Notes from the Technology Trenches - February, 1999

Elizabeth H. Klampert is the Director of Library Services for the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Ms. Klampert was formerly a litigator for five years, specializing in professional liability litigation. Before attending law school, she was a corporate librarian for twelve years, holding management positions in libraries in a number of large organizations, including Rainier National Bank in Seattle, Deloitte & Touche, and Merrill Lynch, both in New York. She received both her BA in English and MLS from the University of Washington in Seattle. She received her JD at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York.


There are definitely some hints of spring here in the Northeast. Not a moment too soon, I might add. As usual, life is never dull on the technology front. I focus in this column on Legal Tech New York 1999 and PLI’s "Managing the Law Library 1999." In addition, I’ll give a brief report on my experience thus far with my new Palm Pilot III. For those who would prefer not to hear a rave about the Palm III, please move right past the next couple of paragraphs!

As I mentioned in my column last month, I finally bought a Palm Pilot at a very good price from Buy.com, a Web site that has been getting some good publicity lately. In any event, I started using it last month and am completely hooked. I’ve transferred all of the information from my paper address book to the Palm and am also using it as my main scheduling device. One of the great features is its ability to hook up to my computer so that I can transfer the information from my Palm Pilot to the computer and vice versa.

The only drawback is the Palm’s limited ability to import information from other scheduling programs, like Lotus Organizer which I use both at home and work. The Palm Pilot software will allow me to use it exclusively as my scheduling program, but I like some of the Organizer features, so am loath to give that up. If there is a Palm Pilot user out there that has figured out a way around this problem, please get in touch!

I put the Palm Pilot to practical use at Legal Tech New York 1999, held here in late January. Both Sabrina Pacifici and I gave presentations there on January 27 (please see http://www.llrx.com/extras/search /sld001.htm and http://www.llrx.com/extras/top10/sld001.htm for our respective presentations). The day before we spoke, we went to the exhibit area and walked around. I figured that making notes on my Palm Pilot would be a good test of the system, so opened up "Memo List" and went to town. Some Palm Pilot aficionados insist that using the graffiti feature is much faster than keying in the information, but once you’ve got the hang of it, keying in is pretty fast.

Legal Tech grows every year, but this year was the biggest yet with five seminar tracks. For this reason alone, the show seemed more confusing than in the past. In addition, there were again three floors of exhibits, with the 3rd floor still a kind of Siberia and not as well attended as the other two. There were at least 10,000 attendees registered; of these, 1,000 registered for seminars. Some programs were held in the exhibit booth area, but had to compete with a lot of noise. Vendors had a number of "supersessions" at their booths.

LEXIS-NEXIS practically had a floor to itself! Its various booths included LEXIS-NEXIS, of course, where the company was demonstrating its new intranet product. The other booths included Matthew Bender, Shepard's, and Lexis Law Publishing.

Bowne, a company best known for its printing capabilities is venturing into new territory. Its "Litigators Notebook" caught my eye. It struck me as a well organized, intuitive, user-friendly product that I might be tempted to use if I ever go back to being a litigator.

Not surprisingly, Legal Tech had a host of litigation support products on view, as well as the usual batch of legal forms. In addition, a number of legal support services had booths. Document management vendors were present in large numbers, as were consulting firms. Imaging was big, and so were time and billing packages. Case management software was also big this year.

For those of us who felt the need of a caffeine lift, there were coffee distributors scattered around. They also spared attendees from having to spend money at the high priced exhibit cafés!

Much to our surprise, President Clinton was there, taking a break from the sideshow in the Senate. Uniscribe, a leading document management service company, had a President Clinton look-a-like who was quite persuasive in getting exhibit attendees to have a picture taken with him. It was a big hit (and, yes, I got talked into having my picture taken).

Although a number of my colleagues told me they found a few, I didn’t see a lot of tchotchkes (a legal term) this year. I did get some water guns for my kids from the Medical Summary Inc., booth (Web site under construction). Special Counsel, a legal staffing and document management company, had some great slinkies and ProLaw, a legal software developer, had zebra beanie babies at its booth. I don’t know how I missed it, but those who saw it loved PubNETics’ "Talking Lawyer Doll," which you can order from PubNETics’ Web site.

Finishing up on the Palm Pilot theme, Advanced Productivity Software had a demo of the latest DTE software showing how info could be uploaded from a Palm III to a laptop, and then e-mailed to the user’s PC at the firm. The person demonstrating the link up had installed Opera (an alternative Web browser mentioned in one of my earlier columns) on his laptop and liked it a lot – takes up a lot less space than either Netscape or Internet Explorer.

A week later (yes, I know, doesn’t this woman have a day job?), I attended the New York presentation of the PLI seminar, Managing the Law Library 1999, focusing this year on Forging Effective Relationships in Today’s Life Office. It will be repeated (with different speakers and slightly different topics) in Chicago on March 19, 1999, and San Francisco on April 12, 1999.

The New York program featured teams of law librarians and their collaborators from other departments in their law firms or corporations. The first team, from Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, featured Nancy Rine, Director of Library Services and Steve Lewis, the firm’s Director of Information Services.

At Fried Frank, the library often serves as a beta tester for products that Steve is considering purchasing for the firm. Nancy noted, among other things, that she will have the IS folks sit in on meetings she has with information vendors. Steve said that, in turn, he will often have a representative from the library staff to meet with IS vendors to make sure that the IS vendor knows what the impact will be on content delivery.

Similarly, John Lai, Manager of Library Services at Shearman & Sterling, teamed with Eugene Stein, Director of Professional Systems at that firm, to discuss how the library, now part of the IT department, is brought into management decisions regarding technology. John and Eugene described the firm’s Knowledge Management System and how the library is an integral part of the process.

When questioned about why the library should be a part of IT, both John and Eugene stressed that the trend toward knowledge management dictates the logic behind this combination. The library’s contribution is essential because, while IT provides the mechanism to get out the information, the library provides the content. Sound familiar? It may seem obvious, but Nancy and Steve also noted that, to make this work, there has to be a good personal relationship between the two department heads.

The next pair, Nathan Rosen and Alan Fromm of Credit Suisse First Boston, discussed the role of the law librarian in continuing legal education and their successful collaboration. Nathan believes that CLE is a growth area for librarians and Alan, the firm’s head of training, has been happy to have Nathan’s input. Before Nathan got involved in CLE for the attorneys on Credit Suisse’s staff, the programs for them were not as focused or well-attended as they are now.

Both Nathan and Alan discussed the importance of the firm’s intranet in providing training to attorneys and other staff. One of the software programs they are using for Web-based training is NETg.

Moving on, Jean O’Grady, Director of Information Services at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering and Lucy Pearson, that firm’s Practice Area Manager, described how the library and the firm’s legal assistants can work with each other to provide the best service possible to the firm’s attorneys. They noted that boundaries between their departments have blurred due to the Internet.

Jean stressed that the demand for library staff to do more high level research has increased even though she is constantly training others to do their own research. In fact, she has added several new staff, including two reference librarians and a paraprofessional. She noted that collaboration has only enhanced the library and not diminished it in the least.

After a break for a networking lunch, the next two speakers were from Prudential Insurance Company America’s Law Department. Johanna Bizub, Library Manager and Melissa Esposito, Director of Finance, discussed their collaborative efforts, noting that with all the changes at Prudential, the budget process is now an all-year event, not confined to just the fourth quarter.

Johanna described some of the cost-cutting measures she has undertaken, including divesting hard copy and acquiring electronic versions of products. She discussed some of the tools she’s using to track costs and the need to have a vendor tracking system locally because there is no way to get this information (yet) from the Finance group. And we all thought it was just a law firm issue!

Next to speak, on the issue of records management and conflict checking, were Ruth Fraley, and Martha Goldman, the only pair not from the same organization. Martha, Director of Information Services at Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, led off, noting that records management is a logical area for the library to manage and one she’s been involved with for many years. She mentioned a number of records management organizations that can be of help when the library either decides or is asked to take on this function. One of these organizations, ARMA International (Association of Records Managers and Administrators) has recently announced that it will now encompass a number of different disciplines, including corporate librarianship.

Ruth Fraley, Assistant Deputy, Chief Administrator, Division of Legal Information and Records Management, New York State Unified Court System (boy, I’d like to see her business card!) spoke on the need to integrate all kinds of information resources: libraries, records management, accounting and conflicts. She stressed that information must be integrated and retrievable, using the New York Court’s Unified Court System Web site as a good example of this. Ruth is also the Web diva for this well-organized, informative and attractive site.

Ruth sees her function and, by extension, that of all librarians, to integrate and make smooth the information environment, remembering to put people (not the technology) first. With regard to conflicts management, she referred the attendees to a LawLib posting on January 12, 1999, describing the position of Conflicts Administrator, noting that the duties listed sounded a lot like what librarians do.

Ruth also made reference to an article in the January 1999 issue of Working Woman Magazine (also found on the magazine’s Web site – click on "20 Hot Careers," under "Special Databases") that described librarianship as a not-so-hot career, but listing knowledge management as a hot one. I took a look at the article (naturally) and note that the focus in the not-so-hot article was not on special libraries, but on city, school and college libraries. Special librarians are actually pretty hot as a recent article on the Wall Street Journal Interactive public Web site notes.

Last, but certainly not least, Alison Alifano, Director of Library Services at the New York County Lawyers’ Association, and Marilyn Flood, Executive Director of this organization, discussed how to go about building a team that includes all senior managers, including the library director. Their description of the collaborative efforts taking place at their organization was not only a great wrap-up for the daylong seminar but also a great inspiration.

On a totally different note, in wrapping up this column, I refer you all to a very funny list compiled by the SUNY Binghamton Library, "Librarians in the Movies." This is a list of movies that include a character identified as a librarian, portraying to some degree the stereotype we’ve all come to know and loathe. It’s an amazing list – if nothing else, it will add to your trivia trove.

Well, here’s to spring and the hope that your technology will support you and not place roadblocks in your path!