Jim Jones, Thomson Reuters VP, law firm consultant, Leader of the Hildebrandt Institute, former  Managing Partner at Arnold & Porter and General Counsel at APCO Worldwide, provided a data rich overview of law firm financial and practice trends at the PLL Summit.  He concluded his review of  legal industry trends with a list of challenges and opportunities for Executive Librarians:

The Implications

Much of his talk centered around the trends to boost firm efficiencies through training, knowledge sharing and “Legal Process Outsourcing.” What I find ironic and what I think Jones was implying in his list of “implications” below, was that firm leaders don’t fully recognize  that Executive Librarians should be the natural leaders or key players in these initiatives. Librarianship itself grew out of a late 19th century efficiency movement and 21st Century Library and Knowledge Executives work at the intersection of substantive knowledge, process improvement and emerging knowledge technologies.

The Challenges

  • How will the likely changes in law firm management models impact traditional library/information services? 
  • How will the drive for efficiency and cost-effectiveness impact the ways in which legal research is undertaken? 
  • How might librarians/information specialists help in partnering with clients and in supporting “one-to-many” knowledge sharing models? 
  • In an age of “disintermediation,” how can information be rendered more useful and actionable? 
  • What roles might librarians/information specialists play in the management of new firm “products” – e.g., various tools for on-line guidance and services? 
  • What roles might librarians/information specialists play in the development of “just-in-time” training resources? 
  • How might the growing importance of information management impact the roles that executive librarians play in their firms?

Most of us have already begun recognize and to respond to most of these trends. But as new forces continue to emerge in the legal marketplace and as new technologies continue to “disrupt” traditional work flow and practice models, we will, as he said, paraphrasing Alice in Wonderland, “have to keep running just to stay in place.”*

*The Queen: “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” Through the Looking Glass:

Esther Dyson, in what was the second most controversial comment of her session,(the most controversial comment can’t be printed)  responded to Jones’ presentation by suggesting that if law firms don’t recognize how the strategic insights and knowledge competencies  of  Library Executives  are core to the firm’s competitive advantage, we should all just go work for Legal Processing Outsourcers who clearly do recognize our talents as core to their business model!