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Notes from the Technology Trenches - November, 1997

By Elizabeth H. Klampert, Published on November 1, 1997

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.

(Archived December 1, 1997)


I hardly know where to begin, it’s been such an exciting month! The DOJ finally decides to get tough with Microsoft, Reed-Elsevier decides to take over Kluwer and fall has definitely arrived. I’ll start with some personal notes.

On October 21, Sabrina I. Pacifici (the illustrious LLRX editor) and I did a joint two hour presentation at PLI’s "Technology and the 21st Century Law Firm" seminar here in New York. Sabrina gave a presentation about the intranet she and her staff developed called "InfoWeb," a very impressive one, I must add! I discussed the "virtual law library" and its place in the "virtual law firm." The audience seemed responsive and, in the panel discussion held later that day, we had some pretty lively exchanges.

My view of the "virtual law library" is a skeptical one. That is, while we have aspects of one today, we are far from being able to rely on technology to provide us with all the information we need electronically. As one librarian put it recently, "Why would I want a library where information may become unavailable due to a technological glitch?"1 Having survived a system crash earlier this year and finding myself cut off from e-mail, as well as all those other great things on the network, I am very much a believer not only in hard copy, but redundancy in various forms. The keywords here are "backup, backup, and more backup" (or, perhaps, "mirror site, mirror site, mirror site").

Which is not to say that I don’t want anything to do with technology. Far from it. Let’s just use some common sense about it and recognize that we need to use all of our resources judiciously, including books when appropriate!

Moving on to another issue that hits us squarely in the pocketbook, Reed-Elsevier and Kluwer announced very recently that they will merge. Since Kluwer has only recently taken over CCH and been somewhat clueless as to how to handle that publisher, I am somewhat cautiously optimistic about this merger. Reed-Elsevier does seem to be quite clued-in to the legal market and, with CCH products now available in some fashion on LEXIS-NEXIS, may provide us with an alternative to print. However, all of this consolidation does not necessarily bode well for the legal community and will likely prove to be more costly than any of us would wish.

Most librarians, aka information professionals, with whom I’ve spoken about this and other issues, readily agree that providing information in many formats is the best way to go. However, not all of our constituents (the attorneys) are on board with this concept yet. Many attorneys (including young ones) prefer searching in the book and won’t touch CD-ROMs with a ten-foot pole. Others will use them reluctantly if there is nothing else available. Many are enthusiastic about the Internet until they end up spending way too much time trying to find something. Still others complain about the cost of LEXIS-NEXIS and WESTLAW. Well, no one said this was going to be easy!

Technology is producing some interesting changes with regard to our profession and not just opportunities to produce intranets, worthy projects though they are. Here in New York, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office is advertising for the newly created position of Information Manager -- candidates must be experienced law librarians. Out in Colorado, a new library school was established. The list goes on. There seems to be a recognition that, as Roberta Cooper Ramo noted a year ago, "[l]ibrarians, perhaps an old-fashioned term..., will do increasingly greater amounts of our groundwork and will become even stronger forces in our practices and our worlds."2

Lest you think I’m getting soft here, just one technical note and I’ll sign off. Recently, I needed to do some Internet research on electronic court filing (another column). Since my usual ISP was asleep at the wheel, I decided to use MSN, my only backup ISP. The article I needed was in PDF format, so I fired up the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Well, folks, in a 28.8 environment, there seems to be an incompatibility between Internet Explorer and Adobe Acrobat. The time it took for the latter to "paint" the document to my screen was excruciatingly slow. When I went in later that day and used Netscape, I got it, in comparison, blindingly fast.

I’ve tended to like Netscape more than the Internet Explorer, for a variety of reasons (OK, I have trouble dealing with large behemoths), but this was a good example of a product (Adobe Acrobat) that I’ve been using for a long time in the Netscape environment that did not perform well in the Internet Explorer environment. I’m sure that many of you can provide other instances. One concern here is that, with a move by the courts to electronic court filing using PDF, Internet Explorer users are going to be very frustrated unless some changes are made. Right now, most of the courts using PDF are also using Netscape.

As ever, please send me your experiences with and anecdotes about technology -- the good, the bad, the ugly. We’ll print what fits.

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Footnotes

  1. Legal Times, September 27, 1997, S38, S39.
  2. 68 N.Y.St. B.J., 12, 14 (1996).