Organizations such as the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and the Special Libraries Association (SLA) do an excellent job of articulating the core competencies and professional skills required to embark on a career as a law librarian. But often times, once your foot is in the door, it takes a lot of practical wisdom to thrive and succeed.
In the recent webinar: “The Influential Law Librarian: Six Keys to Success” Reed Tech sought to provide a forum for law librarians to learn more about those practical lessons. The webinar can be viewed on demand by clicking here.
In this blog post, we’re recapping the first three keys to success shared by guest speaker Diana Koppang, library manager at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP. Koppang has specialized in intellectual property research throughout her 12-year career as a law firm librarian. She recently served as the Chair of the Intellectual Property Caucus of AALL and is currently Chair of AALL’s Economic Status of Law Librarians Committee, as well as on the Board of the Chicago chapter of AALL.
“It’s important to understand your lawyers’ needs before they even ask for your assistance on specific projects,” said Koppang. “The idea is that you’re there before they realize it. You’re prepared for the questions they’re going to ask.” She stressed the importance of understanding the composition of an IP practice group, such as the niche area of law practiced (e.g., copyrights, trademarks, patents, etc.) and the type of law practiced (e.g., transactional, patent prosecution, litigation, etc.).
Koppang encouraged law librarians to spend time reviewing attorney biographies, chatting with them in casual settings such as office get-togethers and practice group meetings, or by simply popping by their offices from time to time. “If you get to know your attorneys’ backgrounds and areas of expertise, it’ll help you anticipate the questions they’re going to ask and the context in which to place those questions,” she advised.
“It’s not enough to just be reactive – solving IP research problems that are brought to us – we need to be more pro-active in our field in order to really achieve success as professionals,” said Koppang. She suggested that law librarians volunteer to take their research projects one step further than the specific requests they receive.
“For example, if you’re running a patent portfolio search on a company that your firm’s client is considering for an acquisition, ask the lawyer if it would be helpful for you to also set up alerts for new patent or trademark filings by the company, as well as news alerts that might be helpful for them to see,” she said. Other ways to be pro-active might be to track legal industry moves within a specific practice area or region and to offer ongoing training from both in-house professionals and outside vendors that might help your attorneys maximize the value of the firm’s IP research tools.
Koppang stressed that law librarians need to make themselves indispensable professionals who serve the entire law firm, not just the partners or other attorneys. “The more departments in the firm who love you and can’t think of a world without you, the better,” she quipped.
One prominent way that law librarians can integrate their services in the firm is to collaborate with the firm’s marketing/business development team. “Librarians are well-positioned to assist the marketing professionals by providing them with valuable competitive intelligence, tracking important news stories that are relevant to the firm’s growth strategies and monitoring specific programs sponsored by your firm or other firms,” said Koppang. She also pointed to the human resources department (e.g., tracking personnel moves within the industry) and the finance department (e.g., finding delinquent clients) as other opportunities for librarians to make themselves valuable within the firm’s ecosystem.
Koppang said that it’s important for law librarians to leverage all available technology resources to help them do their jobs as effectively and efficiently as possible. For example, LexisNexis TotalPatent One™ is a next-generation patent research tool that gives law librarians comprehensive, on-point results with a fast and easy-to-use modern interface. The product provides researchers with easy access to the world’s largest collection of searchable full-text and bibliographic information — the deepest archive of images, citations, legal status and patent family collections — all in one place.