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The AALL Spectrum® blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.

The AALL Spectrum blog is no longer published. Previous posts are archived on this page.
8/7/2012 9:52:00 PM

Program Review: Growing Beyond the Four Walls of Your Library into Strategic Knowledge Management

E6: Growing Beyond the Four Walls of Your Library into Strategic Knowledge Management

Level: Intermediate, 60 min


Steven A. Lastres, Director of Library and Knowledge Management, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Alirio Gomez, Director of Library & Information, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP

This program is intended for law library directors and managers looking to extend the scope of responsibilities to enterprise knowledge management (KM). However, I highly recommend it to anyone in this profession who wants to learn about new opportunities and emerging roles of law librarians in the 21st century law firm. This intense, information packed program, squeezed into a 60-min slot, is worth hours of instruction - it provides great advice and guidance for law firm librarians.

Both presenters manage KM projects at international 500+ attorneys law firms and have a vast knowledge of the subject. Such KM projects include developing and maintaining of practice-related intranet content, management of virtual libraries, and development of global law firms’ research portals.

Steven Lastres defined knowledge management as the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets. He described the types of knowledge that law firms use and how knowledge management fits into the new business model of law firms. Law librarians should rethink the library’s value proposition given the new trends in the legal market. Librarians with their advanced research and computer skills, substantive knowledge and understanding of the organization can become KM leaders and bring value to the firm by supporting the business of law, not just practice of law (i.e., a “new mission critical model”).  

Steven Lastres outlined several KM projects that require librarian competencies, including Intranet/Portal content development, creation of expertise databases, taxonomy, Legal Project Management (LPM), statistical analysis, and search engine optimization. The presentation was illustrated with informative screenshots of the actual law firm’s Intranet pages to give you an idea what KM looks like within the law firm. These screenshots, which are included in the program handout, captured various KM components - research portal, web 2.0 implementations (blogs, Wikis, RSS feeds and social tagging), library catalog, electronic delivery and distribution, and rating materials.

Alirio Gomez in his presentation focused on the project of developing a portal-based virtual library. He talked about technical, organizational and economic aspects critical for successful implementation of such project. A list of important characteristics was provided for the following categories of portal software: 1) information gathering, 2) information organization and classification, 3) information access, presentation and distribution, 4) collaboration, and 5) customization.

Project governance requires a coordinated effort between Steering Committee, Content Managers, Site Owners, IT/Library Team, Insight User Team, and Professional Development.  Alirio Gomez explained how to build cost management propositions for the project and provided advice on the best approach to start a KM Project. Law firms will want to see good long-term value for their shareholders before making an investment. Therefore, Gomez’s advice: don’t label it as a KM project – select a project that achieves a defined business goal, develop a business case with ROI analysis that clearly states the value. The program handout contains twenty pages with useful checklists, outlines and illustrations.   

The fact that this program is based on the KM project experience of the two large law firms with KM Partners, KM Counsel, and libraries staffed with dozens librarians and information specialists, should not discourage law librarians working at small and midsize law firms from starting a KM initiative. These two KM case studies provide a valuable insight in the new technologies that transform modern practice and business of law and help law firms become more efficient, productive and competitive in local and global markets. It’s also an insight in the success story of law librarians who take the lead in the proposal of the knowledge management strategy.

The skill-set required for KM projects is impressive and acquiring it may seem intimidating: you will need competencies in information technologies, project management, cost analysis and law firm economics. In reality, law librarians already perform many tasks that are part of these competencies. Just check out the YouTube clip “Helicopter rescue” from The Matrix that was shown at the end of the program (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTfubgRfP7s). The Future of KM is in your hands. LET’S GO.    

Posted By Anna Irvin at 8/7/2012 9:52:00 PM  0 Comments
8/7/2012 3:36:42 PM

Book Review: Conservation, Biodiversity and International Law

Alexander Gillespie, Conservation, Biodiversity and International Law (2011). Edward Elgar Publishing (EE). ISBN: 0857935151; Hardcover $225.00, 624 pages (inclusive of the index).

According to the author, a prominent international scholar and professor at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, this is a book about “law”; however, it is also a book about “science,” “philosophy” and “policy.”  After negotiating this behemoth of a text, it is safe to say that it does deal with all of these topics (to a greater or lesser extent), but what this work is actually about is international environmental history.  While extremely valuable in its own right, this text should probably be avoided by any but the most enthusiastic aficionados of environmental law.

As an environmental law librarian, I am constantly confronted with students experiencing “enviro-overload” – a term I use to describe that pained look on their faces when they are attempting not to drown in the green regulatory haze that is environmental law.  Gillespie’s work will contribute to that pained expression primarily because of the author’s dense prose and the book’s somewhat redundant organization.  Nonetheless, Gillespie does a masterful job of contextualizing the issues characteristic of international conservation law, and his foundational chapters in particular clearly highlight the inherent difficulties of the subject.      

Gillespie’s work is organized (along the lines of a textbook) into four distinct parts.  Part One (chapters 2 through 4) sets forth the basics of the field, including species identification, threat classifications and their perceptions in law, politics and science.  Part Two (chapters 5 and 6) surveys the tangible and intangible benefits of biodiversity from both an anthropocentric and biocentric point of view.  Part Three (chapters 7 through 13) constitutes the bulk of this text, and examines in detail threats to species and protected areas, continuing with a discussion of current conservation efforts.  Part Four concludes with a brief discussion about the ‘tools’ that are in place to effectuate the conservation goals of the international community.

The following features should be of particular use to researchers: footnotes at the bottom of each page; a chronological list of international conservation treaties dating back to 1858; a fairly comprehensive index; and a list of commonly used international abbreviations.  Gillespie’s text would have been enhanced by an appendix of excerpted international primary source materials or an online companion website.

Taryn L. Rucinski, Environmental Law Librarian, Pace Law School

Posted By Taryn Rucinski at 8/7/2012 3:36:42 PM  0 Comments
8/3/2012 12:40:48 PM

B-6: Finding Your Inner Nancy Drew: Public Records Resources Online

Presenters: Jennifer McMahan and Bridget Gilhool

I was looking forward to this presentation since the moment I saw it on the schedule, lo these many months ago.  I teach a course in litigation and ADR research which includes a section on public records, and was hoping to see some new resources to show my students.  (I was not disappointed!)  That said, I think that just about any law librarian would benefit from this program. 

The most important point about “Finding Your Inner Nancy Drew” is that the presentation was incredibly useful.  Jennifer McMahon and Bridget Gilhool have done sessions like this many times in the past, and it showed in their vast knowledge of the subject, combined with real-world tips.  These included always checking any records website to gauge its accuracy (using yourself as an example search is a good way to do this).  Even the smallest tips can save a lot of time: when doing a basic Google search for public records, searching for “LastName, FirstName” instead of “FirstName LastName” is likely to yield many more useful results, as this is how many records are written. 

Another note is that although McMahan and Gilhool tried to focus on free resources, they did point out that some websites have changed from free to paid and then back to free again, so it is always best to check.  As well, when one has access to websites that summarize public records, it can be useful to start there, and then head to more specific databases to verify individual points.

The session was completely packed with information—six pages of useful links (handout available here), broken down into categories such as birth and death records, marriage and divorce records, and information on people who are licensed to drive, affiliated with a corporation, registered to vote, or have graduated from college.  (This last can be surprisingly tricky—college degrees are not a matter of public record.)

The presenters kept their talk interesting by using the websites to search for famous people and organizations: one of the lawyers in the Lizzie Borden murder trial (for a local connection), Laura Bush, and other political and pop culture celebrities made appearances.  In fact, I would have preferred even more examples like these, especially because they showed how one can dig deeper into some of the websites.

Overall, an excellent session that will be extremely useful to me in the coming months and years.  Highly recommended for any librarian who has ever needed to search public records.

Posted By Stephanie Ziegler at 8/3/2012 12:40:48 PM  0 Comments