AALL – Austin, Texas – July 15-19, 2017

by Jane Harrison
The theme of this year’s American Association of Law Libraries annual conference, Forgo the Status Quo  was mirrored in several programs I attended.
Among them, and two I will discuss briefly in this article are: Identifying Competitive Intelligence in Public Filings: 30 Ways to Find the What, Where, Why and How and Moneyball for Lawyers: How Legal Analytics is Transforming the Business and Practice of Law.
In Identifying, presenters Agnes Mattis [Skadden Arps], Carolyn Hersch [ Ropes Gray} and Christopher Walunas [Intelligize] offered their insights on the content and review of SEC filings with a bent toward Competitive Intelligence. It was suggested that it takes, on average, 90 minutes to review a 10-K.   All IPO Table of Contents are the same.  Highlights on 10-K’s for many  Competitive Intelligence reports are: Overviews, Section 1a – Risk Factors, Section 7 Mergers, Deals & Acquisitions, and Section 8 – Financials and the ‘top of the list’ go-to’s when preparing Competitive Intelligence reports.  
The Moneyballsession provided the insights of Owen Byrd [Lex Machina], Peter Geovanes [Winston Strawn] and Jean O’Grady [DLA Piper].  Byrd outlined how Lex Machina analytics can serve as a catalyst on both sides of the equation.  Geovanes highlighted services he and his team use in gathering needed data to keep the firm moving forward.  Among his suggestions: Altryx and Thought Spot.
O’Grady noted Manzama ‘Signals’. Described more fully in a blog she posted in December 2016, “A company called Manzama  is developing Signals and working with a handful of law firms to develop and refine  algorithms which will tease out patterns  and momentum from exabytes of news  stories, public records, court filings and social media posts  to generate predictive signals. These custom “signals” will alert law firms to  leading indicators of risk and opportunity  for business development.” When she left the podium she told us her takeaway was: Play a role in driving analytics into practice.  Are elements of Moneyball the Crystal Ball of the business and practice of law?  Surely I do not know the answer. I would suggest we researchers, and the businesses designing these products would like to some degree for the answer to be ‘yes’.  Are Analytics the tea leaves of change? It would appear conferences such as AALL lean in full support of ‘yes’.
The Exhibit floor, so many vendors to visit, so little time.  Or at least it seemed that way.  For example, SMI – Social Media Information.  In brief, they’re about locating and preserving social media content.  Selecting a jury? Making a new hire? They may be able to help.  The genesis of e-books in our collections and how the format will have a place in our institutions were part of the showcases at Lexis and ThomsonReuters.  

Lots was learned.  Extraneous facts new to me:  In March 2017 Harvard Law School announced it will accept GRE scores in its admission process.  Since beginning this article, The George Washington University Law School has jumped on the GRE score bandwagon.
In Canada, Paralegals can represent clients in court, albeit in a limited capacity.  Washington State non-lawyers can perform legal functions.
In-between programming and in and at vendor-sponsored events there was lots of conversation.  Sure, about Austin. The city’s slogan:  ‘Keep Austin Weird’ is emblazoned on virtually any product you can imagine.  The city has since the conference been described to me by a UT-Austin grad as the ‘blueberry in the tomato soup’.  Aside from interest in the culture of Austin – you could not escape the music – nor would you want to, the food, and, yes - the bat tours.
Two issues in the forefront of conversation with several people:  Catalogs and Business Information Reports [BIR]  Several libraries are looking to change or are in need of replacing their catalogs.  There was lotsof dialog about who uses what and the plusses and minuses.  The BIRs, where to find content and how to construct the content aside, lots of talk about meeting the expectations of our constituents.  While the wheels of justice  may grind exceedingly slow, that is not as many reading this can attest, always the case in the increasing demand in the business of business development.
I am tremendously grateful to VALL for awarding me grants to attend the AALL conference this year.  I am equally grateful to my employer for allowing the time to attend and participate in AALL.  I have my list of follow-ups following the conference.  They include contacting people, evaluating some new sites, and, I trust, in due time implementing some of these new elements to benefit the development of the profession, and the organization where I work.

 

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