AALL Spectrum Blog

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This blog provides a space for conversations about articles and ideas found in AALL Spectrum, the monthly magazine of the American Association of Law Libraries. The previous blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
7/23/2013 8:11:33 AM

Program Review – A7: It’s All About the Money: Rethinking the Way We Teach Cost-Effective Legal Research

Presenters: Kathleen Darvil, Coordinator, Brooklyn Law School Library; Sara Kasai Gras, Mediator, Brooklyn Law School Library;  Caren Biberman, Speaker, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP; Mark A. Gediman, Speaker,  Best Best & Kriger LLP; Connie Smith, Speaker, Morgan Lewis & Bockius; Cheryl Lynn Niemeier, Speaker, Bose, McKinney & Evans LLP.

Moderator Sara Gras began this session with the results of an informal survey of ALL-SIS members on teaching cost effective research.  While most respondents (95%) incorporate cost-effective research into their classes, well under half (only 37%) addressed the focus of the session, recovery of research costs. 

In light of this lapse, the session aimed to highlight the law firm library’s role in cost-recovery, place cost-effective research in the context of cost-recovery and present methods to train cost-effective researchers.  To that end, four law firm librarians were invited to explain cost recovery methods in their firms as well as how they train summer and new associates to conduct cost-effective research.  The ensuing discussion met the first two session goals admirably but addressed the third goal with rather broad strokes.

The librarians presented four very different cost-recovery models.  Ms. Biberman’s firm charges clients for Westlaw and Lexis only, although attorneys use many other resources.  The firm passes through the exact cost, including vendor discounts.  Mr. Gediman’s firm developed its own algorithm to identify a flat per search fee (undisclosed), resulting in costs predictable to both client and attorney.  For similar reasons, Ms. Smith’s firm established an hourly rate (undisclosed) based on the firm’s usage history.  Ms. Niemeier’s firm alone did not concern itself with cost recovery; as a small firm, the expense of administering a cost-recovery program is not worthwhile.  The firm focuses instead on efficient use of attorney research time.

Amidst this diversity of approaches, a strong point of consensus emerged.  The law firm librarians agreed that precision should be the primary research focus.  While, as Mr. Gediman pointed out, model rule 1.5 prohibits using research as a “profit center,” reaching the right answer for a client is paramount.  Lack of quality research can lead to firing, so students should know there are real world consequences for mediocre research skills.

The librarians also agreed that firms believe law students do not know how to research, that they rely on a “Google mentality.”  As an antidote, Ms. Biberman noted that law schools should emphasize the research process and offer more research courses.  Mr. Gediman emphasized repeatedly that we pay for subscription services for a reason, accuracy, and he advised telling students not to use Google at all. 

The panel offered few specifics vis-à-vis their own approaches to training, but some offered general descriptions.

Westlaw and Lexis reps visit Ms. Biberman’s firm five days a week for two hours a day, and the library shares a tip of the week.  Summers are “let loose” for two weeks, and then that research is converted into a dollar amount.  The librarians discuss with the summers any problems they see in this initial period.

Summers and new associates at Ms. Smith’s firm must meet with a librarian or a rep before obtaining a Westlaw or Lexis password.  She also sends out quick tips and maintains a file of tips attorneys can always access.  Further training occurs during events like practice group meetings.

Some firms offered incentives for training attendance, for example, attend six out of seven training sessions and be entered in an iPad drawing. 

The most specific research comments arose during the Q and A.  When asked about the utility of “advanced platforms,” the panelists noted that “basics still matter.”  Students should take care to consider jurisdiction and type of case (e.g., motion for summary judgment v. motion to dismiss). 

Based on this discussion, what should law schools do to train effective researchers?   First, law schools should emphasize quality and, to that end, the continued value of subscription services.  Second, as Gras noted in her introductory remarks, firms adopt varying cost-recovery methods; we should not then train students on only one method, especially retail pricing sheets.  Although the panel did not address assignment design, here is one possibility:  require students to track both time spent and number of searches on an assignment and compare the results.

Ultimately, the firm librarians encouraged law schools to collaborate with firms employing their graduates.  Possibilities include bringing a panel of local law firm librarians to your school, an annual meeting with law firm librarians in your area, or inviting law firm librarians to your classroom.

Gras identified three main challenges to teaching cost effective research strategies:  vendor price sheets are fictional (most firms do not pay these prices); economic models evolve “constantly”; and firms’ approaches vary widely (“infinitely”).  Responding to these challenges will not be easy, but surely collaborating with local law firms can help law schools train their students in cost-recovery.

Posted By Susan Azyndar at 7/23/2013 8:11:33 AM  0 Comments
7/22/2013 4:11:56 PM

Chapter Newsletter Highlights: ORALL, SEAALL, & CALL

This post describes some articles in AALL chapter newsletters that are likely to be interesting to librarians outside those chapters.

The June 2013 issue of the Ohio Regional Association of Law Libraries' ORALL Newsletter has a very amusing article on judges' use of humor and verse in their opinions. I intend to follow some of the citations to these funny opinions. This issue also includes an update on efforts to enact the Uniform Electronic Legal Materials Act.

The Spring 2013 issue of the Southeastern Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries' Southeastern Law Librarian includes an illustrated feature of the Belmont College of Law Library. The Summer 2013 issue of the Chicago Association of Law Libraries' CALL Bulletin contains a description of the 2013 AALL Management Institute and tips on creating a personal marketing plan to help advance one's career.


Posted By Benjamin Keele at 7/22/2013 4:11:56 PM  0 Comments
7/22/2013 2:18:01 PM

Chapter Newsletter Highlights: WPLLA, LLAW & MALL

This post describes some articles in AALL chapter newsletters that are likely to be interesting to librarians outside those chapters.

The Spring 2013 issue of the Western Pennsylvania Law Library Association's WPLLA Newsletter contains several interesting articles, including a piece on using Martindale-Hubbell Law Directories to study diversity trends in the legal profession. Another article provides advice on questions from researchers who don't clearly express what information they are seeking, and a third piece collects resources on book repairs. Law librarians can perform some simple and inexpensive repairs that will extend the usable life of some books.

The Spring 2013 issue of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin's LLAW Briefs includes a report from the 2013 Library Technology Conference in Minnesota. Sessions at the conference discussed how libraries can advance social justice by providing access to and training for technology, website usability testing, distance education, and library branding.

The Spring 2013 issue of the Minnesota Association of Law Libraries' MALL Newsletter includes an article describing the Volunteer Librarians Coalition, a group of private law firm librarians in Minneapolis that provides legal research assistance to lawyers volunteering to serve low-income clients.

Posted By Benjamin Keele at 7/22/2013 2:18:01 PM  0 Comments