Extras – The West Tech Knowledge Institute – A Participant's Account

Robyn Rebollo is the Washington, D.C. & Tysons, Virginia Law Librarian for Greenberg Traurig.

Does your career need an energy boost? Are you interested in knowing what types of technologies the cutting edge law firms, universities and institutions are implementing in their everyday practices? Are you curious to see the West headquarters metropolis, up front and center? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I highly encourage you to apply to West’s Tech-Knowledge Institute next year. Held for the first time in Eagan, Minnesota (July 12-13, 2001) in conjunction with the University of Texas Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS), the West Tech-Knowledge Institute’s objective is simply stated:

“The goal of the Institute is to educate law firm librarians in the basic technology found in law firms and to empower them to be an integral part of their firms’ intranet, extranet and portal development.”

All applicants were asked to complete a straight forward form. We were also required to compose an essay on the following questions:

  • Provide a one-page description of your firm’s existing knowledge management systems and/or intranet portal.
  • Provide a two-page statement addressing your interest in leading technology implementation and innovation in your law firm and how you expect the Institute to contribute to your goals.

After receiving an acceptance letter and brief overview of the agenda, I was pretty excited. The faculty members selected for moderating and presenting during the two day event were all rather impressive, each offering a different facet on technology and knowledge management issues. Some of the faculty members included:

  • Mary Lynn Rice-Lively, Assistant Dean for Information Technology, The University of Texas at Austin, Graduate School of Library & Information Science
  • Anne Ellis, Director, Library Relations, West Group
  • Linda Will, Director of Research, Greenberg Traurig
  • John Hokkanen, Knowledge Manager, Latham & Watkins
  • Lance Odegard, Manager, Technology Development for Corporate Matters, West Group
  • Joanne Claussen, Manager Product Development, West Technology Development

I arrived outside Egan, Minnesota late in the evening on July 11, 2001. Checking into the Double Tree Hotel so close to the gigantic Mall of America, I was not quite sure what to predict for the next two days. Was the Mall beckoning? It would have to wait. The hotel attendant had presented me with some materials provided by the Tech-knowledge Institute team. It included a very busy schedule, and the first case study that all 30+ participants would be responsible for solving.

The next morning I was up bright and early, since our agenda began at 8:00 a.m. All the participants were bused to West Group’s headquarters, which only took about 15-20 minutes. West Group’s headquarters is surely a sight to see for any librarian or legal professional who deals with West on a regular basis, whether that entails ordering publications, requesting passwords via RPM, or using their 1-800-Westlaw number for technical or reference related inquiries. The building is state of the art, and includes a nice campus. The first class began in the Thompson University Library, which was equipped with all our technological needs. There were plenty of places to plug in the laptops and other techie devices.

The main topics that were presented during the 2 day event included the following:

  1. Law Firm Technology
  2. Strategic Project Management
  3. Product Evaluation (online & traditional print)
  4. Information Architecture and Logical Elements of a Law Firm Intranet
  5. Intranet Design Technologies
  6. Intranet Content and Westlaw Integration Solutions
  7. Ongoing Management

Each topic offered valuable information in terms of advancements in the law library profession. Mary Lynn Rice-Lively’s discussion on Strategic Project Management was particularly interesting. The theories she discussed were applicable to just about any law librarian professional, either at the beginning or top of his/her career. Ms. Rice-Lively provided the following definition for Project Management: “the application of the systems approach to the management of technologically complex tasks or projects whose objectives are explicitly stated in terms of the time, cost, and performance parameters” – Cleland & King, 1988. The stages of Project Management are quite simple:

Along with the selected presentations throughout the two day event, participants were also required to work in teams on assigned projects. The first team assignment involved a case study where participants constructed and implemented a specific knowledge management project for their firm. It was up to each team to decide what kind of program would be best suited for their firm, in terms of growth and direct success. For example, one team chose to focus specifically on producing advanced practice pages for the firm’s intranet, where attorneys could locate all the tools and resources in one area, and where the content was personalized and easy to access.

In addition to all the rigorous brainstorming throughout the day, the event provided social and networking opportunities during lunch break sessions and dinner receptions. Thursday evening’s dinner at the Double Tree hotel was exceptionally fantastic since West setup an area where participants could demo the latest technological gadgets including West electronic books, Blackberries and other PDA devices. I should also point out that both participants and presenters in events such as these can really make or break it’s success. I believe the West Tech-Knowledge Institute was a great success due to the high energetic level of both participants and presenters. Everyone seemed pleased to be making a contribution, whether in break out groups, or Q & A sessions after a presentation. One more final note: all participants of the West Tech-Knowledge Institute have been asked to complete a post assignment that requires them to implement an IT project for their firm by using the skills and instruction learned from the 2 day training event. Once participants have submitted a paper detailing their projects, The University of Texas GSLIS will certify continuing education credits for attendees. All papers will be due on October 16, 2001.

Posted in: Extranets, Extras, Information Architecture, Intranets, Portals