Last year I pleaded with ALM to change the name of their annual Library survey since they had been predicting the end of Library’s for about 14 years. It was time to stipulate that print collections are shrinking and move on to exploring the dynamic organizations which have emerged in their place.

This year The American Lawyer has finally renamed the annual survey as the Survey of Law Firm Management Library and Research Professionals. The accompanying articles have shifted gear as well. The articles are titled “Law Librarian? Trying Chief Knowledge Officer” by Mary Ellen Egan and ‘From Providing Data to Providing Insight.” by Lizzy McLellan

The first article focuses on the morphing of librarians into knowledge management professionals who are focused on evaluating and introducing tools which provide new kinds of insights for business and legal strategy as well as competitive intelligence which are central to law firm strategies for success. The survey indicates that these intelligence responsibilities also include lateral candidate due diligence, research assisting with RFP responses, participating in client satisfaction research and pricing projects. It should not be surprising that with these expanded roles the survey reveals that law firms are willing to pay higher salaries.

Thought leaders in law firm knowledge management who are quoted in the article include Greg Lambert the CKO at Jackson Walker, Marlene Gebauer the Director of Knowledge Solutions at Greenberg Traurig, Steve Lastres Director of Knowledge Management Services at Debevoise and Plimpton, Catherine Monte, CKO at Fox Rothschild Elizabeth Chappieri, CKO at Nixon Peabody and Lucy Dylan CKO at Reed Smith.

Lastres and Monte both highlight the challenge keeping up with the complex ecosystem of emerging tools offering Artificial Intelligence and analytics. New products can offer law firms real competitive advantage but there are so many new start-ups with interesting ideas, it takes time to sort through the offerings and carefully assess the business case for each tool. Lastres explains the challenge “we are on the front line of technological adoption of a firm we have to evaluate each product and make recommendations to our attorney “ The challenge is made all the more daunting by the universal imperative to contain costs.

Can Firms Afford Not to Have A CKO? Chiapperi and Dillon highlight the transformation of the information professionals role. According to Nixon Peabody’s Chiapperi “our role has evolved from providing data to really providing insight you have to understand the business and understand what’s going on in the industry.” Dillon suggests that law firms without a CKO will be at a disadvantage: “it’s important to have someone who is responsible for knowledge at the table with all the Chiefs to manage other function… If it [knowledge] was lower down in the hierarchy of the organization we wouldn’t benefit from all those synergies “

While Lexis was for Bloomberg and Wolters Kluwer still represent an important share of spending for knowledge resources, I could not help but note in the full statistical report how large the “other” categories were. Questions asking responders to identify other tools ranged from 30 to 60% of the resources identified. The full ALM intelligence report includes a detailed list of important resources that are gradually being adopted for competitive intelligence and analytics insights. I would like to suggest that ALM incorporate these products by name into next year’s survey.

ROI Rules Another important insight from the survey is the wide adoption of tools to manage digital resources. 78% of responders now use some tool to measure the utilization and calculate the ROI for each resource. As new tools emerge knowledge professionals have leveraged tools such as Research Monitor and Onelog to help them actively manage their portfolios of digital resources . These tools provide custom law firm analytics and insight to justify the cancellation of an under performing product in order to introduce a more innovative and powerful new resource. That resource in turn will have to demonstrate rapid adoption in order to survive ROI analysis to make it into the next year’s budget.

Understanding the Data. Thanks to ALM for relinquishing the print-centric survey and highlighting the important new roles played by information professionals. There are what I would describe as some “transition pains.” The change in billables hours changed so dramatically that one has to assume that there may have been a dramatic change in the number or responders or the size of the firms responding. The data regarding the volume of research requests handled is so variable that there may be a misunderstanding of the question by some of the responders. The Egan article highlights staffing ratios as a percentage? I could not find staffing or budget ratios in the full report at all.

ALM Intelligence will be hosting a breakfast presentation to discuss the results of the ALM survey at the upcoming AALL conference in Austin on July 16 at 7:30 AM at the Hilton governors Ball room salon b.