Co-hosts Phil Rosenthal and Chuck Lowry are joined by current and former AALL presidents Femi Cadmus and Greg Lambert to discuss the inaugural State of the Profession Report. They review the details of how its data was aggregated, survey some of the more notable trends, and talk about new opportunities arising outside of traditional law librarian roles. They also examine the goals of the report moving forward, including when the association hopes to repeat the survey and what additional trends they plan to track in the future.
Femi Cadmus is the Archibald C. and Frances Fulk Rufty research professor of law, associate dean of Information Services and Technology, director of the Michael J. Goodson Library at Duke University School of Law, and current president of the American Association of Law Libraries.
Greg Lambert is the chief knowledge services officer at Jackson Walker and is the former president of American Association of Law Libraries.
Special thanks to Fastcase for sponsoring this episode.
On The Road
AALL 2019: State of the Profession Report
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Phil Rosenthal: Hello and welcome to another edition of On The Road with Legal Talk Network. This is Phil Rosenthal.
I am joined by Chuck Lowry and we are the hosts for today’s show, which is being recorded on location at the American Association of Law Libraries’ Annual Meeting & Conference from Washington DC.
Joining me now, I have the President of AALL, Femi Cadmus and the immediate past President, Greg Lambert.
Welcome to the show.
Greg Lambert: Thanks Phil.
Femi Cadmus: Thank you Phil.
Phil Rosenthal: Well, before we get to our topic, which is the State of the Profession 2019 from AALL, please tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Femi Cadmus: So Phil, you noted correctly, that I am the current President of the American Association of Law Libraries, but my daytime regular job is Research Professor, Associate Dean and Director of the Library at Duke Law School in Durham, North Carolina.
Greg Lambert: And I am the immediate past President, so I was President the year before Femi took over this year, and I am the Chief Knowledge Services Officer for Jackson Walker out of Houston, Texas.
Phil Rosenthal: Great. Well, thank you. So let’s just begin. If you could tell us Femi, maybe a little bit about this report, it’s a landmark report, and what you think is the biggest conclusion or conclusions you draw from it.
Femi Cadmus: So this is inaugural report, we have never had a State of the Profession survey. We have just never canvassed the landscape to figure out what we are doing and what the trends are in budgeting, in staffing, in training, in competencies. We have never done it before and it was time to do this. And so that was the impetus that we needed to track trends.
I think the biggest takeaway that I have seen in this entire report is how versatile we are as law librarians and legal information professionals and how we are responding to changing times and evolving technology and actually taking the lead in our various organizations and institutions, that has just been a big revelation. We knew it, but when you are seeing the hard data, it just brings it home so much more. That’s been the biggest takeaway for me.
Phil Rosenthal: Sure. Great. Thank you. And Greg, what would be your biggest takeaway?
Greg Lambert: And I think we are in a data-driven economy, we are a data-driven industry, and one of the things that we were lacking before was actually going to the powers that be at our organization and having solid data points to present to them about what we do, what we can bring to the table, what our effects are, and this allows us then to have those data points to bring to them.
Chuck Lowry: Just to follow up on something Femi said, this is the inaugural report. Have we given any thought to every two years, every three years, every four years?
Femi Cadmus: So it’s been a couple of months and we have seen tremendous interest and a great response to the report. I think one of the things that we haven’t tracked in this report that came through very quickly were trends in diversity. What are we as a profession, are we diverse enough, which makes me think we are probably going to go back to the table, to the drawing board quicker than probably what we contemplated.
We want this to be regular. We know the landscape is changing so rapidly. So I think that a one to two year turnaround timeframe would actually capture trends better than waiting for an extended period of time. But I can see this, it was very exhaustive, very comprehensive, and a lot of work put into it, but I can see this happening possibly sometime in late 2020 or in 2021.
Greg Lambert: Yeah, and we will be following up with the membership to get their feedback on this and determine what data points are we hitting that are important to their sub-segment of the industry and what data points do we need to look at on the next go round.
Chuck Lowry: So it’s probably going to be tweaked a little bit, you may do some sections more often than others.
Greg Lambert: Yeah, if I had to guess and it would be a guess, we would look at every two to three years that we would revamp the State of the Profession survey.
Phil Rosenthal: Do you think there will be SIS specific questions in the future?
Greg Lambert: The SIS is our core function of AALL, and for those that don’t know AALL, that’s a Special Interest Sections. So that covers things like the academic law librarians, the government librarians, the private law firm, technical services, there is a number of these Special Interest Sections. And because they do have such a core relevancy to the profession, they are definitely people that are on the front line that we will be checking in with on any changes that we have.
But that being said, we want to make sure that we are not significantly changing things. We want surveys that we can track the same type of issue over time and so it won’t be huge major changes, it will be tweaking around the edges.
Femi Cadmus: I should add that the State of the Profession report was not a single one person report. We had contributions from an advisory board and our advisory board was comprised of major segments; Greg has alluded to that, that we have three major segments; the academic law libraries, private firm, corporate libraries and government. So we had representations. So in a sense, SIS is the Special Interest Sections, we are represented.
And then we had support from headquarters, so we — Megan Mall is a staff member who is based in Chicago and she coordinated this effort very well, because she is a librarian also and has the background and context.
Chuck Lowry: So if I could just ask about one of the specifics, and I don’t want to make this a promotional question, but one of the really fantastic things about this report is that while there are very interesting data summaries and conclusions in the front, you don’t have to guess how they got to them because all of the charts and details are in the back, really fantastic.
One of the things that struck me, and I am no mathematician, so I may be completely off-base here, talking about the budgets in law schools, and the mean budget decrease over three or four years was 17%, the median budget was 29%, and I am wondering if that does not indicate that maybe we are moving even more dramatically than in the past to sort of a two-tier system, where in fact the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and we should expect Supreme Court justices from Harvard, Georgetown, Stanford and Yale.
Femi Cadmus: So I think one of the things that surprised me the most in looking at the data was that the budget hits seem to have been taken mostly — well, most hard by law schools. I was surprised. I thought surely it will be government or maybe it will be the privates, but no, it’s in academic institutions.
And in terms of the alignment, I think that it would probably reinforce the way things are aligned right now. It’s just reflective of where we are. So I don’t think that the poor schools are getting poorer or the rich schools are getting richer, I think across the board all schools, be they in the top 10, and I happen to have worked in top 10 law schools, they are suffering decline in budgets too. So it’s just across the board, across the gamut.
The amazing thing though is that librarians are very smart and they are responding even to these changes and the declining budgets, streamlining operations, and thankfully technology and automation is making it possible for us to actually do more with less. I know people hate that terminology, that phrase, but that’s the reality that most of our new hires in academic law libraries and librarians with sophisticated skills and expertise and we are hiring less of the support staff, less of the people who just do the task-oriented work and more of the high-level skills are being recruited.
So everyone from the number one law school to the unranked law schools are responding very diligently and very smartly to a changing landscape, which is marked by huge declines in budget and in revenue.
Greg Lambert: And Chuck, if I can add too, just a little bit on the government and the private side, I think a lot of that that you see in the decline is timing. I think out of the 2008-2009 recession, the private law libraries took a huge hit at the beginning of that and we are coming out of that.
The government librarians, a year or two after that took an even bigger hit, and I would say they have not really recovered from that. The academic I think was a little bit delayed in feeling the effect for a long time, but they are kind of feeling that now. But I think with the exception of maybe the government librarians, because that’s almost a different situation now regardless of the economy, I think we are probably going to see the academics pulling back out of that for a couple of reasons.
One, you are seeing more students enter law school again. So that fear of, I will never get a job out of law school I think is subsiding a little bit. So you are going — I think you are going to see a recovery on that.
And then the second option is that we are all looking at alternative ways of expressing and showing our value and some of that shows up as creating things that may be outside the library budget. We may have created new departments or supplemented other departments, so there may be funding coming in that doesn’t show up as a library budget, but that the library itself has some effect on.
Phil Rosenthal: Well, that’s clearly one of the more notable conclusions I think from the report. And Greg, what surprised you the most?
Greg Lambert: I think a lot of it is, from a private law librarian standpoint, we still hold a lot of the purse strings at the — at our institutions and we have a really good relationship with the legal information providers and the vendors that are out there that are promoting knowledge-based products. And one of the best things that we have is that relationship, and we are also one of the first people that these vendors tend to go to, to pitch their ideas, to test their ideas, and to get feedback from, because we have a wide variety of skill sets.
We deal — I always say, I could deal with a litigation question in the morning, a real estate question in the afternoon, and an IP question at the end of the day, and because we have that diversity and talent, we have a diversity of vendors that come in and that I think shows up in this report.
Chuck Lowry: One of the things that that I noticed, and this is something, in full disclosure, something that Greg and I have discussed before. One of the things that I have noticed is that only, for instance, about two-thirds of the libraries are involved in their firms’ efforts at AI and data analytics and machine learning. A shockingly low percentage of the libraries are involved in their firms’ main competitive intelligence research, and I wonder what that says specifically about either the breadth or the future of the association that people like KM attorneys and competitive intelligence researchers that are in the marketing department and data analysts that work sometimes for the marketing department, sometimes for the CFO, that the people who do buy a lot of information, materials or work with them aren’t in the library, and is there any thought of addressing that situation?
Greg Lambert: It’s definitely part of — do you mind if I take that one Femi? It’s definitely part of the rebranding effort that the Association has done over the past three or four years, and I know what you are getting at is the term library something that is a benefit or a detriment. And I would say if you ask the membership, they are very proud to be librarians and there is a lot that is to offer from librarians.
And one of the benefits of having this report is that they are able to show that two-thirds of the firms that are doing AI have their librarians involved in that. And so that’s the data point that we can bring to the powers that be that says look, this is a knowledge question, this is not a technology question, this is a knowledge question and we are your knowledge experts.
So people like being identified as the librarian. I do not have that in my title, but when people talk to me, I will tell them the first thing is I am a law librarian, and here is what we can do. But we have to kind of disassociate the proudness that we have for the term with the ability to understand what it is that we do that may or may not be reflective in a title that the person you are talking to may be limited in understanding how broad that is.
And one of the things that the Association is doing is really reaching out and talking to industry leaders, thought leaders, bringing people in to talk and talk to our members on how to relay that in the words that make sense to our leadership back at our firms or other institutions. And so I think again, we are knowledge workers, in a knowledge industry, we need the data to tell us what’s going on and the State of the Profession report helps us tell that story.
Phil Rosenthal: Following up on that, I thought it was fascinating that there was a question about who runs KM basically in law firms and the jury is still out. It’s 40% librarians, 40% IT, and I was wondering maybe Femi could lead us off with what AALL can do to help boost it so that the world realizes it should be the librarians running KM, not IT and also what can come out of the academic side to prepare folks for that.
Femi Cadmus: I think I will take this from another angle. We actually — we are seeing diversity in our membership and those who belong to the Association. So while we have the label, and historically we have always had it, American Association of Law Libraries, and frequently we just say AALL these days, we are seeing a broad spectrum of membership, our membership is extending outside of librarians and legal information professionals. We have technologists who are coming into our Association.
So I don’t see it as an angle of hey, KM or AI or this should belong to the library; I see different people with different skills and different expertise and background coming into the Association. I see this very healthy, very robust opportunity for building synergies and collaborations and partnerships and working together. So I wouldn’t reinforce the divide or highlight the divide, like you are supposed to be doing this and I am supposed to be doing this, I think that we want to work together collaboratively and we are extending this invitation for all kinds of backgrounds and all kinds of expertise and skills to come into our Association.
For example, I have always as a Law Library Director just overseen the library, and then I took on my role at Duke Law School where I am the Associate Dean for Information Services and I have oversight, not just over the Law Library, but over IT and academic technologies. So I am running not just the Law Library, but I am running IT and academic technologies, we are merged, and we are called Information Services.
So I see that as the future of law libraries that the demarcation and the boundaries are going to be really very blurred and will actually at a point start to merge. So that’s the way that I see it, and that’s what I am experiencing, that’s what I am living right now. So it’s me and the IT folks and the AgTech folks and I am learning so much so quickly in having oversight of that department.
Phil Rosenthal: I love it. It’s a great message of unity, that AALL is a home for all, and if you do this kind of work, let’s bring everybody in.
And Greg, is that where you think it’s going as well?
Greg Lambert: Yeah. And there is a couple of things. One, if you asked a 100 different law firms to define what knowledge management is, you will get a 100 different definitions. So knowledge management means something different to everyone, and as far as the operations of knowledge management, it’s not a zero-sum game. It is — the ability to use resources across different departments, to understand where the — what the desires are of the law firm, and then define that and determine, is this an information and technology issue or is this a knowledge and resources issue, and be able to play that part, to understand how to read the rule at your institution and determine what is the best role that I can do here.
And over the years, when KM initially started, when you saw it move to IT, people saw it as a technology issue and that the technology could answer the knowledge management questions, and we are finding out that that’s not true. It’s partly a technology, because everything is technology these days, but it’s also a lot of information and knowledge and institutional knowledge and understanding that, and that takes attorneys, that takes technology, and it takes your knowledge workers, including your librarians.
Chuck Lowry: One of the things I noticed, that all of the sectors were very much interested in AI and data analytics, machine learning, natural language processing, one of the interesting things I saw in the report though is that only half as many law firm libraries were using AI actually in their library management as corporate libraries were. And I wonder if there is any reason for that and what that says about — what role do you see for these new technologies, not only being managed by the library on behalf of the firm, but actually being used to make the library and information services better?
Greg Lambert: Well, I can tell you that one of the good things that library and information professionals can do is they can determine what is real and what is PR, and I will tell you that a lot of times we will look at products that claim to have some type of artificial intelligence or machine learning and we look at it and we put it through the test and it doesn’t quite meet up with what the glossy brochure says that it will do.
And so I would say that we have probably a higher threshold to hit for some people, for some — especially some new technologies, and then we also have the ability to determine whether or not that — this is a really great product that does what it does, but it doesn’t fit necessarily what we do on the ground.
And we have those relationships, again, with the vendors and we have the relationship with our attorneys understanding what it is the results that they are wanting to do and to guide them and determine whether or not the product that looks really good on paper, when we actually put it to the test may not actually work.
And that also works the other way. There is some technologies that do very well that aren’t necessarily as well known or publicized or can be used in different ways other than how they are promoting it, and so there is kind of value on both sides of that.
Phil Rosenthal: So it seems there is a lot of good news in this report, but one thing that struck me and really across all sectors, whether it be academic, government or firm and corporate, is an overwhelming number of librarians said that there really was no opportunity or not enough opportunity for advancements, and I was wondering if you could address what, if anything, we can do to fix that, because it was almost roughly a 2:1 margin across the board?
Femi Cadmus: Well, I think if you look at our demographics, that’s going to change. We increasingly at the top have many librarians and legal information professionals who are retiring or will be retiring very soon, so I see a shift happening. But at the same time, I also see that members need to be trained, need to be trained to move into increasing areas of responsibility, and what we are — in the Association what we are doing is curating our programming, curating educational programs towards that end.
We are actually exploring at this point an e-learning type of option for folks who can’t travel, for example, to the annual conference, folks who can’t even go to meetings in their local chapters, in their states, who are kind of bound to the office or don’t have the resources to advance and to get trained. So we are going — we are embarking on e-learning. Some of them will be deep dives, some of them will be short training sessions, and these will be all aligned, where members can in the comfort of their homes or their offices upgrade their skills and upgrade their expertise and their learning and prepare them for promotion and upward mobility.
So I think those two things will help; continuous training and development, professional development. We have also short programs, leadership programs that we have in Chicago mostly, Competitive Intelligence Institute, we have an Executive Institute that we will hold here in Washington DC after the annual meeting.
So we are really big into training, it’s part of our strategic direction, it’s a linchpin of our strategic plan that we need to train the next generation of legal information professionals and law librarians. So, on both ends we are prepared. We are prepared in terms of succession planning, equipping them, preparing them to step into roles when leaders at the top leave through retirements and we are seeing a lot of the retirements happening.
Phil Rosenthal: I wonder also your idea of widening the tent in a sense and bringing in all the different disciplines would fix the problem too. If you don’t narrowly define your niche, then there might be lots of opportunities to move slightly laterally.
Femi Cadmus: Exactly, exactly. And we are seeing that happen, it just needs to happen on a wider scale, but it definitely is happening, where I remember looking at an online job page and the ad was for a machine learning analyst and the company had decided to post on the American Association of Law Libraries’ job site, because we essentially have those basic skills and we just need to build them up and broaden them. Our members are looking at nontraditional positions.
I think we are now getting enlightened and there is that revelation and aha moment that hey, I have these skills. I know how to retrieve information. I know how to preserve. I know how to curate, organize information and make it discoverable, I can do so much more than just working in a traditional library job. So that’s happening increasingly.
Greg Lambert: And one of the things that I think we are promoting very well is, if you are looking at the job trajectory of coming in as an assistant, as an analyst, as a manager, as a director and you are looking at that ladder of success, really have to understand that there are so many other opportunities out there for the skill sets that we bring that it may take a jog off to the left or right on that ladder, and all of a sudden you find yourself on a different ladder.
And something that you may not have thought about, whether it’s knowledge management or data analytics, or we even have data scientists that are here. So I think there is still lots of opportunities, it’s just nontraditional opportunities that are out there.
Phil Rosenthal: Well, thank you. Well, I think for our last question, I will turn it over to my colleague Chuck.
Chuck Lowry: Well, good. All right, I wanted to follow up briefly as long as we were discussing career trajectories and it’s great that we have someone here from the law firm world and someone from the academic world. One of the statistics that really stuck out was the much higher percentage of law school librarians who have both the MLS and the JD. And I thought maybe Greg would have some thoughts about whether or not a JD for law firm directors is more or less necessary now than it was five or six or seven years ago.
Greg Lambert: I don’t ever think that it was — it’s not like in academics where it’s a requirement, it’s a hard written rule; I think that in the law firms there have been plenty of directors or management level folks that are not JDs and there is just a lot of skill sets that a librarian brings in through their understanding of how to compile information, how to understand it, how to work with the vendors, how to train people on how to use the products that are very beneficial and bring high value to a firm. So it’s not necessarily that they have to understand the law, they have to understand how to run the legal information department.
Chuck Lowry: And Femi.
Femi Cadmus: Really in the academics — in academic law libraries, the JD continues to be a very important component. I am not saying it’s the be all and end all, but increasingly we are serving as faculty in law schools, we are teaching law students and we are providing support for clinical education, that really requires having a background in the law.
There are other opportunities in academic law libraries that don’t require it, but I will say predominantly that’s the case, and Chuck, that’s why your observation is very correct, that’s the way it is in law schools and I think it will continue to be that way for a while.
Phil Rosenthal: Well, it looks like we have reached the end of the road for our episode. I want to thank our guests for joining us today.
Greg Lambert: Thanks for having us.
Femi Cadmus: Thank you Phil for having us and thank you Chuck.
Phil Rosenthal: Yeah, thanks Chuck. And if our listeners have questions or wish to follow up with you, how can they reach you?
Femi Cadmus: So our listeners are very savvy, they can find me I am sure by just googling me, so that’s not going to be a problem.
Phil Rosenthal: Pretty well-known.
Greg Lambert: And they can find me, if they want to reach out on Twitter, it’s @glambert or @glambert, as I like to say, or I do a separate podcast called The Geek In Review.
Phil Rosenthal: Well, thank you to our listeners for tuning in.
If you liked what you heard, please rate and review us in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcasting app. I am Phil Rosenthal, and on behalf of Chuck Lowry, until next time, thank you for listening.
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