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Archive for March, 2013

Bloomberg Law Breakfast and Legal Division Business Meeting

Tracy speaking at the Bloomberg Breakfast

Tracy speaking at the Bloomberg Breakfast

Monday was the first full day of the conference, and rather nerve wrackingly for me, it started with the Bloomberg Law Breakfast and Legal Division Business Meeting. This was a rather formal affair, again hosted at the Hilton, and I was pre-warned that I would be introduced to everyone as an award winner. The breakfast was a nice opportunity to speak again with Legal Division members that I had met the day before, and to make some new acquaintances. Half way through the breakfast Tracy Z. Maleef, the Legal Division Chair at the time, led us through the business meeting in thanking our sponsors, and thanking and awarding various members who have responsibility within the Legal Division. I was thrilled to see my US mentor Liz Polly win a lovely award, and I remember this session reiterating the impression I had received the day before at the general session, that the SLA as a professional organisations places great value on its membership and displaying its recognition of its members hard work with awards. Of course, my turn came round to stand up and receive applause (luckily I didn’t have to say anything to this huge room of people!), and once I sat back down I remember feeling very grateful to have the privilege of being at the conference and to be a valued member of the SLA.

60 Sites in 60 Minutes by John DiGilio and Gayle Lynn-Nelson

SLA 2012

I then made my way to the conference centre and proceeded to my very first conference session – 60 Sites in 60 Minutes. It was extremely popular and very oversubscribed, with a large number of people having to sit on the floor around the edges of the room as there were not quite enough chairs! I soon learned that this was quite often the case, particularly with spotlight sessions or popular speakers. As you can tell from the title, this was a very fast-paced session which resulted in myself frantically writing down lots and lots of notes that are barely legible when I look back at them now. I had not heard of the vast majority of the sites, and they covered a huge variety; from social media, to personal development sites, search tools, news aggregators, travel sites, fund raising sites, and others I cannot even being to categorise because they are so unique and bizarre. For example, one of the sites explored was ‘Stillness Buddy’, which is basically yoga and life coaching you can receive through your computer. I did not find many sites that would be particularly relevant to my work, but it was a very enjoyable session and certainly opened my eyes to the sheer variety and amount of stuff out there on the web. SLA Europe are hosting an event that follows the same concept which I am very much looking forward to attending, and will explore apps as well as sites.

Seeing Your Career from the Outside In by SLA Fellows

The next session I attended primarily because I knew Bethan Ruddock was one of the SLA Fellows on the panel presenting it. The session was structured so that there were some standard questions that were asked of each of the Fellows (I think there were 4 on the panel), and then they opened the floor for any questions from the audience. I am not going to completely reproduce my notes of the session here, but I will hopefully give you a very brief insight in to the content of the session.

View of Chicago from the Conference Centre

View of Chicago from the Conference Centre

The first standard question asked of the panel was which soft competencies are useful for building our careers. The answers covered variations on the skill of problem solving as the core soft competency – being able to identify the correct problem to address, and problem–solving being a mind-set rather than a skill as we use all of our past experience to aid us in this and learn additional skills to improve at problem-solving as we move along in our careers.

The second question asked of the panel was the importance of leadership. The panel had quite a lot to say about this, but the highlights I noted was that leadership is a process that is primarily about being influential, and not necessarily about whether you are liked or not. Bethan’s view was that leadership is something that happens most effectively when you are not thinking about it. From her own experience, she had become a leader through the number and variety of activities she participated in and by thinking of new ways to improving the organisation she worked for.

The third question was about using soft skills when dealing with users. The notes I have are focused on lawyers as users, and I believe a speaker on the panel used them as an example. Information professionals who work for lawyers must be careful that their dealings and relationships with lawyers do not lead to a lack of self-confidence on their part. We have to consider what is important to our users and what do they really value? The answer for lawyers is, of course, that they care about money. Some law firms charge their clients for time spent and services rendered by information professionals on their behalf. My law firm does not do this, but I do save lawyers time by conducting their research more efficiently and effectively that they could themselves due to my knowledge of information sources, and I took this as something to remind myself when I am ever feeling insecure about my competence.

The Evolving Role of Competitive Intelligence in the Legal Marketplace by Zena Applebaum, Nathan Rosen, Toni Wilson and Emily Rushing

I think this session was the one I most enjoyed for the whole conference. The speakers were very engaging, and the content of the session was varied due to the number of speakers. There was an emphasis throughout on the importance of human intelligence – apparently 80% of what a law firm needs to know it knows already – but it needs a human to organise that knowledge (or know how) and to know where to look for it. This session also put a great emphasis on information professionals being inter-departmental, and not just helping the lawyers, but other departments such as marketing, where competitive intelligence is just as important. When asked for information, information professionals need to move from providing, for example, simple company information, to additionally providing industry analysis and contextualising the company with its competitors, and this is what they referred to as ‘competitive intelligence’. I think this is a valuable point, but I would like to add that providing competitive intelligence is a balancing act; you need to be confident enough that the additional value information you are providing is reliable and offering a full picture to your users. You also need to be aware of what your users want, as maybe they only need the basic company information, and by providing extra analysis you may be wasting valuable time.

Competitive intelligence as a balancing act

Competitive intelligence as a balancing act

Interestingly, one of the speakers compared the information profession to the marketing profession in relation to law firms. Apparently marketing departments in law firms are maintaining their size (in contrast to libraries) and are spending a 30% increase in research. The speaker advised law firm libraries to demonstrate to their firms that they have a strategy, and that they aim to provide value wherever they can in the firm. Librarians also need to demonstrate how law firms can make a return in their investment in libraries; for example by providing tender packs on potential clients and saving the firm time and money in aiding them to select appropriate clients.

To close the session, the panel reviewed that our roles as information professionals are changing. 35 years ago, legal firms did not have marketing directors, and now they do. 15 years ago law firm librarians were solely focused on conducting legal research, but are now conducting business development research. We need to understand that our role is evolving, and add a level of analysis and competitive intelligence to make ourselves indispensable to our firms. Information is quick, but intelligence takes time.

SLA International Reception

In the evening, we all attended the International Reception which was held in the beautiful ballroom of the Hilton.

SLA International Reception

We watched the award presentation to Anneli Sarkanen for the SLA Europe Conference Award, and got to know the Europe Chapter members a little better over a lovely dinner. Later on we proceeded to gate-crash a number of ‘open houses’ by divisions such as Physics-Astronomy-Mathematics Division and the Solo Librarians Division, which were basically social events with free drink and food. This was a practice that apparently everyone did, as you bumped in to the same people over and over at different open houses – and of course this is unsurprising when food, drink, and librarians are a perfect combination for a lovely evening.

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