AALL Spectrum

AALL Spectrum | January/February 2016 | Volume 20, Number 3

AALL Spectrum / Published by American Association of Law Libraries

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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 | AALL SPECTRUM 37 And it's a good thing those oppor- tunities are opening up, because they parallel a rapidly shrinking footprint for libraries in law firms. e law firm library's physical space is disappear- ing, damaging the library function's visibility and viability within law firm partnerships. ALM Legal Intelligence's 2015 Law Librarian Survey reported that a staggering 69 percent of responding law firms expected to elim- inate their print collections within the next five to eight years. at's an aston- ishing development. It would have been difficult to believe those numbers as recently as 2006—yet here we are, 10 years later, on the virtual brink of elimination for the oldest existing law firm resource. ese foregoing points help illus- trate the growing realities that, grad- ually but inevitably, the infrastructure and business models of law firms are changing. e traditional law firm was a collection of lawyers gathered under a single brand name to deliver legal ser- vices, assembling a superstructure of people and resources to support their individual efforts. e "engine room," if you like, of this firm was the lawyer: the firm's workflow, billing, com- pensation, leadership, culture—even its nomenclature—revolved around lawyers. ese firms even divided their personnel into two airtight categories: lawyers and everybody else (a.k.a. "non-lawyers"). If the lawyers didn't believe something was worth doing— let's say, just for example, knowledge management—it didn't get done. is model is slowly giving way to a new vision of law firms, one that revolves not around lawyers but around the firm's capacity to deliver services of value to clients. is new firm's "engine room" is not individual lawyers, but collected legal expertise applied to client needs. is is a fine difference, but an important one. e potent combination of advanced technology, burgeoning databanks, sophisticated analytics, and process improvement is enabling law firms to deliver solutions to clients without necessarily requiring the real-time application of lawyers' efforts. Put dif- ferently, law firms are discovering that they can provide some legal services to clients using only applied knowl- edge resources and technology. is, as you can imagine, has significant implications. Opportunities Ahead for Legal Information Professionals ere are several examples of large law firms that have already traveled some distance down this road. Littler Mendelson combines access to its own and client data with powerful analytical tools to calculate potential client damages in class actions and proactively identify litigation risks. Bryan Cave boasts a wide range of technology-driven initiatives that include claims management systems and loss prevention tools for clients. Foley & Lardner created a compli- ance system to help clients manage risks associated with Foreign Corrupt Practices Act rules. K&L Gates recently developed a series of on-demand CLE training tools that clients can use to stay on top of developments in their industries. e world's largest law firm, Dentons Dacheng, has its own tech- nology investment and R&D division, NextLaw Labs. A search of the legal press can point you to other examples. All these initiatives share two characteristics: This is a fine difference but an important one. The potent combination of advanced technology, burgeoning databanks, sophisticated analytics, and process improvement is enabling law firms to deliver solutions to clients without necessarily requiring the real-time application of lawyers' efforts. ¡ ¡ e first is that, although lawyers' efforts and expertise invariably contributed to the development of these law firm engines, lawyers are not usually required to directly deploy them: they can be accessed and used by clients or by law firm professional staff. ¡ ¡ e second is that, in almost all cases, the core element of these initiatives is information: both legal knowledge and non-legal data, applied and leveraged by technology, are the fundamental building blocks. is means that firms have other resource options, beyond lawyers alone, for the development and deliv- ery of value to clients. Lawyers will still be needed in order for the work to be done, but they will not always be needed to actually do the work. When I look at these developments, I start to think that maybe a golden age of opportunity is around the corner for law librarians, legal knowledge manag- ers, and legal information profession- als. Here's why. Broadly speaking, information that is potentially useful or valuable to law firms can be divided into as many as seven categories. 1. PUBLIC LEGAL INFORMATION: Legislation, regulations, common-law decisions, court and tribunal proce- dures, executive orders, and other primary legal sources Image © iStock.com/ Tashatuvango.

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