Notes from the Technology Trenches – September, 1998

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 10/15/98)

As we all know, technology can be both a boon and a burden, enlightening and enraging. This past month has provided examples of technology’s range and, so, this month’s column ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime (the Starr report to AMS’s use of professional librarians as a vital part of its knowledge management system).

It is rare that a major event occurs so close to my deadline, but late afternoon on Friday, September 11, a number of sites on the Internet, including Thomas, published the quite lengthy Starr Report. If you were lucky, you were able to get into one of these sites to download not only this document, but also the President’s rebuttal (which was available before the report itself). Of course, the next day, most major newspapers had reprinted the Starr Report in its entirety, but if you were looking for immediacy and experienced no delays, the Internet was definitely the place to be. I guess we can cite this as an example of democracy in action.

Incidentally, AltaVista has the Starr Report and the Clinton Rebuttal available in six languages: English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese and Spanish. The caveat is that “[t]he translation of these pages was done without human intervention. The quality of these translations may not fully capture the precision of the original legal text.” Hm. Having perused the Starr Report, perhaps one might prefer not to have the “precision of the original legal text” captured.

It is fortunate that newspapers are not quite virtual. Hard on the heels of the publication of the Starr Report on its Internet site, the New York Times was the victim of a major hacking incident. For several hours on Sunday, September 12, the site was not available. Since the paper chose to reproduce the report in its entirety in its Saturday edition, most subscribers to the New York Times in hard copy were not inconvenienced. However, for those looking for commentary on this major newspaper’s Web site, it was extremely frustrating. For those of you who may want to learn more about this incident, the Times had an article about it on page A18 in Monday’s edition. Needless to say, hacking is still very much a concern for all of us.

On a more upbeat note, I had my birthday recently and got an electronic greeting card from my sister and brother-in-law. The card had a musical accompaniment and was quite fun. I thought some of you might like to try it. The site is 123 Greetings – – and is, so far, free. In addition to birthday greetings, you can send all kinds of other messages: congratulations, wedding wishes, get well soon, etc.

Still looking to find a way to avoid keying in all your documents? Some time ago, I commented on voice character recognition programs, noting that they still were not ready for prime time. As you may know, Corel included Dragon Systems’ Dragon NaturallySpeaking software in its latest version of WordPerfect. Although I believe it is still a work in progress, a number of attorneys are using it successfully. There are others, of course, but I’ve just found out about a new alternative, CyberTranscriber.

Unlike other systems now available, a subscriber to CyberTranscriber needs little but a telephone connection and a computer (a 386 might do). According to the Web site, you have several alternatives. The simplest one allows you to dial CyberTranscriber’s toll-free telephone number and record your dictation when prompted and have the results sent to you via e-mail. CyperTranscriber’s voice recognition system (there is no human intervention) converts your recording into text that you can then edit. Copy is not instantaneous, however — it takes several hours for CyberTranscriber to send the text to you via e-mail in your preferred format (e.g., ASCII text in the body of the message or an attachment) with standard turnaround, according to the Web site, by the next business day. Right now, it appears that you cannot get your text as a WordPerfect file, but only as a Word file.

The cost of CyberTranscriber is as follows: $29.95 for the initial registration (although this is waived for the first 1,000 users); $9.95 per month to subscribe (entitles you to $14.00 worth of free transcription, or approximately four pages); $3.50 per double-spaced page transcribed in excess of your $14.00 allocation. Translated, this means that, if the first document for the month is a 30-page brief, you would pay $91.00, plus the monthly fee. If this brief is the second one for the month, then your cost is $105.00. For a sole practitioner who does not have a secretary, this may be a reasonable alternative. Since I have not yet used the system myself, I would be interested in any feedback from anyone who registers (you can try it free of charge) and tests CyberTranscriber.

While many of us are still either developing or discussing the development of intranets, a number of practitioners are moving forward into extranets, in order to communicate more directly with clients or work with co-counsel in litigation and other matters. This will be a topic of discussion at LegalWorks Tech show in New York on September 17th and 18th and was a feature of the recently concluded LegalTech here in New York. For a view of at least two extranet efforts on the Web, I suggest you view TrialNet – – and T-Lex – . I plan to cover this topic in more depth in a later column so stay tuned.

As I’m sure many of my readers are, I am always on the lookout for articles that discuss the involvement of professional librarians in the area of technology. In the July 1998 issue of the newsletter, Knowledge Inc.: The Executive Report on Knowledge, Technology & Performance (Stamford, CT: Quantum Era Enterprises), an article by Mary G. Gotschall highlighted the firm, American Management Systems (AMS) – – and its knowledge management system. It was quite refreshing to read that AMS uses “professional research librarians” to catalog and index the contributions to the knowledge management system by other professionals in the firm.

AMS, an international business and information technology consulting firm located in Fairfax, Virginia, relies on its reference librarians not only to index and catalog contributions to the knowledge management database, but also to provide reference assistance to those who need it. The author notes that the “company’s team of four reference librarians successfully handled more than 6,000 requests” in the last year. To give some perspective, the firm has 8,000 employees worldwide, 800 of whom are associates who are the lead contributors to the firm’s knowledge base.

Have you seen a recent article or know of a group of librarians involved with knowledge management efforts? If so, please drop me a line and I’ll mention them in a future column. Until next time, may your technology treat you well.

Posted in: Notes from the Technology Trenches, Technology Trends