Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bloomberg BNA Levels the Corporate Deal Landscape with Launch of Corporate Drafting Platform Leveraging Analytics and Enhancing Workflow.


Today Bloomberg BNA is  announcing the launch of Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions, “a revolutionary new web-based product that includes a patented technology-driven drafting workflow tool, analytics powered by Bloomberg’s proprietary financial databases.”  Bloomberg provided me with an exclusive preview.  The resource leverages and integrates the Bloomberg BNA  deal repository, news publications, primary resources, secondary materials, and practical guidance. 

Since productivity and workflow process improvement are prominent themes in client discussions and law firm strategy this is a smart and timely development. It is also no doubt a response to Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law Product and LexisNexis Practice Advisor. Bloomberg BNA’s tight integration of resources into a single workflow has enabled them to leapfrog over the competition. Many competitors large and small have pieces of the workflow offered by Bloomberg BNA but I have not seen a product which has offers this level of integration. Competition among vendors sharpens everyone’s game and law firms are the beneficiaries.

I love the bold enthusiasm in Bloomberg BNA's press release “Just as searchable databases of case law revolutionized the way litigators approached their work 30 years ago, Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions is set to dramatically change the workflow for transactional lawyers. Leveraging data from the Bloomberg terminal they provide insights into over 500K deals and 7 million SEC exhibits.'

“For decades, corporate lawyers have been drafting and negotiating deal terms in relative darkness,” said David Perla, President of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg BNA’s Legal Division. “Without clear knowledge of ‘market standards,’ protracted negotiations have become the norm; inefficient client service and less-than-optimal agreements, the result.  With Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions, lawyers can instantly access the language that is most current, quickly putting an end to any sort of boardroom blustering.  This addition to Bloomberg Law levels the playing field for all law firms, while allowing lawyers and their clients to close deals more efficiently.”
 
 The “Landing page” offers 3 big buttons representing different phases of transactional workflow: drafting, research on deals, current practice information. "Dealmaker" is used for finding precedents and comparing clauses. "Draft Analyzer" compares your deal terms with the market standards. "In Practice" provides practical guidance on  capital markets, M& Banking & Finance and Corporate Governance.



Draft analyzer  This is a “what’s market”  solution. The “draft analyzer” is the “big data” engine which enables a lawyer to analyze a firm template or a counter-party document by “cut and pasting” the deal terms into the analyzer page.  The analyzer compares the text with a repository of deal documents and produces a result showing market standards. You can produce a redline version showing how your language compares to the most common market terms. An attorney can further refine and focus these by limiting the analysis to deals from specific law firms or in a specific industry and other common factors.

Templates  This function can produce up to 10 market standard templates. It shows sources of standard,deal type, year and law firms that contributed to that standard. A lawyer can review the individual agreements; view the context of the language, filter results by a variety of criteria such as date, industry, underwriter or law firm.



Redline and market standard
 
Deal Analytics is a dramatically enhanced version of the “Dealmaker” function which has been available on Bloomberg BNA. The function searches a repository of all SEC filings and exhibits filed since the beginning of EDGAR in 198. It is updated in “real time.”  Lawyers can locate specific precedent language. Since they are leveraging Bloomberg terminal data they are able to include private equity deals.  Precedent deals can be identified by industry, governing law, equity offering criteria, offering type, exchange parties, underwriter, and law firm. A summary report can be produced comparing deal terms which can be downloaded into a spreadsheet.


Document Drafting



Practical Guidance This is an aggregation of legacy BNA products including their 90 practice portfolios and new “in practice” training guides authored by attorneys. They provide lawyers with timelines, checklists and practical guidance. These resources also link to precedent documents and templates.

Bloomberg’s Long Game
Unlike its competitors, Bloomberg is not trying to sell this product as an "add on."   Bloomberg BNA's approach to the legal market has been to sell a “desktop” and the pricing for that desktop does not increase even when they add significant new features. By taking this approach Bloomberg BNA immediately placed themselves at the front of the pack. The new functionality is now part of the Bloomberg Law product and integrated with their wide range of  primary and secondary materials,  as well as financial and deal content from the Bloomberg Business terminal. 
This integrated strategy by contrast exposes how Thomson Reuters lost ground by focusing on taking a product line approach to the legal market. They had the foresight to acquire high quality "add on" products such as GSI which became Westlaw Business and Practical Law but then failed to identify the powerful workflow synergies which these products could offer in a single workflow platform. Law librarians have been begging TR to integrate content from the TR Financial product lines into their legal products for over a decade.   

There is a perhaps apocryphal story that Michael Bloomberg has given Bloomberg Law 100 years to gain market dominance. As a private company Bloomberg has the advantage of being able to invest in products without the quarterly bottom-line scrutiny faced by their publicly held competitors. It will be interesting to see if Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions becomes a tipping point for firms which have held out on purchasing Bloomberg Law, Thomson Reuters Practical Law or LexisNexis Practice Advisor. Firms may see the benefit of opting for a single-solution workflow which Bloomberg BNA now offers in lieu of either the Thomson Reuters or LexisNexis practice and drafting solutions.It will also be interesting to see how LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters respond to Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions. Law firms are the beneficiaries as the market players compete to help them become ever smarter, faster and more efficient.

Here is the Bloomberg BNA Press release:

Research and Drafting Technology Identifies and Defines “Market Standard” Deal Terms

Arlington, VA. (May 19, 2015) — Bloomberg BNA today announced the launch of Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions, a revolutionary new web-based product that includes a patented technology-driven drafting workflow tool, analytics powered by Bloomberg’s proprietary financial databases, the industry’s most trusted set of news publications, and a deep set of primary resources, secondary materials and practical guidance.  This new offering instantly allows corporate lawyers to know what deal terms are “market standard.” 

Putting “big data” to practical use, Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions searches over one million documents, comparing agreements and clauses to yield “market standard” language.  Just as searchable databases of case law revolutionized the way litigators approached their work 30 years ago, Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions is set to dramatically change the workflow for transactional lawyers.

“For decades, corporate lawyers have been drafting and negotiating deal terms in relative darkness,” said David Perla, President of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg BNA’s Legal Division. “Without clear knowledge of ‘market standards,’ protracted negotiations have become the norm; inefficient client service and less-than-optimal agreements, the result.  With Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions, lawyers can instantly access the language that is most current, quickly putting an end to any sort of boardroom blustering.  This addition to Bloomberg Law levels the playing field for all law firms, while allowing lawyers and their clients to close deals more efficiently.”

Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions features first-of-its-kind technology with a clean interface and intuitive workflow.  Consistent with its overall commitment to providing ongoing enhancements to its clients, Bloomberg BNA is offering Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions to its current Bloomberg Law customers at no cost. 

“We’ve developed an all-in-one solution that allows transactional lawyers to quickly draft, negotiate, and finalize a wide variety of agreements,” said Carl Sussman, Commercial Product Director for Bloomberg Law. “The product’s real power is the way it synthesizes over a million documents and returns results that are easily incorporated into a deal document.  This is what leveraging big data is all about and where we clearly differentiate ourselves from the competition.”

“This will raise market intelligence to a new level, and make it available to everyone on an equal basis,” said Mitchell Presser, head of the U.S. M&A practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.  “The technology will also drive a lot of efficiency in the negotiating process.” 

Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions features a powerful array of tools, including:
·         Patented Technology.  Draft Analyzer: a one-of-a-kind analytic technology that helps transactional attorneys instantly find precedents, streamline drafting, and better protect clients.  Practitioners can use language from Bloomberg BNA’s extensive collection of transactional precedents or input their own language, and, with a single click, compare it paragraph-by-paragraph to market-tested standards derived from over a million other agreements.

·         Bloomberg Data & Tools.  Deal Analytics: this workflow tool, which provides best-in-class deal and financial data from Bloomberg, enables attorneys to search through nearly half-a-million public and private M&A deals, and filter by deal points including deal size, industry, advisors, advisory fees, and termination fees.  With access to this robust Bloomberg data, attorneys can get a more comprehensive picture of their market. 

·         Practical Guidance.  In Practice: this repository offers step-by-step guidance to help attorneys through the transaction process with checklists, timelines, sample forms, documents and clauses.

Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions is the latest in an ongoing array of additions to Bloomberg LawBloomberg Law is an all-in-one technology platform that helps law firms grow their top line revenue, provide world-class counsel by getting the right answer fast and efficiently, and maintain and increase their profitability.  This is done through a combination of proprietary market data, trusted content and legal analysis, and innovative technology - together enabling and accelerating client growth, client excellence and client profitability.


For more information on Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions and to request a free trial, visit here.  For existing Bloomberg Law subscribers, this product can be accessed free-of-charge with their subscription. 

About Bloomberg BNA

Bloomberg BNA, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bloomberg, is a leading source of legal, regulatory, and business information for professionals. Its network of more than 2,500 reporters, correspondents, and leading practitioners delivers expert analysis, news, practice tools, and guidance — the information that matters most to professionals. Bloomberg BNA's authoritative coverage spans a full range of legal practice areas, including tax & accounting, labor & employment, intellectual property, banking & securities, employee benefits, health care, privacy & data security, human resources, and environment, health & safety.






Wednesday, May 6, 2015

AALL Conference "Hot Topics" Announced: Innovation in Law Practice, IBM's Watson and the Law and Net Neutrality

Yesterday AALL announced the hot topic programming selected for the 2015 annual meeting in Philadelphia July 18-21st. I am moderating the IBM Watson program on Monday the 20th.Other topics include an exploration of how technology continues to impact the transformation of legal practice and an examination of the  issues surrounding "Net Neutrality" and how regulations will impact access to legal information.

Here's AALL's announcement:

Change is a constant in the field of legal information, and this year's programming offers tools and strategies for harnessing the opportunities that change presents. Three new hot topic programs have been recently added to complement the daily lineup - be sure to check them out:

Hot Topic: Technological Innovation in the Practice of Law
Sunday, July 19 • 1:00 p.m.

Advances in computing, networking, and data analysis have revolutionized many aspects of American life, from politics to professional sports. These same advances have the potential to profoundly impact and greatly increase the efficiency of the practice of law. Yet lawyers, often a risk-adverse group, have at times been slow to adopt technological innovation. This session will describe the potential benefits of technological innovation, the process of innovation, and ways to mitigate the security concerns that arise with new technologies.

Hot Topic: Contestant, Doctor, Lawyer, Chef: IBM Watson Moving from Jeopardy to the Legal Landscape
Monday, July 20 • 11:30 a.m.

In 2011, the nation was riveted when IBM's Watson computer system beat all-time Jeopardy winner, Ken Jennings. Since then, the IBM Watson team has been exploring how cognitive computing can be used in medicine, law, and other professions. Artificial intelligence has a place in the legal world, and information professionals need to understand how its development could benefit the practice of law, access to justice, and legal education. Kyla Moran, a senior consultant with IBM's Industry Leadership team, will explain how linking smart people with smart machines can add new value to the legal industry. This session will explore Watson's potential impact on law practice management, knowledge management, e-discovery, deep client understanding and process improvement.

Hot Topic: Net Neutrality and Law Librarians: It’s a Good Thing
Tuesday, July 21 • 11:00 a.m.

Network (net) neutrality is the fundamental principle that ensures that all internet traffic is treated equally. In February, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new rules that reclassified fixed and mobile broadband as a telecommunication service, and thus established regulatory authority over these services. These rules protect and maintain open, uninhibited access to legal online content, and prohibit broadband internet access providers from blocking, impairing, or establishing fast/slow lanes to lawful content. This presentation gives an overview of the rules relating to net neutrality, and why maintaining these rules is critical to all law libraries, their missions, and their patrons.

Register for the 2015 AALL Conference at this link.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Dear Watson - I have a question for you! Watson & Legal Research: We know it can answer, but can Watson ASK questions?

My colleague Ron Friedmann  @ronfriedmann  posted an interesting question on his blog Prism Legal today. He is collecting "crowd sourced" questions  which he can ask at this week’s IBM’s World of Watson conference. I am fully booked, so I can’t attend, but I have a question for Ron to ask on my behalf:   “Can Watson ask questions?” 

Answers are Easy--- Questions are The Sign of a Pro!

The test of Watson as a legal researcher will not be whether it  can provide a generic legal answer but whether it can ask the necessary series of narrowing questions to help a lawyer define the answer that  she/he really needs.


Watson Beats Humans on Jeopardy - copyright IBM
I am puzzled by the rather giddy certainty among the “legal techno pundits” suggesting  that since Watson has made such great strides in responding to medical questions from doctors,  that it will soon be the ultimate  24/7 associate----Spewing answers at midnight and never uttering a word about  work-life balance. Will it really be that easy to teach Watson to conduct legal research in in the next decade?


Medical Research vs Legal Research


Although I claim no expertise in medical research, I know enough about the evolution of online medical research systems to suspect that there is at least one significant difference between medical and legal research. Medical information has the benefit of having a comparatively standard and nearly universal taxonomy. Symptoms, diseases, diagnoses, adverse reactions are the same in each state and in each country. Measles are the same in New York and California.

 But the law???? There or is no standard naming convention across the federal government and the 50 plus jurisdictions of the United States. Terminology and even the definitions  of ordinary words such as "person" or "homicide"  could differ wildly when you cross state lines. Then there are such unruly concepts as elements, defenses, statutes of limitations, jurisdictional and procedural issues. And yet we are not done.  The federal government and each of the fifty states have not only enacted laws but they each have courts which interpret the application of laws.Then there are the administrative agencies which generate regulations for the federal government and each state - which explain how to comply with those laws. These agencies may have quasi- judicial enforcement arms which generate even more interpretive materials. I am not even going to mention, municipal laws, county zoning, equity, conflict of laws,international treaties, SRO's (self regulatory organizations), the ABA or state bar ethics rules.... and I trust my readers will come up with a dozen more sources of laws and compliance which lawyers need to take into consideration.
 
Comparing 50 state Laws 
 
Let's look at the existing state of legal taxonomny and the standardization of legal concepts across the US.  West/Thomson Reuters developed the most  sophisticated taxonomy and normalizing framework for US legal research in its topic and key number system which is compiled in the "Analysis of American Law."  Even its detractors have to admit that it is the closest thing we have to a  taxonomy of US law - and it took over 100 years to develop!
Yet lawyers still struggle to find new tools which modulate and standardize the analysis of laws across the 50 states. 

Compiling a "50 state survey" on a single issue used to be a surefire summer project which might take an associate a whole summer to complete! Thankfully the major legal publishers have spent the past decade trying to tame this particular beast. And today... if an associate gets such an assignment and has access to a savvy  research professional - they may find that a comparison chart, survey or "smartchart" on their issue can be generated in a matter of seconds using one of the premium legal research services (LexisNexis, Blaw, Westlaw, Wolters Kluwer.) But the development of these charts involved a lot of "heavy lifting" by each publisher. There are still  thousands of legal issues  which have not yet been tackled by any of the majors.
 
It is in fact, a day for celebration when one of major legal publishers releases a new topical survey or a new tool  for comparing 50 state laws which normalizes and highlights the differences and commonalities of laws on a single issue across the country.  


Can Watson conduct a research interview?
 
Watson may get there, but I remain convinced that the biggest challenge for Watson may be learning to ask the series of contextualizing and narrowing  questions that must follow a simple and common question such as “What is the statute of limitations for breach of contract?”  Can a lawyer accept a google-ized /wikipeidi-ized generic answer which is not curated  to address the specific facts of his client's situation?  We all know the frustration of hearing this standard Siri refrain “I don’t know 'mens reƤ.' ”  Legal advice requires a higher level of precision than a Jeopardy-style fact based query. This is not a slam dunk.


A Humble Suggestion  I just suggest that Watson’s developers  find some research librarians who have served serious “hard time” at a large law firm reference desk to run Watson through the paces. If Watson is to master legal research it needs to learn how to ask questions from the pros!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Ravel Law Launches Judges Analytics: Precedential Behaviour Analysis Made Easy.

Ravel Law is  relatively new entrant to the legal research market. Just looking at Ravel you can see that it was designed without regard to the hierarchical and organizational conventions of  traditional legal research. They use a unique algorithm and an analytical approach to displaying and ranking the relevance of cases which I outlined in an earlier post: Ravel Law: Legal Research Radically Reimagined.
Ravel: Judge's Citation Analysis and Comparison to Peers

Judges Analytics Earlier this month they launched a new judges analytics platform which may be especially interesting to partners and senior attorneys responsible for developing litigation strategy.  I am inclined to say we need a new vocabulary to describe these innovative legal research techniques. I am inclined to describe Ravel as providing "Precedential Behavior Analysis." The bottom line is that Ravel has invented new ways for lawyers to seek a competitive advantage by discovering patterns and outliers in judges opinions  as well as  insights into who and what influences them. And yet the desire to gain competitive insights is not new... Daniel Lewis one of the co-founders of Ravel likes to  tell a story about how President Lyndon Johnson used precedential insights in 1948 to overcome an election challenge. The full story is printed below.*

From Anecdote to Precedential Insights
Lawyers have always employed a variety of techniques to glean insights into a judges temperament and judicial behavior including firm wide emails, checking court websites or  directories like the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary which provides lawyers comments about judges. Ravel has created a completely new way of gaining competitive insights.

Wouldn't You Like To Know:...

  • How many opinions your judge has written addressing an issue
  • How often has the judge  ruled in your favor on that issue?
  • What precedents do they cite?
  • What Circuits do they cite?
  • Does this judge rely on different caselaw than other judges?
  • What language does this judge find to be persuasive on an issue?

Ravel provides powerful comparative analytics illustrating citation patterns and patterns of rulings which can be accessed with a simple keyword search.

In addition to the analytics, Ravel provides up to the minute feeds from news sources and blogs on individual judges.
Ravel Judge News and Blog Coverage





*Lyndon Johnson & Abe Fortas  Strategy
In 1948, years before he became president, Lyndon B. Johnson fought a desperate senate election campaign. A loss would ruin his political career. With election day approaching, a district court judge issued an injunction keeping Johnson’s name off the ballot until accusations of voter fraud in the democratic primary were resolved. Johnson called in attorney Abe Fortas to seek the one outcome that mattered: get the injunction overturned, fast.
Fortas devised an unconventional, but brilliant strategy – the only one that could work in the time available. He recommended identifying and appealing to the 5th Circuit judge most likely to rule against Johnson. A loss would allow Johnson to quickly appeal to the Supreme Court, where Fortas expected they could win a final, favorable decision from the Fifth Circuit’s overseer, Justice Hugo Black.
 
Executing on the plan, a team of lawyers flew to New Orleans to dig through previous decisions by the Fifth Circuit’s judges. After analyzing the rulings and language in case after case they found their judge, the one most likely to rule against them. Properly targeted, the court fight unfolded exactly as envisioned by Fortas. Johnson went on to win the election. And Fortas? He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1965.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New ALM Law Firm Staffing Report: Outsourcing Out, Library Staff In, Partners Answering Own Phones?

American Lawyer Legal Intelligence has released a new report “Law Firm Support Staff How Many are Enough?”

"In response to the changing legal landscape, law firms have restructured their staffing of both attorneys and non-attorneys alike.  Law firm management has begun to realize that they can use support staff more strategically within the organization. This survey examines staffing changes and the impact on law firm for the following categories: legal support staff, library services, marketing and business development, office services and litigation support"

The authors of this year's report acknowledge up front the challenge of establishing consistent staff and function definitions that have equivalencies across all law firms. They wonder at what point does  secretarial work morph into paralegal work?   When a report indicates that partners are answering their own phones and doing their own proofreading, one has to wonder if the cost control and staff reductions of the Great Recession haven't "overshot the mark."

At what point is the cost of efficiency too high? At the point where client support is suffering and lawyers are no longer focused on using their "highest and best talents?"
Here are some key findings from the report:

  • Spending on non-attorney staff continued to increase. 47% of firms increased their spending on staff.
  • 62% decreased legal support staff levels.
  • Firms are reducing lower level staff while recruiting staff with more sophisticated skills who are being paid higher salaries.
  • Legal support staff (secretaries and other administrative clerks) continue to be the biggest staffing category.
  • Library Staffing has been impacted by technology more than any other staff function.
  • Outsourcing remains unpopular. Library is the department least likely to be outsourced and litigation support the most likely to be outsourced.
  • Lawyers and paralegals are doing more online research. The report suggests that this research is "being taken away from the library." I completely disagree. Lawyers have been doing their online research for 30 years. Librarians have been freed from routine research and are now able to focus on conducting more sophisticated research and generating analytics on a wide range of non-legal issues to support both the business and practice of law.
  • 34% of firms who had outsourced, brought the work back in-house.
  • IT and office services where the functions that were most often brought back in house after unsuccessful outsourcing.
  • 97% of lawyers screen their own calls. (I wonder if this is because they are relying more on their mobile phones which are not available for secretarial screening.) But it does raise the troubling possibility that downsizing from the recession has pushed clerical work up to partners and impacting both billable time and client support.
  • Litigation support is the function most likely to have increased staffing in the next year.
  • Marketing functions which are most often performed by outside vendors are website design, Public relations and graphic design.

The bottom line is that each firm must find its own balance of efficiency, cost control, staffing and client support. The responses to this year's survey in some ways seem both inconsistent and contradictory, but perhaps this is just a reflection of the varying methods firms are using to reconfigure support (automation vs insourcing vs outsourcing vs downsizing vs upgrading). One size solution does not fit all.

 .

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Private Law Libraries SIS Members Vote In Favor of Name Change To Reflect New Member Roles Beyond the Bookshelves

Note: This post was originally published on Tuesday but it was mysteriously deleted from the blog so I am reposting.
 
Members of the The Private Law Libraries Special Interest Section of AALL have voted to change the name of the SIS to "Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals." The results were released Tuesday in a special edition of the PLL eNewsletter. Almost 79 % of those voting, cast ballots in favor of the name change.

The name change accomplishes two things. It changes the focus from "libraries" to the "librarians" themselves. It enlarges the membership tent to include the growing number of librarians who are now pursuing non-traditional careers as information professionals within law firms.

In late 2013 the PLL Board surveyed members on the name change. At that time 70% of the members indicated that the word "librarian" no longer described the scope of their responsibilities. Nonetheless. there was a strong resistance to rebranding the SIS without including either the word "library" or "librarian." The Board finally proposed a compromise name which satisfied both the traditionalists and those professionals who are focused on redefining the profession for the 21st century.

Creating a more inclusive name recognizes the many "non-library" activities performed by PLL members. An increasing number of librarians are focused on Competitive Intelligence, Business Intelligence, Knowledge Management, records, docket, web development, and other emerging digital roles. Members are intentionally embedding information professionals in practice groups outside of the library. I saw it as increasingly risky to maintain a tight professional identity with a room that is shrinking.

"Private Law Firm Librarians & Information Professionals" acknowledges the professional roots and a signals to law firms and the larger world that SIS members engage in a broader range of activities beyond traditional librarianship, it also combats the stereotypes that generate unconscious biases. Most importantly the new name recognizes that information professionals have a role that will endure long after the last book has been tossed in the dumpster.

The final step in the name change is a vote to amend thy Bylaws to reflect the new name. Those ballots will be sent to members on May 13th.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"3 Geeks" Founder Greg Lambert Enters the C Suite At Amlaw 200 Firm Jackson Walker: An Interview With a Geek

Jackson Walker an Amlaw 200 firm based in Texas has promoted Greg Lambert to their roster of C-level leaders.  Lambert  joined the firm as the Director of Library and Research Services in 2012 and became Chief Knowledge Services Officer in February of this year. Lambert made a name for himself as one of the founders and writers of the award winning 3 Geeks and a Law Blog.

My first encounter with Greg occurred at the inaugural PLL Summit in 2010 when he rather
Greg Lambert
prophetically spoke on the topic: "Expanding Your Role: How to Reach the C Level." In the course of his presentation he  raised some uncomfortable issues about the low numbers of librarians at the  C Level in law firms. (Data indicates that fewer than 1% of  the C-level leaders in law firms began their career as librarians.) He pointed out that in the past 20 years librarians were repeatedly at the forefront of introducing new initiatives and technologies above and beyond their core responsibilities as librarians.

These innovations include providing firms with the first link to the Internet, 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. But for today, lets celebrate the addition of one more librarian to the C-Suite and congratulate both Greg and Jackson Walker.

I invited Greg to answer some questions about his new role and share his wisdom on law firms and the role of legal information professionals.

What unique perspective and expertise do librarians bring to C-level discussions and strategy?
GL: I think a lot of librarians underestimate what they bring to their organization. I know I’ve mentioned this before to you, but librarians (whatever you call them) are one of the best evaluators of risk that the organization has. Librarians understand the information and knowledge needs of the organization, usually they have significant relationships within the organization, and they know the industry and industry players very well. They are leaders, and need to see themselves as such. No one in the organization has the skill sets that a librarian has. The unfortunate thing is that many times their voices are pushed into the background at times when it should be heard very loudly. Whether that is self-imposed, or something of a traditional stance taken by the organization, it needs to change. Many of us deal with 7 or 8-figure budgets, many of us have multiple departments to manage, coordinate between different Admin and Professional groups within our organization, but when it comes to the strategic goals of our organizations, we are pushed to the sidelines. That just can’t be the norm. I understand that each organization has its own personality on who sets strategy, but we have just got to make more of an effort to get in that discussion. We have so much to add. It’s a disservice to our organization, our profession, and ourselves to not get in on that discussion.

Has this resulted in your being engaged in new projects that people were unaware you could contribute to or advise on?
GL: We've been doing some really great things here, especially with Practice Group alignments. I don't think that this alone has created any additional projects at the moment, but aligns better with what we have been doing since I arrived here. I will say that I have some ideas of projects that I'm going to pitch, but I would have pitched them regardless of what my title was.

What non academic life experiences  have helped you in your career?
GL: A few years ago, some law librarian friends and I started an informal peer group. We call the group “The Bradys” because it started out with a Greg, a Jan, a Cindy, and a Marsha (no kidding). Over the past six or so years, the group has become a core set of 11 folks ranging from Librarians, CI Leaders, Marketing, Pricing, IT, and KM professionals. We also talk a lot on trends we see out there, complain a lot about things we think should be corrected in the industry, but aren’t, and bounce a lot of ideas off of each other. The Bradys have become one of the most successful things I’ve ever been a part of… and it’s really just an unofficial think tank of really smart, really nice people.

What do you think the next generation of info professionals should focus on learning?
GL: One of the thoughts that’s been bouncing around in my head lately is the concept of “Library and _____” or “Information and ____”. When I was in law school in the 90s, there was this movement of classes of “Law and ____” Law and Economics… Law and Religion… etc. I think we’re at a point in time where law firms will always need help in organizing and managing the information needed to keep the firm competitive. However, that just isn’t enough to justify creating an entire department. So we have to make sure that Information Professionals continue to be top notch managers of information, and negotiators with information providers, but that can’t be our only purpose. In fact, it may end up not even being the most important purpose we have within our organization or profession. It’s the other things we do that become the most visible, and most valued (whether actual or perceived) that our organization looks at and understands about what we do. There’s no “Easy Button” when it comes to determining what that service or process is. Each organization has its own set of needs, and it is the smart person that looks to fill that need. The next generation (actually even this generation) needs to find what their organization is failing to accomplish, and find a way to fill that gap. Listen, understand, learn, succeed/fail/regroup and then start over. It’s not about what we solved yesterday, it is about what we are helping to solve tomorrow that counts.

What do you look for in a new hire?
GL: I’ve hired a number of new people since moving jobs a couple years ago. I think I’ve been pretty successful in finding people that are motivated to help, and are willing to interact with others here at the firm. When I have an open position, I usually get a number of well qualified people that apply. In fact, there have been many nights where I stay up fretting over a couple of applicants that are just really close in skill sets and I don’t have a clear winner. I did that a couple years ago, and luckily it turned out that six months later I had a new position open, and I was able to go back to the previous applicant and get her to come work with us. So that’s a long way of saying that I look for people that I think will fit in with the group. I give my people a lot of freedom to conduct their work in the best way that they can, and so far, that has worked very well. I want people that are smart, hard-working, creative, and energetic. At the same time, I want people that have personality, and can interact and have fun with the others here at work. We do not lack for personalities. I'm sure they would tell you that extends all the way up to me.

How should librarians measure their value?
GL: That’s a big question that probably has a thousand different ways to answer. Value is really in the eye of the beholder, and not necessarily in the Librarian’s eye. We need to be viewed as leaders. We need to be viewed as problem solvers. We need to be seen as go-to people to get things accomplished. We need to be in the discussion when it comes to setting the strategies for the organization, and not just worker-bees in accomplishing those goals. There should be an expectation that we will be involved, and noticed when we are missing.

What is your proudest professional achievement?
GL: One of my proudest achievements was one of my very first when I started this career. That was helping in the completion and maintaining of the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network (OSCN.NET). Creating a vendor-neutral resource of legal information for the State of Oklahoma, and making that freely available to everyone was such a fun project, and completely rewarding experience. The pay was terrible, but the reward was fantastic.
A close second is what all we have achieved with the blog, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. I have to say, we never imagined that it would have been as successful as it has turned out to be.

How many years ago did you start 3 Geeks?
GL: We started back in July of 2008. Since then we’ve posted over 1500 blog posts. Some good… some bad… but all were fun and interesting to those of us that wrote them.

Why did you start the blog?
GL: The blog started really on a whim. Lisa Salazar, Toby Brown, and I met for lunch one day and Lisa came up with the idea and the name. From there it has been a whirlwind of activity and additional people that have joined and helped along the way.

How did it help or hurt you career?
GL: It definitely helped, but in ways that may not be obvious. As with many things, what’s important isn’t necessarily how much you know, as opposed to who you know. The blog has opened up many doors to leaders in the industry. There have been many times where I am in on a strategy meeting and a name comes up in the conversation, and I get to say “hey, I know him/her… do you want me to connect you to them?” It may sound a bit shallow, but in this industry, being connected is very powerful.

Did your blogging ever get you into trouble?
GL: I’ve never gotten into trouble for what I’ve written. But, I have gotten into trouble for things others have written. With this blog, we give everyone a pretty long rope to do with as they please. We really only have a few rules, but the big rule is that we don’t give away any internal information from our own places of business or air any dirty laundry. When we poke at vendors, it is usually because they say one thing, and then do another. We hardly ever say that a product is bad (we may say it looks bad, or doesn’t do what it is advertised to do. We get asked to do a lot of product reviews, but very few of those do we actually agree to do.

We try to be very honest, but very fair in what we write. Occasionally, especially with those that don’t post all the time, there is a line that is crossed. We’ve only every pulled one post over the past 8 years, but we did so after talking with everyone involved, and then making that decision. Most of the Geeks have had big transitions in their careers the past few years. Two of us are now C-Levels at different firms, and that takes a bit more of a time commitment than we had at our previous firms. So you may have noticed that the writing had dwindled off a bit over the past couple of years. It’s still a lot of fun to do, and as long as we are having fun, we’ll keep writing.

What is your advice for the next generation of information professionals?
GL: Listen, Learn, Act. Do something interesting. Do something a little risky, but understand, and let those that are affected by your actions, understand what the goals are. Get involved in your organization. Understand what’s important, and help achieve those goals. Accept recognition. You can still be humble in your acceptance, but make sure everyone knows that you’re a leader that has taken action and succeeded. The key is understanding you have the ability to contribute to your organization. Once you understand that, take the lead and own it. When you’re truly valued by the organization, you don’t have to tell everyone that you are valuable… they already know it.

Related Posts: No Room in the C Suite for Strategic Information Leaders aka Librarians: The Long Shadow of "Help Wanted Female?"