Law librarians, law practitioners, and others interested in thoughts on the future of law practice will be interested in a provocative new piece by Jordan Furlong: The Future is Now: Eight Emerging Roles for Law Librarians. It appears in the July 2013 issue of Thomson Reuters’s Practice Innovations.
Jordan offers thoughts on new potential opportunities for law librarians and knowledge management professionals—often themselves librarians by training—in new law firm models that he foresees developing in response to multi-factored legal market disruptions. He suggests,
Starting now, law librarians and KM personnel have the opportunity to integrate themselves into the architecture of the burgeoning new law firm model. The collection, curation, dissemination, and application of knowledge will lie at the heart of profitably efficient law firms of the future, and they are the stewards of that knowledge.
Jordan offers eight possibilities for new roles, half of which are firm-facing (Niche Expert Resource, Bespoke CLE Designer, Legal Project Management Coordinator, Business Intelligence Director) and the other half of which are client-facing (Legal Knowledge Liaison, Expert Application Programmer, Alternative Fee Arrangement Coordinator, Client Knowledge Engineer).
As usual, it seems to me Jordan shows spot-on foresight. Indeed, I do suspect some law firm librarians see themselves in similar roles already. For example, when I practiced law years ago, I worked with a librarian that many in the firm might have considered a business intelligence adviser, if not director.
Some of these roles are open also to lawyers practicing in a professional support capacity, of course. For example, a niche expert resource can be a role undertaken by research lawyers, or lawyers who are also librarians, which has been the experience of me and others I know. Similarly, law practice support lawyers often also design bespoke CLE programs. Jordan is quite right, I believe, in pointing out that many librarians also will have the skills to carry out these roles as well, perhaps as members of a team or perhaps independently, depending, of course, on the firm.
(A hat tip to Sarah Sutherland and Mandy Ostick for tweets leading me to Jordan’s article.)