Law Librarians’ Strategic Role

At tomorrow’s NYC Legal Tech, a discussion on an important theme I’ve not seen discussed outside AALL – the Law Librarian’s Role in Firmwide Strategic Issues.

This is part of an educational track on “The Evolving Role of the Law Librarian.” Major mergers bring all sorts of challenges such as maintaining continuity of information services, with attendant financial, logistical and organizational concerns.

“Law firm mergers are a fact of life in today’s economy,” says panelist Todd Erich Bennett, who has been through two major mergers that led to Thelen Reid & Priest forming in late 2006. “We have to learn how to navigate the waters. It’s OK to ask for some help.”

They will discuss the value of consultants, cultural issues that mergers bring up, tips on harmonious vendor relations and budget issues to consider.

The panel is Todd Erich Bennett West Coast head librarian Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner San Francisco

C. Shireen Kumar Chief executive officer Socrates CMS Formerly, associate director of Knowledge Management for the Americas Clifford Chance U.S. New York

Kate Martin Director of library services McKenna Long & Aldridge Washington, D.C.

Jean O’Grady Librarian WilmerHale Washington, D.C.

Karen S. Schubart New York director of library services Covington & Burling New York


  1. It’s fantastic to see this included as an educational track! I’d be interested to know what kind of turn out these sessions get, and how they are received.

  2. I should have mentioned the other session. Was anyone there?

    Today’s Tech Savvy Law Librarian: Bringing Greater Value to the Legal Industry’s Most Powerful Management Teams

    At one time, it seemed inevitable that advances in IT would result in the elimination of the law library and extinction of the law librarian. In fact,
    advances in IT have been a powerful catalyst for the evolution of the law library and the professionals who manage them. By mastering the latest
    tools and methods, today’s law librarians can manage greater quantities of information and different types of information more efficiently. Our
    panelists, respected law librarians from Am Law 100 firms, will discuss their involvement in competitive intelligence, vendor negotiations,
    -training end users, business development, internal budget processes and recruiting, retaining and motivating staff. Learn how tech-savvy librarians are evolving and bringing value to the legal industry’s most powerful management teams.
    Director of Library Services Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP Providence, Rhode Island
    Director of Libraries Baker Hostetler Cleveland, Ohio
    Firmwide Library Manager Morrison & Foerster LLP San Francisco, California
    Director of Information Resources Dorsey & Whitney Minneapolis, Minnesota

  3. Law Librarians Get Their Say

    Wednesday’s law library track proved to be a rich resource for sage advice. In the second session, entitled “In the Wake of a Merger: The Librarians Role in Firm-Wide Strategic Issues”, five veterans of mergers offered strategic and hands-on, practical tips for those caught in the whirlwind of two firms attempting to merge information services that are often at odds with each other. “‘Merger of equals’ speaks to the partners,” said Todd Erich Bennett, West Coast head librarian for Thelen Reid. “It doesn’t speak to the support staff.”

    The most commonly uttered phrase of the 90-minute discussion? “Cultural differences.”

    All five panelists had good advice to offer about dealing with a merger. A few tips:

    # Foster communication; talk to staff and consider inviting executives to meetings.
    # Don’t micromanage the acquired firm’s library if what it had been doing still works.
    # Immediately inventory all publishing licenses.
    # Immediately cancel redundant subscriptions and re-establish them under the new firm’s name to save expenses.
    # Vendors often will only speak to the person’s who’s truly in charge; try to make that easy for them.
    # Hire consultants to deal with things like vendor contracts to avoid hidden fees and decipher confusing proposals.

    “Working these things out takes time,” Bennett said. “Sometimes it seems you’re only truly integrated by the time you move on the next merger.