding what projects we START. It is so easy to continue doing things - because we have always done them. Managing change is not easy. You may take some heat... it's part of the job. Change is the only constant. 

Make Room For Value. The speed with which old processes and assumptions become obsolete is accelerating. We can only deliver more value by eliminating or streamlining the routine, the redundant and the unexamined. 

The Wisdom of Colleagues. In the spirit of collecting the wisdom of colleagues I am once again asking readers to share what they  started or stopped in 2014 and on what we plan to start or stop in 2015. What products did we stop using? What new ones will we adopt in 2015?
The Poll: Please take the brief (11 question) survey here.
The Survey will remain open until January 15th and I will report on the results. Thanks in advance to all participants.
Voting for the ABA Magazine Blawg 100 will remain open through December 19th. Dewey B Strategic is nominated in the "Legal Research and Writing" category. Vote here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It Takes More Than a Dumpster to Build A Digital Law Library: 12 Critical Components For Digital Law Library Transformations

Several weeks ago the New York Times published an article So Little Paper to Chase In Law Firm's New Library about the transformation of Kaye Scholer law library from print to digital. The law library community was universally outraged that the author was 1) completely surprised that law libraries were going digital and 2) overlooked the real story. Law libraries have been "going digital" for at least twenty years.

The demise of the print law library has been so obvious  and inevitable that the American Lawyer stopped asking about print resources in their 2006 annual law library survey. The real story which was not reported by the Times is the complexity of planning the print to digital library conversion.  A LOT happens before the dumpster arrives to cart off the books. The hero of the story is not the architect who designed a law office without a room designated as a “library,” but the information professional who crafted the complex plan, reengineered the workflows and aligned the licenses and resources on which the digital infrastructure rests. In Kay Scholer's case the true hero of the story was Shabeer Khan. He didn't get a mention in the Times story.  

For the past two decades law librarians and legal information professionals have been asssessing products and developing in house solutions to support virtual library resources. We have been sharing best practices and advising legal publishers on how to build the next generation of products that lawyers will be willing to use.

There is no universal solution. The law firms which have the foresight to invest  in  strategic information professionals are  most likely  to have substantial digital libraries in place today. Many firms are running parallel digital and print libraries because they are supporting both  the last of the “baby boomer partners” and the “born digital” generation of lawyers. The tipping point  from print to digital for most firms will be the relocation to new offices. The phasing out the physical collection will be the last step in a long and carefully laid plan. 

Library size of a phone booth

Twenty years ago during a job interview with the Executive Committee of an AmLaw100 law firm I was asked how soon I could reduce their 12,000 square foot library to a library that was "the size of a phone booth." I would give the same answer today that I gave 20 years ago. Every law firm has a different mix of needs depending on its practice groups, the number of lawyers, the number of offices and the  number of jurisdictions where the lawyers practice. To build a digital library the most fundamental questions to be addressed are:

  • ·         Have the resources been digitized?
  • ·         Do the digital resources offer format/functionality which the lawyers are willing to use?
  • ·         Is the resource available at the price the firm is willing to pay?
Answering those questions is just the beginning. This is an analysis that needs to be applied to hundreds and possibly  more than a thousand resources. In other words, the dumpster can only be filled when a raft of issues are resolved.

 Building Blocks of a Digital Library

1. Strategic Information Professionals are the most important  pre-requisite in designing a digital library strategy. Information professionals often have an MLS and/or a JD degree plus years of working with lawyers and legal materials. They need to have sufficient experience to assess the products and the lawyer workflows and to be able to re-imagine new solutions which unify and seamlessly authenticate resources in a  digital  desktop environment.  They begin the process by comparing the catalog of print resources with digital offerings available from a wide range of publishers government agencies,major legal vendors, (LexisNexis, ThomsonReuters, Wolters Kluwer, Bloomberg), Small publishers ( Fastcase, Ravel ) regional publishers ( JonesMcClure) and  specialty publishers ( Practicing Law Institute, Law Journal Press) . 

2. Finding tools  Traditional catalogs can be transformed in to portals by adding web enabled links which will bring the lawyer directly into the full text resource. Enterprise search  also can be used to identify resources and documents. 

3. Practice portals  Information professionals can develop intranet pages and portals where links to digital practice resources such as treatises, statutes and databases can be organized and integrated with internal resources and other workflow tools. 

3. Leveraging Flat fee contracts. Many firms have unlimited contracts with Lexis and Westlaw. An information professional will determine how these contracts can be leveraged to deliver IP authenticated access to selected content  such as "treatise eLibraries," cases, and statutes. All the major publishers will work with customers to create "custom user interfaces" and “one click gadgets” such as a “find and print” tool which will retrieve and print cases identified with a citation. Bloomberg Law was developed to serve as a digital library which can be left open and accessed as needed throughout the day.

4. EBooks. LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters offer hundreds of titles in eBook format. Fastcase offers advance sheet eBooks. eBooks have the same content as print but offer additional functionality such as highlighting and linking to primary source citations.

5. Mobile Apps. Most of the major legal publishers have apps which provide all or some of their content to existing subscribers who use mobile devices. 

6. Licensing. licensing is one of the most complex and important risk management components of a digital library strategy. Legal information professionals will map the workflow and determine the size of the licenses which will protect the firm from copyright and licensing violations. Newsletter licensing is so complex that a full explanation of the issues would warrent a separate post.

7. Electronic newsletters and custom alerts. One of the most tangible benefits of the digital library is the elimination of the "routing" slip which enabled newsletters to meander through organizations.  The lawyers at the bottom of the list often received newsletters  weeks or even months after publication. Electronic newsletter delivery puts everyone "at the top of the routing list.” New tools enable information professionals to offer consolidated news from various sources in a single custom newsletter. Curated news services provide individually selected custom alerts targeted to a specific lawyer, practice group or clients.Tools for curating custom newsletters include Linex, Ozmosys, InfoNgen, Manzama and Attensa. 

8. Academic and Bar Library Memberships. Information professionals work with local bar and academic libraries to provide backup resources or to acquire resources via interlibrary loan. They also provide access to databases or retrieval of digital documents. One very innovative program from the New York Law Institute loans eBooks to member law firms. 

9. Training. Converting lawyers from print to digital requires training. Webinars offered by the firm's information professionals or vendors can smooth the transition. Concierge style "in office" training or roving trainers equipped with iPads can be leveraged to facilate the digital library transition. Microsoft Lync  allows information professionals to virtually visit lawyers desktop and walk them through the use of a new resource.

10. Continuous Resource Assessment ROI. Digital products continue to evolve. New products need to be trialed and compared with existing resources. An information professional can implement a resources management product such as Onelog, Research Monitor, Lookup Precision or Quattrove which can help a firm collect usage data for determining the cost/benefit of each product. This data can also be used in future contract negotiations.

11. Password management.  IP authentication is the ideal access solution because it eliminates individual passwords and allows anyone in the organization to automatically access a resource. This is not always possible and the management of individual passwords for lawyers can be a massive headache. The monitoring products mentioned above all have the ability to save passwords. When such a resource is not available,  the information professional will develop a digital vault where all of the lawyers passwords can be stored and retrieved as needed.

12 Cost savings and re-engineering workflow. Firms often focus on the real estate savings from eliminating the space of the library.  The reduction/elimination of print resources also reduces  costs associated with the maintenance and upkeep of print. These  costs include loose-leaf filing, serials check in, routing, labeling and maintenance of print. Staff can be retrained and reassigned to assist with password management and portal maintenance and  usage analytics.

 Climbing the value ladder. The implementation of a digital library eliminates a host of necessary but lower value administrative activities. This transition increases the time and attention which information professionals have available  to focus on higher value and transformative client support and business development work.

The digital library is a journey not a destination. Products and practice needs will continue to evolve. A new generation of analytics and “big data” products has begun to emerge and these will no doubt displace some existing resources. The role of the law librarian/information strategist will be to continually reassess the balance of resources,  capture and analyse the ROI of digital products and work with the practice groups to assure that they have the right mix of desktop resources to optimize client support.

A webinar on this topic:

The Law Library Association of Greater New York will be sponsoring a webinar program “Kaye Scholer Library: New Model for Going Digital?”  on December 17th. Information is available at this link 

REMINDER: Voting for the ABA Blawg 100 still open at this link. Dewey B Strategic is nominated in the “Legal Research and Writing” category.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Toss the Pocket Parts, Here Comes the "Streaming Digital Treatise:" Welcome The Bloomberg Law: Bankruptcy Treatise

Bloomberg is on an innovation roll. It was only two weeks ago that BloombergBNA announced the
release of their new Banking Law platform. Today they  announced the  release of Bloomberg Law: Bankruptcy Treatise which  is now available to all Bloomberg Law subscribers in the Bankruptcy Practice Center.  David Perla, President of Bloomberg Legal  stated in an interview  that The Bloomberg Law Bankruptcy Treatise is  "redefining legal  treatises by using 21st Century journalism techniques."

Breaking the Treatise Paradigm or Was the Paradigm Already Broken?

The “streaming treatise” (my terminology not Bloomberg's)  will  be forcing everyone to acknowledge what has been obvious to law librarians for years...  traditional  treatise publishing is still producing products which are  hopelessly out of date by 21st century standards. Anyone with a smartphone lives in world of instant tweets, texts and news alerts about breaking legal developments… so why are law firms still paying for print supplements which contain news that was “new” six months ago?  Part of the reason  is that some treatises have achieved an almost talismanic status and lawyers almost fear to practice law without them... and have been willing to overlook their shortcomings.
Bloomberg's bankruptcy treatise is authored by a an editorial team consisting of Bankruptcy judges and practitioners. "The treatise represents thousands of hours of research and writing by skilled bankruptcy lawyers,” said The Honorable D. Michael Lynn, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas and Editor-in-Chief of the Treatise.  “I believe it to be an important and useful addition to bankruptcy literature." The editorial board includes 12 legal professionals including 5 Bankruptcy judges.  A complete list of editors and contributors is listed below.

According to the press release the treatise "contains  over 600 chapters and more than 13,000 pages of content and expert analysis from over 60 renowned judges, law professors, and practitioners.  The Bloomberg BNA editorial team, with input from outside contributors, will update the material as bankruptcy rules change and courts apply and react to them, ensuring that all aspects of federal bankruptcy law and local rules are current.  For example, the latest amendments to the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, which went into effect on December 1, 2014, appeared in the Treatise, with their first annotations, that same day." 

 Can the Bloomberg Treatise Compete with the Collier Brand From Matthew Bender?
Traditional legal treatises have been historically associated with the "Herculean" efforts of a single scholar. In Bankruptcy, Matthew Bender's Collier on Bankruptcy has been the "gold standard" for decades.Bloomberg's 13,000 page bankruptcy treatise is tipping  into Encyclopedia Britannica territory. Maybe the law is too large to be digested by a single authority. Maybe the  era of the  treatise “branded” under the name of a single scholar is  at an end. A search of all federal opinions indicates that the “Collier on Bankruptcy” has been cited in  US court opinions over 10,000 times. The Volokh Conspiracy blog includes several posts on the nature of legal treatises. One commentator asked if anyone really knew who Collier was and another  questioned whether any of the original scholarship written by the named authors even survive in the present day treatises. Embarrassed that I had no idea who Collier was myself,  I did some digging and located a brief entry in Wikipedia.

The brief bio indicates that William  Miller Collier  didn’t attend law school, he  "read the law" and wrote the first edition of Colliers in 1898,  6 years after he was admitted to practice in New York State. The  revered Colliers treatise is now in it's 16th edition and one can safely assume that Collier's is now an aggregation of content authored by a series of editors who  over the years have edited away a significant proportion  of the contributions of William Collier.

 Will the" Real Time" Treatise Kill the Ebook Treatise?

Lawyers who rely on print treatises are not looking for absolute timeliness. The latest pocket part or supplement to a print treatise is at best six months old.  Supplements to treatises often include only new citations to cases and have little editorial revision. Ebook treatises give the impression of timeliness because they are well .... digital. But digital does not necessarily assure access to the latest legal precedents and commentary.  Lexis and Westlaw both allow ebook subscribers to link out to the current versions of cited  statutes or regs but they aren't reissuing the main body of the text on more than a quarterly or an semi-annual and sometimes annual basis.

Bloomberg’s “streaming treatise” is raising the ante and exposing one of the more significant shortcomings of the legal ebook treatise-- ebooks are not all that current. I elaborate at length on additional  shortcomings in an earlier post about ebooks. Why are legal publishers pouring digital content into 19th century wineskins?.

I asked Perla why Bloomberg seemed to have skipped over ebook technology completely. According to Perla the first objection to ebooks is that they will be less current than the online treatise they are now able to offer. In addition he sees ebook platforms as trapping publishers in the logistical  complexities of supporting  muliti-distribution platforms on a wide variety of mobile devises. Blaw has  an app which works on all the major mobile platforms and that is all they need.

Bankruptcy Law -Features and Functions include:
  • Case analysis tab  which include an algorithm generated headnote summaries the parts of the legal opinion which interpret in a bankruptcy code section. These can be sorted by date or relevance.
  • The most complete access to local bankruptcy rules available from any source.
  • Keyword searching. Blaw is "tri-lingual" You can use the search syntax for Westlaw, LexisNexis or BLaw
  • Statement of currency and proper citation format appear in a sidebar
  • Live links to all cases, statutes and court rules
  • Alerts - Now this may be  a first. You can set up alerts to be notified of changes to the treatise.
  • Workflow enhancements include queues and  folders

POSITIONING: Is Blaw aiming at the market for  Thomson Reuters  Practical Law and  Lexis Nexis  Practice Adviser?
There are certain features in the Bankruptcy treatise that look like the beginnings of a workflow and drafting tool. If Bloomberg is going to target the "process improvement" and drafting component of lawyers' work, they  will enjoy one major advantage over their competitors.  LexisNexis and Westlaw are hampered by their bifurcated approach to research and workflow platforms. Both vendors have maintained their "cost recovery " model for their online research products and developed separate platforms based on the "unlimited use" model for their drafting and workflow products. Out of the gate, Bloomberg has been building a totally integrated system,  everything is available on a single platform.  One has to assume that when they build out their workflow tools these will be fully integrated and available within the research environment.

Some Questions to Consider on the Future of Legal Treatises

 Bloomberg is going where legal publishing needs to go, but they are leaving  some gaps in our understanding of  both authority and precedent.
  • Is Bankruptcy Law  really a treatise? Or is it an encyclopedia? Does it matter?
  • Has Bloomberg invented a completely new publication form? It reads like a treatise but it is updated like a newsletter? To parody an advertising slogan... Is it "a breath mint and a candy mint?"
  • Has the law become too big to be mastered and digested by a single author?
  • Is it sufficient for a digital treatise to have a date stamp or should the citation include a time stamp?
I suspect  we are witnessing the transformation of treatises from being the long incubating child of scholarly contemplation into the treatise as hyper kinetic prodigy--  spouting an endless stream of commentary  drawn from the roiling river of new cases, rules and statutes which inform our understanding of the law. The stakes have never been higher and the speed of change has never been faster. Practitioners need and clients demand that lawyers have resources which can keep them informed using 21st Century technologies. Bloomberg is once again out in front pushing the envelope of change.

List of Bankruptcy Law Editors and Authors





HON. JEFFERY P. HOPKINS, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Chief Judge


PROF. DAVID A. SKEEL, University of Pennsylvania Law School, S. Samuel Arsht Professor of Corporate Law

PROF. CHARLES J. TABB, University of Illinois, Mildred Van Voorhis Jones Chair in Law

STEPHEN YOUNGMAN, Weil Goschal & Manges

Contributing Authors

OMAR ALANIZ, Baker Botts L.L.P.

RACHEL EHRLICH ALBANESE, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP


CLAUDE R. ‘CHIP' BOWLES, Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP

JASON S. BROOKNER, Gray Reed & McGraw, P.C.

CANDACE M. CARSON, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

HON. CHARLES G. CASE II, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona (retired)

RYAN COPELAND, Kirkland & Ellis LLP





MATTHEW L. HARTE, Term Law Clerk to the Hon. Jeffery P. Hopkins, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Ohio

MARGARET HOWARD, Washington & Lee University

WILLIAM R. HOWELL, JR., Borehole Seismic, LLC

TOBIAS S. KELLER, Keller & Benvenutti LLP


ANDREW M. LEBLANC, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy


STEPHEN LERNER, Squire Patton Boggs

KEVIN LEWIS, Law Clerk to the Hon. Kathleen Cardone, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

PAUL LOPEZ, Law Clerk to the Hon. D. Michael Lynn, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas

PROF. STEPHEN J. LUBBEN, Seton Hall University School of Law

DOUG MAGNUSON, Law Clerk to the Hon. Brenda Martin, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona




SAMIR D. PARIKH, Lewis & Clark Law School

ANDREW PARLEN, O'Melveny & Myers LLP

IAN T. PECK, Haynes and Boone, LLP

CHARLES M. PERSONS, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

AARON POWER, Porter Hedges LLP

DANIEL J. SAVAL, Brown Rudnick LLP


FREDRIC SOSNICK, Shearman & Sterling LLP

JEFF VAN NIEL, Law Clerk to the Hon. August B. Landis, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Nevada