Joan Axelroth of Axelroth & Associates and I  will be co-chairing the 3rd Annual Private Law Library Summit: The Path to 2020: A Vision for Change, on Saturday, July 21, 2012, Boston, MA. Link here to see the full Summit Agenda.

Jordan Furlong

Our keynote Speaker is Jordan Furlong who will address “Climbing the Value Ladder: Rethinking the Law Library on the Road to 2020.”
Jordan  is a lawyer, speaker, and consultant based in Ottawa, Canada. He is a partner with the global consulting firm Edge International and a senior consultant with legal web development company Stem Legal Web Enterprises. Jordan’s website Law21 is subtitled: “dispatches from
a legal profession on the brink.”

His presentation will focus on how librarians can respond to, and leverage , the extraordinary changes in the legal marketplace. Jordan will provide insights into recent market events such as the collapse of Dewey and LeBoeuf and identify emerging trends in the legal marketplace which will shape our roles tomorrow.

I recently had a chance to pose a few questions to Jordan in anticipation of the PLL Summit.

1. What do you see as the greatest threat to private law firm librarian and knowledge professionals?

JF – Law firms are figuring out that they need to do a much better job of managing everything about their business. That includes people and projects, but it mostly concerns costs. Revenue growth has slowed or stalled, so costs need to come down as well, in order to preserve partner profit. That’s all fine, as far as it goes. The problem is that lawyers tend to shrink or cut anything whose function or value they don’t really understand. So if your lawyers don’t clearly understand the work or perceive the value of your library professionals, you’ve got cause for concern. You need to find ways to move at least some of your efforts from the “cost” to the “revenue” side of the ledger.

2. What sorts of concerns do law librarians now face in law firms?

JF – There’s a growing (and dangerous) perception in some firms that “Lawyers can do their own research,” or “We don’t need to pay people to look up cases.” If that’s how your people are viewed, you need to immediately change the narrative. You have to re-frame your department as an indispensable provider of higher-value service. Everyone in the legal market is being forced to climb one or two rungs higher on the value ladder. Lawyers are having to expand beyond their traditional process and content production functions. Equally, librarians need to expand (and need to be seen expanding) beyond their traditional research and knowledge support functions.

3. So how can librarians adjust their mission to enhance their value to law films?

JF – I tell lawyers that they can start climbing their own value ladder by figuring out which basic tasks they can delegate, unbundle, outsource or automate; what’s left over are the higher-end services that clients are willing to pay for. The same goes for law librarians: use databases, software and templates to replace some of your knowledge work, and train lawyers to do some of their own research work. Once you’ve helped firms to improve their internal processes and apply their lawyers’ knowledge more effectively, you can start upgrading your own functions and raising your own value. I’ll describe some of these strategies during my keynote at the Summit.

Read more of  Jordan’s thought provoking ideas at: Law21

The PLL Summit costs $145. This fee includes a reception Friday night, continental breakfast and a  lunch where you can network with colleagues/ thought leaders as well as day full of exciting programming. Register here.