Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Four Imperatives For for 2012: The Legal Information Professional's Perspective

In today's Strategic Legal Technology, my friend and former colleague Ron Friedmann posted a Open Letter to BigLaw Managing Partners: Four Imperatives for 2012 and Beyond

Here is my reinterpretation of Ron's recommendations for thriving the "new normal"  which includes both mandates and opportunities  for information professionals ...with some additional insights for Managing Partners.

1. Improve value by working more effectively.  Bring in your research experts - early and often.

Consider using librarians as research project managers to control cost and reduce time and manpower invested in complex research projects. While partners bewail the cost and the inefficiencies of associates research skills, most firms have not leveraged the research skills of the research staff as a strategic process management component of their AFA strategy .
As clients demand better value, lawyers need to become more efficient. Librarians and information professionals routinely deliver more value than they are credited for.

2. Diagnose and Improve your Business Operations

Any library Director who has not begun to plan for streamlining and centralization of processes is dangerously behind the curve or "tone deaf" to the drumbeat of the market place. Do not wait to be asked to streamline - by then it may be too late. Law firm partners should also consider how the well honed  expertise  of research professionals, using highly specialized resources can analyse complex research problems and deliver analytical reports on a range of issues from companies or  industries to securities trading histories to dossiers on expert witnesses. These same projects which a librarian can deliver quickly,   could take days, if assigned to paralegals or project assistants that lack specialized skills and training.

Research and knowledge staff are also at the forefront of building intranet based "gadgets" and "self service" tools which allow anyone at the firm to quickly retrieve dockets, cases, patents, statutes, in one click without any specialized research training and without incurring client charges. All of these activities contribute to the streamlining of headcount which would have been required in more labor intensive approaches which prevail in the absence of specialized research expertise and guidance.

3. Engage Your Clients

This is my personal favorite on this list. "... to truly engage clients your lawyers need to know their business. Partners must read the news ...about their business and legal problems." Librarians have been out in front of this one too. Information professionals are investigating the next generation of monitoring services Linex, Attensa, Manzama, Ozmosys "Open Alerts" which go well beyond looking for company names in news stories but can can aggregate, generate trending reports, word clouds and other graphical reports for heightening your expertise on a client's "pain points" and opportunities.

4. Adopt Metrics and Formal Governance Mechanisms

For me the "holy grail" of strategic information management would involve having firmwide metrics on information seeking activities undertaken by lawyers and staff in order to analyze opportunities for streamlining workflow and to optimize the matching of research activities with staff skill sets or identifying training or resource needs to improve productivity. 

Information professionals should continue to improve the collection and analysis of research staff activities by implementing research "help desk" applications which will not only improve workflow but also provide vital data on staff activities which can be used for developing benchmarks for processes and the measurement of the ever elusive "value" metric. The measurement of resource value can be tackled with the implementation of bar-coding of print resources to measure utilization by lawyers. Although Onelog ,Research Monitor and Lookup Precision have offered many firms substantial benefits in measuring utilization of digital resources within the firm's network, these products will have to be upgraded to address the growing population of "un-tethered" resources, As lawyers migrate to portable libraries and ebooks on I-pads, tablets and smart phones, the current generation of monitoring tools may hit a wall but the need for utilization metrics will not.

"It Takes a Team"

Ron saved the best for last. He concluded his post with a recommendation that law firms drop use of the term "non-lawyer."  A phase so pervasive that frankly until this moment  I had not noticed the absurdity of defining about half of the average law firm population in terms of what they "are not." Other professional services organizations such as consulting firms are decades ahead of law firms in recognizing the importance of other professionals in building a cohesive client  support team. Since the practice of law is an information intensive profession which requires effective research and knowledge management skills, the "new normal" should create new opportunities for information professionals to have enhanced and important new roles on client teams and  in modeling innovative value enhancing strategies.

Related Posts: Centralization as a Value Strategy

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Wolters Kluwer/Reed Elsevier Merger That Wasn't: An Insider's History

Since thirteen or fourteen years is an eternity in the world of business cycles, here is a bit of history for the young 'uns about an earlier merger/purchase. In 1998, at about the time of the Frankfurt Book Fair (early-mid October), Wolters Kluwer and Reed Elsevier announced a merger. This was pretty shocking news to our profession, and tons of ink were spilled on the subject. The merger eventually fell apart. The official story was that competition law considerations, particularly in Europe (Mario Monti was just taking charge of that particular EU bureaucracy, and as any of you who may be Microsoft shareholders know, he was tough tough tough), scuttled the merger. The informal chat was that the finances, especially given the volatility of the respective stock prices, could not be made to work. Your correspondent is unable to say with any authority how much truth there may have been to that.

The major impact that the merger announcement had on the U.S. legal publishing industry is that it sent Times Mirror, owner of Matthew Bender (where I worked at the time), into deliberations. Times Mirror was a publicly-held company largely controlled by the Chandler family, and the thinking went, "Even if this particular merger does not work, there will be others, and we shall sit here with one little legal publishing company, Matthew Bender, facing huge combines, and it will not survive." Thus it was that five months later the entire, and I mean entire, NY-based Matthew Bender workforce gathered in a movie theater on East 34th Street at 3:00 P.M. to hear the announcement that Times Mirror was seeking a buyer for Matthew Bender. We were held in the movie theater (closest to cops-and-robbers, or SEC enforcement, most of us ever got) until the stock market had closed for the day and the announcement had been made to the public.

The following months were a period of uncertainty but not much mystery. A year earlier, Times Mirror and Reed Elsevier had jointly acquired the Shepherd’s citation service from McGraw Hill through a product swap and partnership agreement, and had assigned operational responsibility to, respectively, Matthew Bender and Lexis-Nexis. The “conventional wisdom” had it that Reed Elsevier would be the only suitor for Matthew Bender, which would be folded into Lexis-Nexis. In this case, the conventional wisdom was just right, and it happened as predicted.

In the subsequent decade plus, the pace of consolidation has been frantic, especially compared to that pre-1998 era of tranquility. New providers and platforms are swallowed up as quickly as they show either profit or potential, and even established and very successful (e.g. BNA) entities are not immune. Thus as momentous as the Bender sale to Reed Elsevier was in 1999, it is by today’s measure pretty small potatoes. It also gives those of us who experienced it a new insight on the famous “you think it’s tough now, just wait” sentiment of Aeneas (Aeneid I.203): Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.

Perhaps someday it will be pleasant to look back even on these times.

Contributed by Guest blogger: Chuck Lowry,  legal publishing industry veteran.
Chuck is currently in enterprise sales at Fastcase. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not his employer.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Thomson Reuters/Wolters Kluwer Merger: Coming Around Again?

It's not just the logos  that suggest an interesting symmetry! 

Today Exane BNP Paribas released an equity research report suggesting that the time may once again, be ripe for a Thomson Reuters/Wolters  Kluwer merger. While the US legal publishing units Westlaw and CCH are not the main focus of this speculation, it is clear that the professional publishing units in the US would be ”in play,” in any such combination. The primary driver for Thomson is to reduce it’s exposure to the troubled financial services industry and to generate $450M in cost savings.

Exane BNP Paribas has been speculating on a TR+WK deal for the past 10 years. They retreated from this position in May 2011 based on TR’s announcement that they would dispose of their Healthcare business. TR’s disposal of legal publishing assets in northern European markets also ran counter to such a deal.

Factors Favoring Such a Merger

1. Thomson Reuters Leadership Changes.Exane BNP suggests that TR appears to be “in restructuring
and crisis mode” since they failed to achieve top line growth through some new products including Westlaw Next.. The new CEO Jim Smith with his track record in legal, tax and scientific professional publishing may be better positioned to create new value from asset consolidation than top line growth.

2. Wolters Kluwer May be Ready to be Acquired. Former WK executives suggest that a merger has always been viewed as a good exit strategy if top line growth could not be achieved. CEO and Chairperson Nancy McKinstry has been in the Netherlands for 8 years and has not delivered expected revenue growth.

3. TR’s new IT  Platform Designed for Mergers. Since both companies generate over 80% of their revenue from electronic software and services, TR has the infrastructure to allow both companies to consolidate and reduce their IT costs. Apparently TR’s new IT platform was specifically designed to be able to integrate content from acquired companies. I have also heard this comment  from insiders at TR. (I whole heartedly agree that at least in the US, WK's technical infrastructure as demonstrated by their "new " Intelliconnect platform would benefit from an IT overhaul). Both companies have been trying to go global and have expanded their sale forces in some new and similar markets. The proposed merger would allow them to reduce duplicative effort in expanding their global footprint.

4. TR’s Balance sheet is Ready. TR's balance sheet has absorbed the Reuters acquisition and the company  now has the financial capacity to launch such an acquisition over the next 12 months.

Insights From the Report:

Mergers are a Value Drivers in Professional Publishing. OK we all knew that. Cost savings can be derived by combining IT, marketing as sales costs. The report cited several successful mergers in the past 5 years which lead to cost benefits, Reed Elsevier-Choicepoint, Wolters Kluwer-LexisNexis German, Wiley-Blackwell. Recent cost savings have resulted in 15% savings from the target cost base. We are all waiting to see how the Bloomberg/BNA  merger fares - but we may never know since Bloomberg is a private company. But given the firm's pedigree in the financial arena - we will stipulate that they were aware of these benefits and will some day let us know how financially successful the merger was.

Minimum Regulatory Hurdles. In North America, the merged ThomsonReuters-WolterKluwer would have a dominant market position of about 60% share. The tax segment would be particularly vulnerable to regulator scrutiny. The report suggests that at worst 13% of WK’s revenue’s would need to be disposed of.

Enter Bloomberg. The report also suggests that Bloomberg might be standing in the wings to take any divested WK assets since Bloomberg, as we know, is increasing their portfolio of legal, tax and regulatory content.While the newly acquired BNA has some significant editorial content in the tax area, including the Tax Management Portfolios and the Daily Tax Report, they don't have anything comparable to the fully integrated federal and state tax  libraries which are the core of the CCH Tax products.

The Thomson Family Track Record. Since the 1930’s the Thomson Family has track record of making opportunistic asset shifts away from troubled markets into more promising segments. In this case, they would be shifting away from financial services and into growing segments of the knowledge economy. Wolters Kluwer would expand Thomson’s global markets.

Post Script
Lexis: The company that was not there. As a veteran observer of  decades-long legal publishing rivalries, the most striking "take away" from this report was the absence of name LexisNexis from the discussion. In law library community, there has long been speculation that CCH might be acquired by Reed Elsevier to strengthen and globalize it’s legal and regulatory products. But the Exane PNP report doesn’t even acknowledge LexisNexis as a contender if Wolters Kluwer is "in play."  Bloomberg Law, a relative new comer to legal and regulatory publishing and “upstart extraordinare” waltzes into the discussion and drops comfortably in the back up position (for now). One has to wonder if there isn’t a coded message when you play with Bloomberg Law's new marketing slogan and  Westlaw's newest product name: “Bloomberg First, WestlawNext.”

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Worst Legal Publishing Merger - Can the Virtuous Circle be Un-broken?

Years ago I was introduced to the concept of the Virtuous Circle at a meeting with Brian Hall, the first post-Merger CEO of ThomsonWest. In Hall's presentation, "The Virtuous Circle" was  all about  what I would call the "karma of client relations."  Treating  your customers fairly  will create loyal customers who will spend ever more money and help you to develop better products which deliver ever  more value to your customers who will then pay more money.....

The Virtuous Circle in Legal Publishing
According to the Legal Information Buyers Guide and Reference Manual,  between 1995 (the year before the Thomson acquisition)  and 2008 West's print prices increased 232%. During that same period Lexis/Matthew Bender print prices increased a mere 70%.

The unprecedented and inexplicable print price increases were the overwhelming factor cited in defining the Thomson-West merger as the "worst legal publishing merger." It is hard to understand how anyone at West could "square" the post-merger print  pricing strategy with Hall's vision of the Virtuous Circle.
  Qualities of the bad legal publishing mergers:
  • Dramatic price increases (West, Aspen, Dialog)
  • Failure to integrate the products (CCH – both aspen & Loislaw)
  • Eliminating pay as you go option / change in pricing structure (GSI, Losilaw)
  • Loss of customer focus 
  • Loss of client loyalty 
  • Decline in quality 
  • Loss of competition (West)
  • Destruction of a great product (GSI) 
  • Decline in usability (GSI)  
  • Strict focus on profits
Is the Thomson West Merger Also a Metaphor for Something Else?

There was an under current of "longing for things past" in the comments submitted by readers. Criticisms of the Thomson-West deal decried the changing culture of the legal publishing industry and emergence of new market forces. Loss of old and familiar brands, endless growth and globalization, decreased focus on personal relationships, increased emphasis on profits.... Sound familiar? These comments describe not only changes in the legal publishing industry but also echo the changes we have experienced in the law firms where many of us work.

 West Publishing as a Fading Landmark. West’s history also represents a significant chapter in the evolution of American law. West was a uniquely American company which developed a taxonomy and classification system for weaving together the complex tapestry that is American caselaw. The West Brothers were "American originals." As  the Wright Brothers were unschooled in engineering, but conquered flight. the West Brothers were not lawyers but enterprising stationery salesmen who virtually invented a uniquely American process of legal research.

The history of West Publishing which used the now somewhat ironic slogan – “Forever Associated with the Practice of Law” is all but obliterated from the Thomson Reuters’ company timeline. There are only 3 major events noted : 1872, the founding of West Publishing; 1996, the acquisition by Thomson and 2010 the release of WestlawNext. There is no narrative reflecting the deep impact West had on the development of American legal research analysis and practice.

You will on the other hand learn riveting  trivia: In 1851 Paul Julius Reuter arrived in London from Aachen Germany where he developed a news business “leveraging” the a fleet of 200 carrier pigeons as part of it’s information dissemination platform. He soon began integrating the emerging telegraph technology and coined the motto “follow the cable” which has presumably now been updated to "follow the money."

It is noted that the use of emerging technology “helped Reuter establish an enviable reputation for speed accuracy, integrity and impartiality.”

Gee sounds like it could have described West Publishing to me, but there isn’t a hint of what West represented to the legal profession in America to be found in the Thomson Reuters timeline. A more enthusiastic history of the company was published by a small Minnesota newspaper… Westlaw Rises to Legal Publishing Fame by Selling Free Information

Thomson West Marked The End of Competition. Really?
The Thomson West deal, has not prevented new entrants to the market. Innovative new products keep emerging: Law 360, Intelligize, Mergermarket,  and  Fastcase demonstrate that there is still a healthy environment for competition. Who would have expected a major new player Bloomberg Law to break into a head to head competition with Lexis and Westlaw in this mature online research market? See also, Greg Lambert's 3 Geeks and a Law blog Could Thomson Reuters be in Trouble? and consider if we may see a divesiture of West by ThomsonReuters and the possible market impact.

Would the Old West Have Thrived in the 21st Century?
I suspect not. In the early 1990's a very senior West executive commented to me that he didn't think that lawyers would ever want to have  personal computers at home. This struck me as strangely disconnected from emerging trends. Young lawyers had carried laptops to class, law firms were experimenting with flexible work schedules, and then there was the ever present pressure of the billable hour. I give the West executives credit - they understood that the economics of their industry was changing, they would need capital infusion to improve their infrastructure to remain competitive. Had West not been purchased by Thomson we might have seen the company targeted by a Godon Gekko and sold off in parts.  Innovation is expensive. A walk around the exhibit hall this summer at AALL revealed how few legal publishers were up to the task of developing eBooks, only the "big players" Lexis and Westlaw had taken on the eBook challenge.

As  a "rising tide raises all boats,"  we were the indirect beneficiaries of the advances in legal research technology which drive the marketplace of innovation. Advanced  technologies hold the promise of continuing to offer efficiencies for the practice and business of law. Information professionals will continue to play an important role in introducing and managing these innovations. Mergers are painful affairs, products have a life cycle and sometimes they die. The legal information marketplace will continue to be shaped by   the polar forces of  "information that wants to be free" and technological innovation that comes at a cost.

Related Posts:  Votes Are In Learn Why Lexis Acquisition of  Shepard's Voted Best Legal Publishing Merger. ; Vote Now for the Best and Worst Legal Publishing Merger

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Votes Are In, Learn Why: Lexis Acquistion of Shepard's Voted Best Legal Publishing Merger

Qualities of the best legal publishing mergers: Making 1 + 1 = 3

Back in September I posted a survey asking readers to vote for the best and worst  mergers in the legal publishing industry. This was not a scientific survey nor did I have a way to guarantee against participation by employees of vendors themselves. Nonetheless,  a series of interesting  themes emerged in the commentaries which were contributed by many voters. Since the recent announcement of the Bloomberg-BNA merger, the law librarian community has been awash with speculation on how this merger will play out and whether in 5 years they will  cast votes for  Bloomberg-BNA  in the "best" or "worst" column.

Top Characteristics of Good Mergers
  • Developed a meaningful integration of products from both companies which enhanced the quality of the data, usability and efficiencies delivered to the researchers.
  • Resulted in better products than could have been developed  by either company without the merger.
  • Enhanced the technology of the acquired product. 
  •  Improved customer service.
  •  Provided access to content which researchers would not otherwise have access to because of pricing or complexity of native platform. (Dialog) 
  •  Kept a valuable but small niche product alive. (Loislaw) 
  •  Resulting electronic product is so clearly superior to the print version that there  is virtually no resistance to eliminating redundant print product. (Blogger"s note : Contrast the ease of converting lawyers from print Shepard's to Shepard's Online  with conversion of CCH print users  to CCH online  This conversion  still incomplete almost 20 years after the release of first  CCH online product).
  •  Eliminated a publisher that was difficult to deal with, (Bad customer service, bad billing and updating practices, steep price increases).
  • Infusion of capital resulted in greater innovation.
  • Greater innovation increased competition which brought better products to the legal marketplace.
 Not the Best, Only the “Least Worst”

There was a repeating theme in the comments section  which suggested that a significant subset of the law librarian community regards all mergers as “bad.” Many respondents voted for the “best” merger with the begrudging comment that their vote was only for “the least worst,” the least disruptive, most harmless or had the least impact.

The Winner is: Lexis Acquisition of Shepard's

Requires a Fact Check from the Wayback Machine An overwhelming number of voters indicated that they selected Shepard's because this resulted in the conversion of Shepard's to an electronic format. Well actually… McGraw Hill had digitized the citators and produced Shepard's on CD-ROM . The CD-ROMs  were then updated by a accessing a dial-up bulletin board called "Shepnet. " This was before the World Wide Web! Shepard's Releases The First Shepard's Citation on CD-ROM.

Maybe Also The Weirdest Merger Technically McGraw Hill traded Shepard's to the Times Mirror Company in exchange for educational publications. Separately, Times Mirror, and Reed Elsevier, owner of the Lexis-Nexis then formed a 50-50 joint venture to own and operate Shepard's.

Lexis Acquisition of Shepard's was Good for Westlaw One of the more surprising observations which was echoed in several responses. The Lexis integration of Shepard's content into the caselaw research process triggered a cycle of intense competition and product improvement. It drove West to create the Keycite product which some respondents considered to be superior to Shepard's on Lexis.

Comments on Why Shepard's Won
  • Shepard's citators in print were so cumbersome to use, so difficult to read and interpret in print that  they were completely transformed by digitization and their utility enhanced when integrated with Lexis caselaw.
  •  Easy to convert users from print to electronic
  •  Made a core legal research function quicker more efficient
  •  Competition forced West create a better product
  •  Triggered a cycle of competition and improvement for both market leaders, Lexis and Westlaw which caused the customers to win in the long run.
  • Improved the usability of content on Lexis by integrating citations. 
  In Second Place: A Megamerger - The Thomson Acquisition of West

Given the vast differences of scope of the Lexis acquisition of a single function product like Shepard's and the Thomson-West merger, which  was a game changing colossus, the two transactions are not really suitable comparisons.

Benefits of Thomson West Merger:
  • Cash infusion resulted in greater innovation
  • Merger created a clear market leader
  • Successfully integrated a diverse array of legal, business, news, primary and secondary sources into a single Westlaw platform which enhanced lawyer productivity
  • Created a global platform for legal research
  • Thomson continued acquiring content from smaller publishers which may have preserved products which would not otherwise have survived in the long run.
The most controvertial aspects of the Thomson West merger arose from the  print publishing side of the merger.  Stay tuned for:  Part Two: The Worst of Legal Publishing Mergers, coming next week.
Join the conversation: Friday, October 14, 2011 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM EDT

 Episode 23: Merger Mania: A Discussion of Law Publisher Consolidation – Past and Present



Thursday, October 6, 2011

Is There A Law Firm Merger in Your Future? The Odds Are Increasing....Are You Ready?

According to an Altman and Weil survey released this week, Law Firm  Mergers Surge in 2011, law firm  mergers for the first 9 months of 2011 exceeded the number of mergers for the same period in 2010 by 78%.
There is no shortage of additional sources to support this trend. Keynote Speakers at the two recent PLL Summits in 2010 and 2011, Jim Jones of  Hildebrandt Institute and Peter Zeughauser of Zeughauser Group, outlined the key economic and strategic forces which will continue to drive law firm mergers. Several year's ago an executive from American Lawyer Media told me that they planned to expand ALM coverage of mid-sized law firm financials in order to help law firms identify candidate firms for merger or acquisition. A recent American Lawyer story, Empire Builders quoted a senior partner from Allen & Overy as stating that "There is a very distinct correlation between multi-jurisdictional work and profitability." While this statement was made in the global context, there are parallel multi-jurisdictional and economic issues driving clients to firms with a multi-jurisdictional footprint within the US as well as abroad. Perhaps more ominously the article suggests that firms who have been safely ensconced in the financial centers of New York and London will face serious challenges if  according to the Chief Executive Ted Burke of Freshfields,"this turned out to be the Chinese century or the BRIC century."

It could happen to you. Are you Ready?
During the first months following the merger, firm management will be focused on integrating accounting and IT systems.  Other departments including the library and research services are generally not fast-tracked for integration. However, delaying the selection of a departmental leader and strategy for integrating library resources and services overlooks substantial cost and risks to the firm.

A Note about Co-Leadership
It is not uncommon for firm leadership to defer departmental leadership decisions and to simply make all departmental leaders "Co-Director's" for an indefinite period. This is generally a lose-lose proposition because effectively, no one is in charge, the staff is confused, important decisions are subject to endless debate, critical time is lost making progress on issues critical to lawyer support, cost control and risk management. In the worst of all possible outcomes, co-leaders are "rewarded" for their endurance by being demoted and replaced with an outsider who is given the full authority for decision making that was not given to the legacy leaders.

Have the Courage to Re Apply For Your Job
Frankly the department and the firm would be better off allowing leaders to compete for the leadership positions by having each legacy Director submit a strategic plan for the department and let the best strategy win.

Key Areas of Cost and Risk
  • Online Research Contracts  Contracts with vendors such as Lexis and Westlaw may contain escalation clauses which could substantially increase firm costs. Do not allow the vendor to simply combine the cost of the two contracts and send you a  consolidated bill. Renegotiate the contact and seek to leverage economies of scale.  You should be able to get a better deal post merger if you conduct and effective analysis of historic usage in both firms. 
  • Software Applications Identify administrative software applications such as Integrated Library Systems, Client validation software and web monitoring software. Determine if products are fully deployed and if these products and licenses are scalable to fit the needs of the combined organization.
  • Cost Recovery Each firm may have a different approach to cost recovery and a single approach needs to be adopted and rates recalibrated to account for the additional costs or discounts reflected in a post merger contract. 
  • Electronic Resources and Licenses Inventory and compare all electronic licenses. This exercise can be a real "eye opener" which illustrates how effective or ineffective your negotiation skills are.  Creating a combined inventory listing the cost and the scope ( firm wide or limited access) could illustrate vastly different terms for a single product. Since some vendors restrict sharing of content outside of a licensed office, you need to move quickly to renegotiate licenses which cover post merger workflow needs. See previous post Centralized Licensing as a Risk Management Strategy
  • Research and Cross Training Law firm mergers are often driven by a desire to broaden the range of practice areas offered by the firm. Inventory the skill sets and expertise of research staff and provide opportunities for them to cross train their new colleagues in specialized resources and research techniques.
  • Centralization of Research and Administrative Services One of the most significant ways to demonstrate strategic leadership is to reduce redundant workflow by centralizing work in a single location.  See  previous post: Centralization as a Value Strategy
  • One City - Multiple Offices It is not uncommon for merger's to result multiple offices in one city that will need to be integrated and consolidated.The cost of print collections may  be reduced when offices are combined. If both firms have a fixed fee:Library Maintenance Agreement - the benefits of weeding may be delayed until the contacts end or are renegotiated.
Stay Focused on the Highest and Best Outcome
Recognize that "post merger" you have a new employer and a chance to start again. The success of the merger and firm should be your primary focus.  Maintaining a positive attitude toward the merger and demonstrating collegial respect for your new colleagues is critical to maintaining the morale of your department and bolstering your profile as a true leader in the new firm.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

eBooks: Why are Publishers Pouring Digital Content into 19th Century Wineskins?

I was at first excited by the prospect of eBooks for law firms. Next year could we be handing new associates an i-Pad loaded with a custom practice library? Could eBooks liberate law firms from the significant cost of housing, maintaining and updating print resources? Could eBooks liberate librarians from managing the substantial overhead of staff time for processing, the cost of filers for updating and the real estate footprint demanded by print resources. Could we be freed to spend even more time engaged in value added client support activities?

Deskbooks are a Go. Right now the only type of publication I see as ready for the eBook distribution model are the annual, statutory code books that we commonly refer to as deskbooks. These are perfect candidates. They are meant to portable and "personalizable." Since I work in a firm with over 1,000 lawyers, the prospect of eliminating  the annual processing and distribution of thousands of volumes of deskbooks makes me do a "happy dance."

Treatises Not So Much. The more I talk to publishers about the model for "circulating" multi-volume treatises, the more I am disheartened at the predominance of print based paradigms. Public libraries have developed methods for circulating eBooks that are modeled on existing print circulation models and in that context, traditional circulation models may make sense.

Law Firms Need A Different Model - Law Books and Lawyers are Different
  • Law firms are not public libraries. We are purchasing corporate access to content, we need a model that permits the unfettered access to appropriate units of content on an "as needed" basis. 
  • Treatises are not monographs - they are complex organisms that change over time. 
  • Lawyers need information not "volumes." 
  • Lawyers require updating by "push " not "pull " (We learned this lesson with electronic newsletters, lawyers didn't go a website to get the current issue of an electronic newsletter - it had to be delivered! Yet right now legal publishers seem to believe that lawyer behavior has changed. They appear to believe that lawyers want to engage in unnecessary administrative tasks which interrupt their billable time.The current proposed models also suggest that librarians want to chase down lawyers and their Ipads when it it time to update a treatise or that lawyers will willingly spend time reloading treatise updates to their Ipads. Didn't we cross the automatic update bridge decades ago? Why regress to a less efficient workflow now?)
 The Madness of Circulating an eBook Treatise

 If I hear one more publisher suggest that I would want to ask lawyers to "check-out an eBook" as if it were a physical object, I will run from the room screaming. Sadly when I ask why they came up with this circulation model -- I am told -- this is the model that librarians are requesting! Is this really true? Has there been a complete failure of the imagination? Must we hamstring ourselves and our lawyers to manage digital content in the same way we would manage a physical object? Can we call a time-out before we get too far down this road?

There are a number of reasons this is a ridiculous model but let me start with one of the most obvious.

Does a lawyer really want to download a volume of a treatise? I think Not!

 Let's think about it. A "volume" is not a meaningful unit of intellectual information.  A volume represents the number of pages which can be put into a  4 inch wide binder. This 4 inch container doesn't necessarily represent a  coherent unit of information that is of interest to a lawyer. The most meaningful unit of information is more likely to be a "chapter" and yet no one is thinking about allowing lawyers to download these more meaningful subsections of legal treatises.

Let me illustrate :

Volume 3 of Matthew Bender's Business Crimes 
  • Chapter 23 Bad Faith in Insurance and Other Contracts  
  • Chapter 24 Private RICO Actions  
  • Chapter 25 False Imprisonment  
  • Chapter 26-27 Reserved  
  • Chapter 28 Trademarks and Trademark Infringement  
I suppose if I thought long and hard , I could come up with a fact pattern involving, Insurance, RICO, False Imprisonment and Trademarks - but it would be a stretch. My guess is that a lawyer is more likely to be interested in one of these chapters from volume 3 and perhaps one or two other chapters which reside in volumes 1,2 , or 4. For some reason, the reality of lawyer workflow doesn't carry weight in the eBook distribution model. We are developing digital workflows which are enslaved to the limitations of 19th century print publishing. Why?

I have no doubt that the current design and arrangement of legal treatises was viewed as a magnificent leap forward to a 19th century lawyer. I can't help but recall my one visit to the old Matthew Bender offices in New York 20 years ago. It was a delightfully Victorian environment, I expected to encounter Bartleby the Scrivener with a quill pen and high collar around every corner.

 But Folks we are now in the 21st Century -- isn't it time to break the 19th century paradigms that constrain our thinking .

Déjà Vu CD-ROMS: Sometimes the Customer is Wrong!

When cd-roms were introduced in the early 1990's, I will never forget a meeting that Ron Friedmann and I had with a representative of CCH.

When they created the digital version of the Standard Federal Tax Reporter, instead of integrating the updates into the primary search database, they segregated the updates into an "electronic pocket part." Instead of introducing a smarter product that would always deliver  up-to-date results, they kept the "new" information segregated and required lawyers to engage in a two step research process.They missed the opportunity to use technology to improve lawyer efficiency. I don't recall if we laughed or gasped, but we were both appalled. When we asked why they wouldn't just integrate the updates into the main search, the response was - "our customers wanted it that way." Well sometimes your customers are wrong!

Think Outside the Volume. Unless both publishers and librarians can stop looking in the "rear view mirror," we will  all loose the opportunity to develop an eBook model for law firms which enhances both access to information and workflow efficiencies. I fear that -- at least in the law firm environment,-- eBooks  may be destined to become the "8-track tape" of the 21st century.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Vote Now For the Best and Worst Legal Publishing Mergers

The legal publishing industry has been in a state of continuous consolidation for the past 30 years. Here is your chance to vote on the best and the worst legal product acquisitions and company mergers.

Click HERE to vote for the best and the worst legal publishing mergers.  Voting will close on Sept. 23rd.

Defining Success or Failure? The recent announcement of Bloomberg's proposed acquisition of BNA has caused me to reflect back on the many mergers, takeovers and consolidations which I have witnessed during my career. The success or failure of these mergers and acquisitions are ultimately assessed by a variety of factors including whether the product is improved or is impaired, whether the culture and "good will" of the publisher and it's representatives are enhanced or diminished or whether the product is positively enhanced through transformative reengineering or obliterated by neglect or misguided re-design.

The Yin and the Yang of Mergers. Although the biggest downside of these mergers from the consumer perspective has been widely recognized as diminished competition which leads to higher prices, it is now apparent that both technology and shifting law firm economics are likely to have winnowed the field of smaller legal publishers over time. The obvious conclusion is that recent decades of mergers may have in the end saved some really good products from oblivion.

The Big Picture. For your edification I am including an interesting graphic prepared by Sarah Glasssmeyer which illustrates the consolidation of legal publishing.

This is not a scientific survey - but I still think the results will be informative.  I selected a sampling of legal publishing mergers and acquisitions and focused on those that had transformative potential for the companies and products involved. I invite you to vote for the best and the worst mergers and acquisitions and provide a comment of why it was good or bad. I will summarize and report the findings in a follow-up post.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bloomberg Gets BNA's Intellectual Capital in the Capitol!

The synergy Between Bloomberg and BNA
  • Both are non-public companies. 
  • Both rooted in journalism 
  • Both “Made in America”
A slight digression: The recent decades of consolidation in the legal publishing industry has resulted in the wholesale  expatriation of control of American’s primary legal research content. (Lexis, born in Ohio is owned by Anglo-Dutch company, Reed Elsevier; West Publishing, born in Minnesota was bought by the Canadian, Thomson Corporation and CCH, born in Illinois, is owned by Dutch, Wolters Kluwer). What surprised me more than the mergers themselves,  is the absence of outrage or even a lively discussion about the "expatriation of American law."   So I am saying it now. Finally a merger where the control of two American  born engines of legal research are staying onshore!

It Looks Like a Win - Win to Me

In short, Bloomberg needs BNA’s content and BNA needs Bloomberg’s technology, innovative spirit and "deep pockets."

 Bloomberg has only existed for 30 years and yet it is growing a media empire while the established icons of journalism are dead or dying. So will that same combination of determination, innovation and calculated risk allow them to succeed in the legal market? It is not an insignificant  factor that Bloomberg is a private company which  is free to experiment and innovate in ways which are reminiscent of a Silicon Valley start up.

Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Government Expansion

Bloomberg’s acquisition of BNA makes sense for two separate market initiatives. Bloomberg Law had developed a solid product for primary law and dockets. Bloomberg has recently completed a re-audit and validation of their citator which will enhance it’s competitive standing, but it still lacked the secondary source treatises and commentary that lawyers rely on to flesh out their analysis of an issue.

Several years ago Bloomberg Law seemed to be indicating that they planned to develop newsletters to compete with BNA. While the newsletters that they were producing were popular with lawyers they simply didn’t replicate the depth of the BNA bench.  In recent years BNA had also expanded it's digital platform beyond newsletters and built out a number of resource centers. In a happy symmetry - while Bloomberg had been focused on building out practice areas with the tightest alignment to business (securities, corporate, finance, bankruptcy, Intellectual Property and litigation), BNA had been building resource centers for Employee Benefits, Labor, Intellectual Property, Environmental, Health and Professional Ethics. With the exception of IP, BNA brings a collection of digital libraries which Bloomberg had not yet begun to develop on BLaw.

Bloomberg had been tight lipped on product acquisitions but their executives and field staff were always listening for leads in the marketplace. The likely candidates for secondary materials included BNA, CCH, Law360, ALM’s Law Journal Press and Practical Law Company.

But the acquisition of BNA makes the most sense in light of the launch of the "other" Bloomberg product. With much less fanfare, Bloomberg has recently entered the government and regulatory space dominated by Congressional Quarterly by launching Bloomberg Government.  Just as Bloomberg Law integrates law with Bloomberg’s robust cache of business data, Bloomberg has built a platform which integrates business analytics with legislation and regulation. The breadth of intellectual capital from BNA’s legislative and regulatory “brain trust” can serve both Bloomberg products quite well.

BNA Needed to Reposition (C-Span vs. People Magazine)

BNA has remained the “A Student”  at the front of the class handing in sober and thorough “A+" assignments every day.  But were they positioned to appeal to the "Google generation?"

BNA was facing growing challenge from smaller niche publishers especially Law360 which has taken a “lighter” approach to monitoring legal developments and moving aggressively to poach BNA's market share. Law360 tends to provide shorter "snapshots" of legal issues  and perhaps talking a page from the American Lawyer, gives more attention to the personalities of the law. Each issue of a Law360 publication displays a prominent index to law firms mentioned (and what law firm doesn’t like publishers to act as its marketing arm?) They also offer  regular profiles and Q & A s with leading lawyers. Perhaps the focus on the personalities in the law explains its growth in a fairly mature market,  and one which was largely "owned" by BNA.

Was BNA Too Good at What it did to Survive?

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to have one of BNA’s top editors accept a lunch invitation to meet with my library staff and provide an overview of BNA’s editorial process. It was one of those events that forever changed my view of a publisher. In this case, it cemented my respect for BNA as not just another newsletter purveyor with fungible content which could easily be cranked out by a rival collector of regulatory documents. The range and depth of the BNA’s editorial team was astonishing. BNA has more reporters on Capitol Hill than the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal combined. While a daily newspaper might assign a reporter to follow a proposed tax law for a current congress, BNA’s tax reporters would have been following the tax legislation for decades and could provide a perspective not only on the current proposal but on the history of similar proposals through prior congresses.

Reading vs Power browsing

A provocative discussion on the web’s impact on our brains can be found in the chapter entitled “The Juggler’s Brain” in Nicholas Carr's, The Shallows, which provides an ominous clue about BNA's dilemma. Our brains have become adapted for browsing rather than reading. Studies indicate that a "power browser" spends fewer than 30 seconds "reading" a web page. (So if you are still reading this post, "congratulations," you are still a reader!)

BNA is good, perhaps too good. BNA requires deep reading. If the younger generation of lawyers have developed "browsing brains" rather than "reading brains,"  BNA was likely to encounter an erosion in readership unless the company could make a radical reassessment of it's platform, editorial and delivery models. Bloomberg’s infrastructure, innovative technologies and ability to offer BNA an " outsider's perspective" may just help them make that transition.

BNA’s Intellectual Capital in the Capitol

The long term success of the BNA/Bloomberg deal may lie in Bloomberg’s ability to retain the BNA “brain trust.” Since BNA is an employee owned company, the acquisition may mean that the intellectual capital which has distinguished BNA from it’s rivals could make a hasty, bolt for the door.

Competition Is Good

Competition and innovation are good for the legal information marketplace. I hope this is a successful merger for all parties (including their customers).

Related Dewey B Story: Bloomberg Law Takes on the Titans: An interview with Lou Andreozzi, Chairman of Bloomberg Law

Friday, August 5, 2011

Both Sides Now: Advice on Redesigning Law Firm and In-House Strategy from Jim Jones and the Corporate Executive Board

Jim Jones’s (Hildebrandt Institute) PLL Summit presentation “State of the Legal Market 2011” outlined a series of factors which combined with the financial downturn created the “perfect storm” of disruption in the legal marketplace. The Corporate Executive Board issued a report to member General Counsel that was recently reported in the press giving the “In House” perspective.

The factors outlined below are forcing firms to rethink their strategies in the “post crisis world.”

  •  Increased access to Information about law firms. Blame it all on Steve Brill. He tapped into the thirst among lawyers to read about themselves and their competitors. He threw open the floodgates which exposed competitive law firm data to the world. There is now a cottage industry of competitors in the US and abroad creating ranking lists, exposing profits per partner, measuring associate satisfaction, prestige, diversity and pro bono commitments. This wealth of data has armed clients with competitive information and leverage in negotiating with competing law firms.
  • The drive towards commoditization. Contrary to popular opinion, the quality of work product goes up as firms move from totally custom “bespoke” solutions for clients through the standardized, systematized, packaged, commoditized continuum.
  • The growth of enabling technologies. Firms have been able to develop self service subscriptions for clients such as Linklaters Blue flag online services for compliance, Allen & Overy Online transactional document services. and commercial products from Practical Law Company which provides lawyers with checklists and templates for drafting. 
  • Emergence of New Service Providers. Legal Process Outsourcing companies, compete with law firm directly because, clients can chose to use them for certain projects rather than a law firm. But law firms can also take on large projects without having to invest in hiring long term staff. Projects like ediscovery and document review are now routinely outsourced through the hiring of temporary attorney or by hiring a PLO company such as Pangea3 and Integreon
  •  Law firm profitability in the boom years was driven by the ability of firms to raise their rates 6-8% each year Client pushback was inevitable. The economic downturn made continuous price increases unsustainable.
  • Changed basis of competition. Following the 2008 crash, the supply of lawyers exceeded the demand. Organic growth requires stealing market share from other firms.  
  • Clients begin to demand lower costs, alternative fee arrangements and higher efficiency. Firms begin to work implement workflows. 
  • Positioning Strategies. Firms are forced to develop more sophisticated strategies for positioning the firm’s practices, implementing technologies and processes to improve delivery and change the talent model to emphasize training and development/
The Corporate Executive Board recently released a report “Five Forces that will Change Legal.” As reported in Corporate Counsel “Five Forces that Will Change Legal..  The report was based on interviews with 100 Corporate Counsel and highlights 5 factors that will impact corporate legal departments.

Regulatory Issues will converge and the regulation of issues will fragment across international, national and local jurisdictions.

Increased focus of global regulatory compliance. Issues such as data privacy, anti-trust, executive compensation and corrupt practices are gaining importance globally, but there is no harmonization between local, national and foreign regulations, making it difficult for companies to have standard global policies and practices.

Information Grows Exponentially. Ediscovery requests are getting bigger as more and more data is collected within corporation. This will change how corporations manage their internal data.

Competing Demands for Corporate Transparency and consumer privacy will collide. Data security infrastructure will have to accommodate the competing of national and local regulations regarding privacy.

Corporate Legal Department Center of Gravity will shift. As corporations become more global they will need to manage their risks locally which may require legal departments to decentralize.

• Changing Legal Services Market Competition, GC’s will; chose among firms and LPO’s competing for the same work.

The Conclusion is that like law firms, legal departments will have to rethink staffing and talent management strategies, and embrace changes in their approaches to process and technological infrastructure to enhance efficiency.

 Implication for the library and knowledge managers

• Increased importance of our Competitive Intelligence capabilities to support strategies

• Increased importance of regulatory monitoring will mandate the development of knowledge resources to aggregate, distill or analyze comparable regulations arising form local and national authorities.

• Escalate migration from Knowledge Management tools to Knowledge Process Improvement that delivers real efficiencies to clients. Shift focus from knowledge harvesting technologies and “search” to implement knowledge regimes which integrate knowledge tools into best practice workflows.

Monday, August 1, 2011

"The Know it All" at the Library Convention, Esquire's A.J. Jacobs, Makes Us Howl--- Makes Us Think!

So what is the connection between a popular culture humorist and the law library community? Answer: 18,000 pages of legal treatises. and perhaps a million footnotes.

Esquire's Senior Editor, A. J. Jacobs came to the Annual Private Law Libraries lunch meeting last Sunday in Philadelphia and served up his unique mix of insights about several issues at the heart of our daily lives: knowledge, truth, outsourcing and the law... except not quite in the way you might expect. 

A. J. Jacobs is the author or The Know it all: One Man's Humble Quest to become the Smartest Person in the World. and A Year of Living Biblically.

I had the honor of introducing A.J. Jacobs as the guest speaker. There is of course a story, which I used to convince the Board  that this unlikely choice, was the perfect choice.

It all started several years ago, in a fall associate research class where I try to impart my "rules of research" to each incoming class of eager, young lawyers. My "Rule 11" is "consult an expert by identifying and reading a leading treatise on your subject..." I always amplify this rule with a first hand account of my experiences at Shea & Gould in the late 1980’s where I encountered obsessed law firm partner, legal scholar and serial prankster Arnold S. Jacobs.

It would be an understatement to say that Arnold S. Jacobs was a library supporter. He was in fact a library user of Olympic magnitude. I learned to understand and respect the process of treatise writing when Jacobs came to the library seeking research assistance while updating his 5 volume Litigation and Practice Under Rule 10b5. 

It was an exercise that extended for months. He was always monitoring and reading every new case on rule 10b5. But as part of the editorial process he would read and “cite-check” every case cited in the treatise and then read every case citing to the original 10b5 case, ad infinitum.

I should have been suspicious the day he asked me to research the criteria for getting into the Guinness Book of World Records. Jacobs wanted to find out if writing a law review article with the largest number of footnotes would qualify for a Guinness record. He didn’t meet the Guinness criteria but he did manage to get his first footnote record  into something called the "Harper’s Index." He held the record for an article with 1,247 footnotes,  but lost the title briefly to Professor who wrote an article with 1,611 footnotes.  Then Jacobs "upped the ante" by publishing An Analysis of Section 16 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 32 N.Y. L. Sch. L. Rev. 209(1987). This weighed in at 4,824 footnotes. And no one has broken that record in the past 25 years.

Back to the training class. When I took a break after describing Jacobs’s thorough research process, I was approached by a young associate. She said she had just read a book that she was sure was written by the son of my rule 10b5 obsessed partner – and "it was the funniest book she had ever read."  I got a copy of the The Know it All and I howled. I gave copies to my managers and they howled.

AJ Jacobs is not only the son of Proskauer partner, Arnold S. Jacobs who has written over 25 books , but also the grandson of the late Theodore Kheel, the great labor arbitrator, who wrote the classic 10 volume treatise Kheel on Labor Law. I knew the name Kheel from my childhood in NYC, it was a time when union strikes were long and disruptive:  teacher’s strikes, subway strikes, newspaper strikes. Mr. Kheel’s name was a staple of the morning radio news reports.

So what’s a young man with such a pedigree to do when graduates from college? AJ became a writer for Entertainment Weekly. But the seed of competitive intellectual ventures had been planted.  

"Jacobs the Elder" had once attempted to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and had only gotten as far as Borneo....


The Know it All  recounts "Jacobs the Younger's" one and half year marathon read of the 32 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Jacobs explained to the audience that the The Know it All grew out of his attempt to finally accomplish a goal which his seriously over-achieving father had not accomplished. This project did take a toll on his eyes and his life. He inserted little known facts into conversations at work and at home. His wife ended up fining him one dollar for every useless fact he inserted into a conversation. 

The book not only fascinated me because of the interesting or outrageous factoids, but also because of his exploration of various "cults of knowledge." Jacobs hunts down, interviews and or joins a wide variety of information obsessed communities: Mensa meetings, puzzler competitions, Jeopardy contestants... However if there is one omission... it is an exploration of one of the many communities of librarians who transform the glut of available data in to meaningful answers for millions of knowledge seekers in public libraries, academic libraries to private special libraries around the globe.


In the most edgy moment of the day, Jacobs described his attempt to adhere to a "radical honesty" movement. This is recounted in an article entitled, I think you're fat, which says it all!


My Outsourced Life describes  Jacobs’s month-long attempt to outsource his life to Bangalore, India. And of course, Jacobs didn't just stick to the obvious daily routines: responding to emails, making his appointments, paying bills. He tried to outsource, fights with his wife, reading bedtime stories, finding a "Tickle me Elmo" toy.

Reading the full article you will discover that he outsourced a research project! Ok, it wasn’t a legislative and regulatory history, but we still have cause for concern. An assistant in India named "Honey" conducted a research project for Jacobs on the person Esquire had chosen as the "Sexiest Woman Alive."

If you weren't worried about the threat of outsourcing before now, Jacobs assessment may be a wake up call. “When I open Honey's file… There are charts. There are section headers. There is a well-organized breakdown of her pets, measurements, and favorite foods (e.g., swordfish). If all Bangalorians are like Honey, I pity Americans about to graduate college."

The Law

Jacobs explained that the idea for A Year of Living Biblically  arose when he and his wife learned they were having their first child. While growing up,  his family had been "Jewish in the same way that the Olive Garden is an Italian Restaurant." He wanted to explore his Jewish roots in order to determine if any of this heritage should be passed on to his children.
He read various versions of the Bible and determined that there were over 700 laws. He set out to try to follow all of the laws to see if they improved his life. He stopped shaving completely because he couldn't figure out where the "corners of his beard" were, he wore only clothes of unmixed fibers. He confessed that as a NY journalist he faced special challenges "Not coveting, not gossiping, not lying." Stoning an adulterer proved particularly elusive. One day while walking through New York's Central Park dressed like a Shepherd, he finally confronted a man who confessed to being an adulterer and sprayed him with a handful of pebbles he has been carrying for this unlikely event.

At the end of the year Jacobs said that felt he had been changed by the experience. He was happier. He noted the particular importance of "giving thanks" in all spiritual traditions. The most profound change came from actively engaging in a daily practice giving thanks throughout the day. He learned to be thankful for every small thing that went right in his life. At the end of the year he came to realize that for the 2 or 3 things that had gone wrong each day, a hundred things had gone right. 

Like other members of the audience (who thanked me throughout the day for inviting A.J. to our lunch) I was profoundly moved by his comments. I am thankful to him for the gift of laughter and especially thankful for the powerful reminder to give thanks!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Re-Designing Library Strategy: Advice for Executive Librarians from Jones and Dyson

Jim Jones, Thomson Reuters VP, law firm consultant, Leader of the Hildebrandt Institute, former  Managing Partner at Arnold & Porter and General Counsel at APCO Worldwide, provided a data rich overview of law firm financial and practice trends at the PLL Summit.  He concluded his review of  legal industry trends with a list of challenges and opportunities for Executive Librarians:

The Implications

Much of his talk centered around the trends to boost firm efficiencies through training, knowledge sharing and "Legal Process Outsourcing." What I find ironic and what I think Jones was implying in his list of "implications" below, was that firm leaders don't fully recognize  that Executive Librarians should be the natural leaders or key players in these initiatives. Librarianship itself grew out of a late 19th century efficiency movement and 21st Century Library and Knowledge Executives work at the intersection of substantive knowledge, process improvement and emerging knowledge technologies.

The Challenges
  • How will the likely changes in law firm management models impact traditional library/information services? 
  • How will the drive for efficiency and cost-effectiveness impact the ways in which legal research is undertaken? 
  • How might librarians/information specialists help in partnering with clients and in supporting “one-to-many” knowledge sharing models? 
  • In an age of “disintermediation,” how can information be rendered more useful and actionable? 
  • What roles might librarians/information specialists play in the management of new firm “products” – e.g., various tools for on-line guidance and services? 
  • What roles might librarians/information specialists play in the development of “just-in-time” training resources? 
  • How might the growing importance of information management impact the roles that executive librarians play in their firms?

Most of us have already begun recognize and to respond to most of these trends. But as new forces continue to emerge in the legal marketplace and as new technologies continue to "disrupt" traditional work flow and practice models, we will, as he said, paraphrasing Alice in Wonderland, "have to keep running just to stay in place."*

*The Queen: "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" Through the Looking Glass:

Esther Dyson, in what was the second most controversial comment of her session,(the most controversial comment can't be printed)  responded to Jones' presentation by suggesting that if law firms don't recognize how the strategic insights and knowledge competencies  of  Library Executives  are core to the firm's competitive advantage, we should all just go work for Legal Processing Outsourcers who clearly do recognize our talents as core to their business model!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Cosmonaut at the Library Convention: Esther Dyson Beams Down At PLL Summit

On Saturday July 23rd in what surely will be one of the most memorable PLL events of my career,  I will be moderating a Q&A session with Esther Dyson at the  "Change as Action" Summit  in Philadelphia. This event is certain to be as  stimulating and as surprising as Dyson's wide ranging career (magazine fact checker, journalist, publisher, entrepreneur,venture capitalist, philanthropist  and yes trainee cosmonaut).".Her name is routinely prefaced by words such as "visionary," 'Guru," "pundit,"high priestess...'  Esther's bio .

Dyson "Addicted to Zero G Force"

If you haven't had a chance to read Dyson's books Release 2.1: A Design for Living in the Digital Age  or Release 2.0  there is still time to peruse a wealth of material by and about Dyson. A Google search nets you 999,999 hits in .10 seconds. Pick a topic, any topic and combine it with "Esther Dyson" and you are sure to find Dyson's spin on your issue. Want to preview Dyson in action?  A  YouTube  search retrieves  over 200 video clips.

Below is a sampling of Esther Dyson quotes which I have gathered in preparation for Saturday's conversation with Esther Dyson:
 On The Future Of Space Travel: "We Are Only At “The End Of The Beginning”

On Improving Wikipedia: .So, to get the best results, we have people sharpening their ideas against one another rather than simply editing someone's contribution and replacing it with another. We also have a world where the contributors have identities (real or fake, but consistent and persistent) and are accountable for their words. Much like Edge, in fact.

On Internet Search: "The future of search is verbs!"

On Wikileaks WikiLeaks matters for two reasons. The first is that we need a better balance of power between people and power. Information – and specifically the Internet’s power to spread it – is our best defense against bad, unaccountable behavior.

Second, we do want to trust our governments and institutions. The point of openness is to make those in power behave better – and to make us trust them more. Rather than viewing them as enemies, we should know what they are up to, and perhaps have a little more say in what they do.

On the Internet and Political Revolution: As long as a government can come and shoot you, you can't jump on the Internet to freedom.

On the Future of Intellectual Property: From a business point of view, intellectual property is dead.

On Failure: Everybody should have a real failure, ideally when they are pretty young, that gives them a sense of confidence.

On  Programming Human Perfectibility-
Call it simulated apprenticeship: if your company has a shortage of supportive managers to train employees, they can be modeled in the software. The games and simulation exercises can be designed to train and reward certain kinds of behavior – quick decision-making over too much deliberation, delegation rather than do-it-myself behavior, and so on.
It remains unclear how effective this will be, but I’m betting on it. Experience shapes us as much as our genes (or innate talents) do, and online experience is cheaper and easier to shape. In real life, success could be due to luck, and it might teach us the wrong lessons. In a game, we can make sure that it teaches us the right ones.

On the Groupon Business Model Groupon’s emergence is another step in the Internet’s move toward ever-greater efficiency and transparency. That is good news for the strong players, but not so good for the weak. Consider the airline business....
Increased transparency has made the airline business more “efficient,” but now airplane seats are hard to sell on any basis other than price. In an effort to keep their headline prices low, airlines are tacking on surcharges for baggage, drinks, pillows and other items that once were free.

On Net Neutrality: The biggest problem with the net neutrality debate is that no one knows what they are talking about.

On  Net Neutrality Solutions: Legislation isn't gong to solve them. Antitrust enforcement is probably the best solution.

On Internet privacy:  Internet privacy is basically a marketing problem.

If you are attending Saturday's Summit, please bring your own quotes and questions to what is sure to be a lively and memorable discussion which is sure to include her views on the future of librarianship, knowledge, legal issues and the legal profession.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Librarian as Hero: The Bard, The Bribe, The Bookseller, the "Cuban Cutie" and the Mystery of the Durham First Folio

So a man sporting Fendi shades, Gucci shoes and carrying a box of Cuban cigars walks into the Folger Shakespeare Library in DC and pulls a Shakespeare First Folio from a plastic bag and demands to see the librarian.

This is a remarkable "truth is stranger than fiction" tale. The characters and facts are dazzling, amusing and appalling.
But the point of this post is not simply to recount a "ripping yarn." The story illustrates how the specialized skills of librarians led to the recovery of a  stolen First Folio which had been missing for 10 years.  The Folger Library Staff demonstrated extraordinary results from utilizing the professional expertise, judgment and sleuthing that are the hallmarks of a successful research librarian. The ability of the members of the Folger staff to think on their feet, to meet the unexpected inquiry with dispassion and objectivity, to communicate so effectively with a charlatan that he turned over a stolen treasure, and to develop strategies to delay returning the volume until its true provenance could be established saved a cultural treasure. They applied  their extraordinary knowledge of bibliographic research and "CSI -like" forensic skills to solving an international mystery involving the FBI, Scotland Yard and the Constabulary of Durham, England.

Last week the Folger Shakespeare Library hosted a lecture To Catch a Thief: Recovering the Durham First Folio . Steven Galbraith, Curator of Books and Renate Mesmer, Head of Conservation, recounted the remarkable story with brilliant humor using the documentation they had prepared for the FBI and the Durham Constabulary to successfully prosecute Raymond Scott.

First Folios were printed in 1623, 8 years after Shakespeare's death and contained the first collection of Shakespeare's plays. Since no original Shakespeare manuscripts survive, the First Folios were the only source for 18 plays.   It that likely that Macbeth and As You Like It would have been unknown today without the printing of the First Folio. Although all the Folios were produced on a printing press, no two copies were identical, due to variations in spelling, misprints, and variations in page trimming. Over the years each acquired additional unique features as they were bound and rebound, gilded or damaged.  A specilialized reference work, The Shakespeare First Folio by Anthony James West was consulted by the librarians as the most current census of First Folios which are located around the globe and it  identified some of the unique characteristics of the Durham Folio which could be compared with the book that had landed at the Folger.


In December 1998  the Durham First Folio disappeared from a glass case in the Durham University Library in Northeastern UK. The estimated value at the time was $3 million pounds.

Act One - The Con Man at the Folger

On June 16th, 2008, Raymond Scott, walked into the Folger Library in Washington DC and asked to see the Librarian because he needed assistance valuing an old book which had come into his possession. Librarian Richard Kuhta was stunned when Scott pulled a book resembling a First Folio from a plastic bag.  The volume was missing it's binding, title and final pages. He explained that he had gotten the book from a friend in Cuba who became known through the course of the investigation as the "Cuban Cutie." He claimed to be an wealthy bibliophile, with homes across Europe. He bolstered the Cuba story by handing Kuhta a box of Cuban cigars, the first in a series of increasingly expensive "gifts" to be left on Kuhta's desk. Scott pressed Kuhta to confirm the book's value.He even suggested that it was a First Folio although the book was missing it's title page. Kuhta, who was growing ever more suspicious, convinced Scott  to leave the book at the Folger so the staff could study the volume more closely. The Folger's Head of Reference, Georgianna Ziegler moved the book to the vault and staff started investigating the book's  provenance

Several days later Scott returned and was told that the preliminary assessment indicated that the book was a First Folio, but Kuhta bought more time by saying they needed additional confirmation and didn't return the book to Scott. Scott returned on repeated visits bringing expensive ties, cigars and at one point put $2,500 on Kuhta's desk. Kuhta took the money and immediately enrolled Scott as a member in the "Renaissance Circle" of Folger supporters.

On his last visit to the Library, Scott brought a cake for afternoon tea which he had ordered from the chef at the Mayflower Hotel. The cake bore an inscription "Shakespeare First Folio?" with Shakespeare misspelled!

Stephen Massey a well known, rare book appraiser based in New York was brought in and  he identified the volume as the stolen Durham First Folio. Renate Mesmer, the Curator set to work on forensic tests to provide additional evidence that could be used in court to support the identification of the Folio. Her tests included studying the remnants of the book binding which was determined to be of goatskin, like the cover of the stolen folio. Through bibliographic research, she located photocopies of pages of the Durham Folio in England which showed that the stitches in the binding matched the stitching in the damaged folio.Durham Folio Evidence

Kuhta then notified the FBI, the Head of Durham University and Scotland Yard.

Act Two - The Investigation

 The Durham Constabulary determined that Raymond Scott was not a a wealthy, international, bon vivant, but an unemployed 51 year old bachelor who lived with his mother in public housing. on Widgon Close. He lived on public assistance and had piled up massive credit card debt. The constables went to the home and found 1,000 books (many later determined to be stolen) and interrogated Scott. The tabloids descended on the sleepy town  of Washington Tyne and Ware. Neighbors revealed that Scott drove a series of expensive cars, a Ferrari, a Rolls-Royce, a Lamborghini... Scott revelled in the tabloid attention brought on by the investigation and posed swilling Dom Perignon from jeweled, champagne flutes that he routinely carried around in his briefcase.

He had a criminal history including 17 convictions and had used a variety of exotic aliases.

The Cuban Cutie, Heidi Rios was a 21 year old chorus girl from Havana to whom Scott was engaged. Scott claimed that Rios had introduced him to a former Castro bodyguard turned bibliophile who had "inherited" the mutilated First Folio. Scott had agreed to bring the book to the US for valuation for a share of the expected profits.

Act Three - The Trial

In 2010 Scott went on trial. Librarian, Richrd Kuhta was flown to England and testified for four hours. Scott continued to profess his innocence and demonstrate his talent for the outrageous by, arriving at court in various costumes, or in stretch limos or horse drawn carriages. In the end he was convicted of handling stolen property and removing it from the country but there was insufficient evidence to prove he had been involved in the original theft. He was convicted of the two lesser charges but not theft. The prosecutor had argued that Scott had in fact mutilated the Folio in an attempt to remove the characteristics that would identify it as the Durham First Folio. He was way out of his depth on that one! He clearly underestimated the awesome research skills and expert knowledge of bibliography demonstrated by the Folger librarians. The Judge in sentencing him to 8 years in Her Majesty's Prison in Castington, described Scott's crimes as "cultural vandalism" inflicted on a "quintessentially English treasure."

The Terminal Jig

Scholars tell us that many of Shakespeare's plays ended with a bawdy dance or a "terminal jig" performed by a jester or a comic actor. And so ends this tale...
Scott, apparently never one to pass up an opportunity for self-promotion, decided to write a confessional while in jail and has now inflicted his own version: "Shakespeare & Love" on the reading public. (Amazon link omitted intentionally!).

The BBC Produced a documentary Stealing Shakespeare which recounts the story of theft and recovery of the Durham First Folio.

Sadly, the missing pages and binding have not been found, but the Durham First Folio is back home at the University of Durham where security has been dramatically improved since 1998.