future is already here, it just isn’t evenly distributed.” William Gibson,
author and futurist.
uneven “distribution of the future” is fueling an intense debate within the
American Association of Law Libraries. Last week the organization
announced that the Executive Committee had voted unanimously to change the name
of the organization to the Association for Legal Information.
recommendation came after the organization retained a consulting firm and
spent months engaged in analysis. The members of AALL will get a
final up or down vote in early 2016.
membership which includes members from academic, law firm and government
organizations represents a mix of institutions which are in varying stages of
disruption and transformation. Law firm members are out on the “bleeding edge” managing
virtual teams, assessing issues such as outsourcing, offshoring, project
management, big data and lean Six Sigma. They are living in a world of change. The future isn’t quite so present in all member institutions. Some members insist that change can be postponed. Others insist change is overdue!
“got” what the name Association for Legal Information was about when I considered a peer organization– ILTA The
International Legal Technology Association. It is a thriving diverse community which offers an annual meeting which is routinely attended by Executive Directors, CMOs, CFOs, General Counsel. It is a spectacular professional platform for technologist presenters to shine before their firm’s leaders who are in attendance. ILTA is an organization which has
basically claimed dominion over legal technology and to be the voice of the legal technology
community. So why shouldn’t law librarians, knowledge managers. legal
researchers and information strategists claim dominion over the larger universe
of legal content? Association for Legal Information works
are some of the issues which demonstrate the compelling need to modernize, enlarge and redefine
The American Association of Law Libraries:
A Name Or a Title Open Doors or Close Doors? Do the words “library” and “librarian”
open doors or close doors? These may be completely neutral and even positive
terms in academic and government organizations. In law firms these are career
limiting terms. Libraries are viewed a business units which exist for the
benefit of the associates –not feeding the strategic information needs of
the firm’s leadership, business and practice units. Although librarians have created the infrastructure for legal and business intelligence in law firms over the past 20 years, they remain largely outside the C Level planning. Although librarians may be the most highly credentialed administrative professionals in firms — their peers in IT, HR and Marketing have leapfrogged over them into the CSuite. As of 2013 only 17 — less than 1% of the 1,020 Clevel positions in large law firms are occupied of Chiefs of Library or KM.
10 Years, Half of AALL Members Will Work in Institutions Without Libraries According to
the 2014 ALM Library Survey, 68% of ALM firms expect to eliminate their print collections
in the next 5 to 8 years. Firms without libraries are likely to question the relevance of staff memberships in a library organization. If AALL doesn’t pivot dramatically toward the future,
private firm members will migrate towards an organization such as ILTA which is ready to claim dominion over all aspects of legal information.
Opportunities For Members. I am convinced that there is an untapped world of
opportunity in smaller firms who have no need for a librarian but who have an
enormous need for information professionals to curate news, to manage
digital resources, build portals, or to institute a km project. If
these lawyers and administrators had to go looking for a professional to handle
these non-bibliographic projects — are they likely to go to AALL or an organization called the Association
for Legal Information? And if Association
for Legal Information doesn’t exist, these
law firms will recruit through ILTA not AALL since
they don’t have a library!!!!
From Content To Process As legal information products incorporate more tools for
analytics, drafting and workflow, information professionals also need to learn
new non-bibliographic skills to support this transition and to train lawyers to integrate these new resources in their workflow.
of Membership Will Enhance Opportunity and Creativity Opening membership
to a wider group of members from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines will
accelerate creativity and enhance the kinds of collaborative learning available
to members. It will enhance the our ability to participate more effectively in
creating new information infrastructures and workflows to support the practice
of law. Yes we want to preserve the past but our members should play an important role in building the future.
Is the Future of Everything. Technologies cause convergence. The bright
line between administrative departments in law firms will fade. We need to be
prepared to lead teams including a
variety of professionals with differing skillsets—the skillsets defining
traditional librarianship are morphing and merging with skills from other
Innovative Graduates Into the Profession. Graduate Schools of Library Science
are transforming themselves into Schools of Information. Will the best and the
brightest these grads seek out a “library association” or “The Association for
Legal Information” as the best community for professional advancement?
AALL was founded in 1906 (14 years before women had the right to vote!) The
name has served us well for 110 years but in a legal world embracing AI, curation
and big data analytics it is time for a change that points to the
future not the past.
this week there was an article in the Legal
Times “We’re not even at the fear stage”–Richard Susskind on a very different future for the legal profession” Susskind
predicts a dramatic change in the work performed by lawyers. He sees the legal
profession as evolving through 3 stages. 1) Denial – they don’t really need to
change the way they work, 2) Sourcing legal work differently – focus on setting
up low cost centers; 3) Disruptive legal technologies. “ will dramatically change the work performed by
lawyers. By 2025 lawyers will be described as legal process
analysts, legal project managers, legal knowledge engineers. When asked if
lawyers were afraid of these changes Susskind answered : “ The major emotion I
find – and it’s probably a rationalization—is disbelief rather than fear. We
are not even at the fear stage.”