Monday, January 26, 2015

AALL Releases "The Economic Value of Law Libraries" Report-- Long on Rubrics-- Short on ROI

In October 2013 the American Association of Law Libraries issued a Request for Proposal  seeking consultants to deliver a report on the economic value of law libraries. The RFP specifically stated that “When complete, the report should offer law librarians and the institutions and businesses they serve important metrics (italics added) that can help them calculate the return on investment law libraries provide. AALL set the bar high. I and many others in the organization expected a report that delivered actual ROI metrics.  The final Economic Value of Law Libraries report is 42 pages long. It does not attempt to calculate the value of law libraries or law librarians at all.
 AALL leaders previously indicated that one of the key reasons for selecting the HBR consulting firm was that they were well known to the legal community and therefore the metrics delivered in the “value report” would have credibility with law firm partners and  law school deans. Unfortunately this report contains no data which would ever be shared beyond the members of AALL. In fact the report is devoid of “important metrics.”

If the Australians Could do it...?In April 2014 a consortium of Australian  Library organizations including the Australian Law Library Association hired a consultant SGS Economics and Planning which, developed a methodology and then conducted surveys which actually generated a  financial metric on the value. According to their study  Putting A Value on Priceless, the ROI of information resources and services is $5.43 for every dollar invested.

What Kind of Report is This?  I am still puzzled.  It is too simplistic to be called a blueprint. It is really a collection of rubrics and best practices for a “do it yourself” project. The recommendations in this report simply validate the kind of advice that is routinely given in management programs at the AALL annual conference: “Align yourself with your organizations strategy,” ”adjust your message to your audience,” “ determine your stakeholders communication preferences,” “don’t use library jargon when speaking to management.”   We needed a consultant to tell us that? The only thing report does is to validate common sense and good management practices with some stakeholder data.

What this Report is Not. Many of us already collect sophisticated service metrics. What we needed was a tool or a formula  or a methodology for converting that data into a dollar value. The report doesn't deliver anything at that level of sophistication. The report is a theoretical narrative which is short on math and statistical analysis. The report doesn't follow one of it's own quantitative recommendations:

"Go beyond the mere measurement of activities and utilize methods that measure and demonstrate success or impact on organizational services."

This report never moves from measurement to methodology or impact.  
One size does not fit all. The biggest flaw that becomes apparent in reading the report is that the 3 major constituencies in AALL: private firm, academic and Government/court law libraries operate in drastically different environments supporting stakeholders with dramatically different support needs and service expectations. All of the data provided in the report aggregates the responses from all 3 types of organizations. The institutional  differences invalidate the aggregated responses. For example, the aggregated data indicate that “business development” activities are not highly valued. Anyone who works in a law firm will disagree with that assessment. But two thirds of the respondents work in environments (academic and Government/Court) where this type of service has no meaning.  Unfortunately there is no attempt to report data based on organization type.
The report suggests that  since there was no easy way to measure value across all organization types, HBR and the committee threw up their hands and decided not to try. They use these known differences as an  excuse for not delivering a real ROI metric.  I don’t buy that. They could have and should have been able to develop  methodologies and metrics for individual types of organizations. If it could not have been done all at once, AALL should have allowed the Academic, Private Firm and Government and Court Library SIS’s to work with HBR or another consultant to develop a custom study  for each type of organization. Maybe that needs to happen in the future.

These flaws were completely foreseeable  and  I would have expected a prestigious organization like HBR to recommend a survey methodology to  overcome this kind of problem. That issue should have been obvious at the time they responded to the RFP.

Do it Yourself? Really? The bottom line is that AALL and HBR have produced a report that says “we couldn’t figure out how to measure your value – we hope you have better luck on your own.“ Given the  reduced staff and time pressures we all face, this is an absurd recommendation.  Of course we will all continue to try to hone our own metrics but we expected a  report that reached well beyond what we are able to do as individuals. We expected AALL and HBR to do some heavy lifting and instead they have passed the problem back to the members. 

I do not disagree with many of the report's recommendations… I simply disagree that they delivered the kind of report that was needed and expected by many members... especially members who have already undertaken the kind of initiatives and activities recommended in the report.
Who Needs To Read This Report If you have never attended an AALL conference  and if you don’t  read professional literature, don’t follow any  professional blogs and never speak to your colleagues, this report will  be a real shocker. 

Is there is anyone out there who doesn’t currently report on the activities of their organization?  Thirty percent of the responding directors  (in all types of organizations) indicated that they do not provide any reports to management because they are not required to do so. That is a dangerous and naive place to be.  For that 30% this report should be a "wake up call" and the report will provide valuable guidance on beginning the process of thinking about how to communicate with management and what services are worth measuring.
Here are the key findings of the report:

Qualitative Information

1. Employ both formal and informal communications regularly.

2. Provide context with qualitative data.

3. Use testimonials to highlight the impact of delivered services.

4. Tailor the value message to stakeholder preferences.

Quantitative Information and Analysis

1. Go beyond the mere measurement of activities and utilize methods that measure and demonstrate success or impact on organizational services.

2. When reporting metrics related to specific library activities, report them in the context of the larger frame of importance to the organization.

3. Define the measurements within your organization used to demonstrate value to their stakeholders (clients, elected officials, board of trustees) and adjust library metrics accordingly.

4. Identify the external resources used by stakeholders to evaluate organizational success and especially law library success. Adapt internal processes as appropriate.

5. Identify current formal valuation methodologies used within your organization. Evaluate the applicability of that method for use by the law library and adjust the related processes accordingly.


1. Determine your stakeholder’s information delivery preferences, including distribution channels through a collaborative process with the stakeholder.

2. Create a schedule of reporting that fits into the strategic planning and decision making cycle of the organization to ensure that critical library data is delivered in a relevant timeframe.

3. Refrain from using library jargon when sharing qualitative data.

4. Find or make opportunities to present the information in formal meeting settings.

5. Determine the communication styles that match organizational preferences and get comfortable with different communication styles that can be easily adjusted to formal and informal settings as well as stakeholder preferences.

Comprehensive Best Practices

1. Form strong interpersonal relationships with stakeholders.

2. Employ short, frequent communication through existing channels as defined by stakeholder preferences.

3. Create templates that highlight the key considerations for current strategic initiatives in both narrative and numerical formats.

4. Adjust information delivery to meet a mix of demands and expectations.

5. Define foundational library services and emerging service opportunities within your organizations through a collaborative strategic process with stakeholders.

6. Embrace the leadership responsibilities and expectations of the management and director role.

Draw your own conclusion.
I encourage everyone to read the report and draw their own conclusion. I was expecting a lot more from AALL and HBR. If this report meets the needs of a substantial number of members  then it will have been worth the time and cost invested. 

This report  does not break new ground or  "move the ball forward"  for many professionals who have already developed metrics and effective communications.  A grand slam would have been the development of a formula for converting service metrics into dollar values. I would say that this report stops at "first base."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Practice Innovations: Lawyer Tech Adoption, Digital Espionage, Legal Pricing Technology, Data Security, Wearable/Embedded Technology and Smartphone as Swiss Army Knife

The January Issue of Thomson Reuters Practice Innovations has been released. The latest issue is focused on cutting edge legal technology issues impacting the business and practice of law.

Deconstructing the Myth of Low Technology Adoption in Law Firms
By Conrad Jacoby, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University Paralegal Studies Program,
Washington, DC.

Safe Travels in the Age of Digital Espionage: Protecting Your Assets on the Road
By David Herst, Data Privacy and IT Solutions Consultant, Dynatrace (formerly Compuware),
New York, NY and Don Philmlee, Legal Technology Consultant,Washington, DC

Legal Pricing Technologies
By Toby Brown, Chief Practice Officer, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Houston, TX.

Client Data Security Audits—A Preemptive Checklist
By William P. Scarbrough, Chief Operating Officer, Bodman PLC, Detroit, MI.

Smartphones as the New "Swiss Army Knife"
By Jean O’Grady, Director of Research Services, DLA Piper LLP (US),Washington.

Portable to Wearable to Embedded—How Technology is Literally Becoming Part of Us
By Don Philmlee, Legal Technology Consultant, Washington, DC.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The 2015 PLL Summit Announces Keynote: Wharton School Vice Dean of Innovation Karl Ulrich; AALL Announces NPR Radio Host as Keynote

Now in its sixth year, the PLL Summit continues to be a vehicle for examining the impact and opportunities presented by change in the legal industry. The PLL Summit 2015: The Innovation Imperative will explore how librarians can help provide innovative solutions to the business challenges which law firms and legal information professionals are facing in today's legal market. 

The Summit Keynote is Karl Ulrich, Vice Dean of Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of business,. Professor Ulrich is the author of Innovation Tournaments: Selecting and Creating Exceptional Opportunities. Attendees will participate in an exciting “innovation tournament” exercises facilitated by Prof. Ulrich. The goal is to have Summit attendees not only to learn about innovation in theory but also to practice innovation in action. 

Additional presentations during the day will address the current state of the legal industry, the roles librarians play in our organizations, and will provide examples of innovative products and processes developed by information professionals to meet existing and evolving business needs of their clients.   

Please visit the 2015 Summit blog for more details and updates.Marcia Burris & Denise Pagh are the 2015 Summit Co-Chairs.

NPR Host Terry Gross is Keynote for AALL Annual Meeting and Conference.

National Public Radio is one of the few news organizations which routinely gives “on air” credit to the contributions of their librarian Kee Maleski to each show. Ms. Gross may be the first AALL keynote speaker who has a personal appreciation of the contributions of information professionals to the success of an organization.

Here are excerpts from the AALL Press Release:


Fresh Air: Terry Gross Interviews
Terry Gross
CHICAGO, Jan. 21, 2015—The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) officially released the name of its 108th Annual Meeting & Conference keynote speaker today: Terry Gross, host of National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air.” In 1975, Gross joined WHYY-FM in Philadelphia as producer and host of “Fresh Air,“then a local, daily interview and music program. “Fresh Air” evolved into a daily, one hour national edition that has been produced by WHYY-FM, and distributed by NPR, since 1987. Gross has won praise over the years for her low-key and friendly yet probing interview style and the diversity of her guests, often asking them well researched and unexpected questions about their early careers. Ever-inquisitive and nuanced, she gives her listeners unique access to the perspectives of thought leaders in the arts, sciences, and popular culture through her thorough and often revelatory interviews.”Fresh Air” is currently broadcast on nearly 600 stations and became the first non-drive time show in public radio history to reach more than 5 million listeners a week. “Fresh Air” and Gross have received a number of awards over the years including the Peabody Award in 1994; an America Women in Radio and Television National Network Radio Personality Gracie Award in 1999; and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Edward R. Murrow Award in 2003.The AALL 108th Annual Meeting & Conference will be held in Philadelphia from July 18-21, 2015; registration will open mid-February.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Magna Carta at the Library of Congress: The Revolt of the Barons and The Birth of Due Process. Unintended Consequences "Writ Large."

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. Clause 39 
The "Lincoln" Magna Carta

History has been kind to King John. He is a fixture in US history textbooks. His image is carved into a ceiling frieze and molded into the brass doors of the US Supreme Court. The story of Magna Carta's impact on the development of  US law is being told at the Library of Congress exhibit "Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor" which opened in November to celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta. at Runnymede. The exhibit will close on January 19th.

A Self-Serving King Acting in " Bad Faith"Instead of being a noble visionary, King John was a bad king who faced a revolt of his barons for excessive taxation. The road from Runnymede in 1215 to Philadelphia in 1776 is a spectacular and improbable illustration of "the law of unintended consequences" "writ large" (pun intended). With something akin to a "sword to his head" King John signed a document  enumerating a series of concessions to the barons (which he intended to revoke at the first opportunity). For the first time, a king had made himself subject to the law, not above the law. It became the foundational document which protects common law country citizens around the world from the excesses of government.

Nearly Forgotten It  was nearly forgotten by the English until 17th century jurist Sir Edward Coke wrote his treatise the Institutes of the Laws of England.  The Coke treatise ended up in private  law book collections  in the former colonies  of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and inspired the thoughts and writings of the American Founding Fathers. Coke's examination of Magna Carta supported the creation of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

Magna Carta specifically inspired:
  • No taxation without representation
  • Freedom of religion
  • Right to a speedy trial
  • The establishment of an independent judiciary
  • Due Process
  • The Jury system
  • Writ of Mandamus
  • The US system of checks and balances
12 things you probably didn't know about Magna Carta:
  • The document should be refered to as "Magna Carta" not as "The Magna Carta."
  • Only 4 of the original 44 copies of Magna Carta are known to be in existence
  • The Works of Shakespeare do not include any references to Magna Carta
  • George Washington was a descendant of King John
  • The Magna Carta was put on display in the Magna Carta Pavilion at the 1939  New York World's Fair in order to strengthen ties with the US  as Britain faced threats from Nazi Germany. 
  • It was almost blown up in 1940 when a time bomb was left inside the Pavilion.  2 NYC policemen were killed when the bomb exploded after being removed from the Pavilion.
  • It was stored in Fort Knox for the remainder for WWII until it was safe to return it to the UK.
  • In the UK only 3 of the original clauses are still law.
  • Clause 39 became Article 1 of the US Constitution
  • Clause 61 inspired the US system of checks and balances in government.
  • The US Supreme Court has cited Magna Carta more than 80 times in the past 50 years.
  • Although the document originally focused on the grievances of the barons, the charter outlined the rights of "free men" rather than limiting the rights to the barons. The rights of "free men" created the opening for these same rights to be extended to all British and US citizens.
Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor

Thomson Reuters and the Library of Congress have published  a book called Magna Carta Muse and Mentor edited by Judge Randy Holland. The book includes chapters from leading US and British scholars and jurists including US Chief Justice John Roberts, Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Law Librarian of Congress David Mao, Black's Law Dictionary editor/legal writing expert Bryan Garner and others.

 Upcoming Magna Carta Events:

January 14, 2015 Magna Carta Lecture Series: Magna Carta—Women in Medieval Europe in 1215. The Law Library welcomes Dr. Ruth M. Karras, chair of the History Department at the University of Minnesota, for this program. The program will take place at 1:00 p.m. in the Mumford Room (LM-649).
January 14, 2015 – Gallery Talk, Nathan Dorn, exhibition curator, will discuss highlights of selected items from the exhibition. The program will take place in the South Gallery, second floor, Thomas Jefferson Building from 12:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m.
January 16, 2015 – Gallery Talk, Heather Wanser, preservation conservator, will discuss the conservation of George Washington’s copy of the U.S. Constitution which is displayed in the “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor” exhibition. The program will take place in the South Gallery, second floor, Thomas Jefferson Building from 12:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m.
January 19, 2015 – Gallery Talk, Chris Woods, director of the National Conservation Service (United Kingdom) discusses the care and conservation of Magna Cartas, including the Lincoln Cathedral 1215 manuscript copy on exhibition. The program will take place in the South Gallery, second floor, Thomas Jefferson Building from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m.

The Exhibit closes January 19th.  Well done all!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

IMHO: Hits, Misses and Random Observations on Legal Information and Technology -- Highlights of 2014

 In my humble opinion....looking back on 2014 here are some standouts...for better or worse....

Worst piece of proposed legislation for law firms Award OK accounting is a snooze, but this issue has my attention. The  tax law amendment proposing mandatory accrual accounting for law firms could wipe out all the  staffing and process efficiencies law firms have gained since the recession with the stroke of a pen. According to the ABA  Section 3301 of the draft “Tax Reform Act of 2014”and Section 51 of a similar Senate draft bill would force law firms with gross receipts over $10 million to use the accrual method of accounting rather than the traditional cash method. Law firms would be forced to pay taxes on income long before it is actually received. The administrative overhead to implement and comply with these changes will bloat accounting staffs fact law firms might as well just become accounting firms because that is the business they will be in if this law passes!

The Most Collossal Failure of Law, Technology and Common Sense.  The loss of Malaysia Flight 370 highlights the misplaced growth of technology to provide pervasive access to inane blathering while ignoring life saving communication systems for international transport. The airline industry has failed to self regulate and international regulatory bodies have failed to act for the public good. Google is developing cars. Maybe it is time for Apple to enter the airline industry -- at least we can count on them to develop a "find my airplane" app.

 The Most Famous Research Product Which Doesn’t Actually Exist Award goes to IBM's "Legal Watson."  Legal Watson got an awful lot of press ... considering that it is still more a concept than a product. Of course I want to see where this is all going, but hopefully I will be retired before it can take over my job.

The Longest Non-Rollout Award  Goes to Wolters Kluwer's new research platform called Cheetah. I wrote a post on it over a year ago... there were public previews at AALL in July and yet the curtain has not yet been raised. I am counting on a 2015 release.

The Bumpiest Rollout goes to Lexis Advance. Nuf said.

No No Not Another Award. For the past decade we were inundated with news monitoring products. This year it was Pacer/docket products. I don’t mean to discourage innovators, after all Avis did give Hertz a run for their money.

The Show Me the Data Award goes to Thomson Reuters Dealproof (Drafting Assistant Transactional )– I am actually serious here. Every vendor "talks the talk" about how they will help law firms become more efficient. Rarely do they ever deliver a piece of evidence. Thomson Reuters   developed one of the most compelling pieces of marketing documentation which shows the actual time savings achieved when a lawyer uses the Dealproof to review transactional documents. Don't talk to me about big data products if you can't deliver your own data on your own products.

Worst federal government technology roll out Award.
OK it doesn’t quite reach the level of the Affordable Care Act Website debacle. The Administrative Office of the  US Courts roll out of  the new electronic filing system (ECF) must have been developed with solo practitioners in mind. It is an administrative nightmare for large law firms looking to centralize and streamline workflows. Pacer was actually 214 systems cobbled together and YES something needed to be done. But we needed a solution that worked for both the government and the legal profession and we are not there yet.  So far the roll out has been marked by poor communication, confusing instructions and a failure to assess workflow impact  on large law firms.

Who needs archives Award? Goes to, oh no…. the Administrative Office of the US Courts  wins again for removing access to pubic dockets in 5 courts including the Second Circuit!!!!!
They seemed surprised that anyone noticed or cared. They have since announced plans to restore the missing dockets after a public outcry.

Legal Research Hall of Fame  goes to Martindale Hubbell. Baseball players get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame so lets give that old workhorse Matindale Hubbell a fond farewell and thanks for the memories.

Missed Opportunity Award
goes to Lexis, Westlaw , BloombergBNA and Wolters Kluwer for failing to purchase American Lawyer Media and giving it the technical infrastructure and substantive law context which ALM needs to expand. It would have been a win/win for ALM and any of the large legal publishers.  Instead ALM went to a venture group (again).

Man With A Mission Award goes to Bryan Garner with his spectacular rewrite of Black’s Law Dictionary… 50,000 legal definitions were completely rewritten and 16,000 new definitions added.

Reinvent Your Profession Award
goes to lawyer and legal consultant Susan Hackett who delivered a powerful message to legal information professionals as keynote speaker at the PLL Summit in July.

 Show Me the Money Award goes to the Australian Law Libraries Association which conducted a study which determined the ROI of law librarians. Law librarians deliver $5.43 in  value for every dollar invested. Congratulations and thanks to our colleagues “down under.”
Fire the Loose-leaf filer/Save a Tree  award goes to Bloomberg BNA for their "Streaming" Bankruptcy Treatise. It never was in print and no one will ever have to retrieve a missing binder for filing. Amen!

Crystal Ball Award goes to Lex Machina for giving us a glimpse of the predictive uses of big data in  anticipating lawyer and judges behavior in IP litigation.  

The Ticking Timebomb of Legal Malpractice Award goes to the evil cousins  “ Link Rot” and “Reference Rot” who were recently  "outed" in a program  hosted by Georgetown Law.

Fair Use Hero Award goes to Judge Rakoff for explaining why legal briefs submitted to courts can be made available and searchable on Lexis and Westlaw without violating copyright.

The  Secret CKO Award  goes to the late comedian Joan Rivers who cataloged  and archived over a million jokes.

The Beyond Words Award.  In October Nasa released an archive of sounds from outer space on Sound Cloud. The recordings include the sounds of Saturns rings, Neptune, Jupiter and Earth from outer space.
Happy New Year and Welcome to 2015.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The 10 Most Popular Dewey B Strategic Posts in 2014

2014 was the first year since 2007 in which  the legal press began consistently publishing optimistic news about the legal market. Law school enrollments are still shrinking. Large law firms continue to combine into mega-firms. Law firm support roles and ratios continue to evolve. In 2014 legal publishers began to deliver products which help transform big data into analytics which offer the promise of a  competitive advantage if lawyers and information professionals can ask the right questions.

The Most Popular Post on Dewey B Strategic was posted only 3 weeks ago and it shot to the top of the list:

My personal favorite  was the most popular post until it was surpassed by the "Dumpster" post on December 11th. It is a comic nostalgia piece:

Here are the remaining 8 most popular Dewey B Strategic posts of 2014 in chronological order: