BIALL conference, day 2, Fri 15 June

June 19, 2007

Having managed to drag myself out of bed after some, shall we say, enthusiastic socialising the evening before, it was time for Friday’s parallel sessions. I had chosen these on the basis of what looked most interesting at the time of choosing, a month or so before the conference. It turns out that the sessions I picked (apart from the last) were more relevant to those working in law firms, as opposed to the academic environment in which I work. Despite this, it was interesting and of value to see how “the other half live”.

You’ll notice that for this post I have made the title of sessions a hyperlink, where possible; these link through to the BIALL website’s overview of each session.

“Collection Development for Knowledge Management” – Penny Bailey, Bailey Solutions

Penny Bailey’s session was similar to that of Kate Simpson, which I will be writing about in my next post on Saturday’s sessions. It examined the use of effective knowledge management in law firms. It provided a practical perspective on the issues examined by Adrian Dale in his talk during yesterday’s sessions, and in particular ensuring that information is prevented from having the negative value that Dale talked about. As such, this was of interest to me largely in theoretical terms, but what Bailey said seemed to be sound advice. She emphasised in particular the need to build relationships with those in different departments, for example with IT people, to ensure that you get the most out of knowledge management systems. Having a good relationship with IT is something to which I can testify!

“From Spark to Flame: Implementing LawPort at CMS Cameron McKenna” – James Mullan, CMS Cameron McKenna

Another law firm based session, but this one, I felt, had universal application.  James Mullan (who is also one of the BIALL blog contributors) discussed the implemenation of LawPort, a knowledge management system, within his firm. He gave an extemely honest assessment of the difficulties he encountered in doing this. The prime motivation in setting up LawPort was to integrate the various sources of information that were being used within the firm that were not previously talking to each other (including email, the intranet, the extranet, the content management system and so on). Once an integrated information system was implemented, it would allow information of all kinds to be managed, published and accessed through a single portal. He mentioned the problems attached to managing such a project, in particular getting cross-institutional support, but noted that his task was made considerably easier by having the support of senior management, including partners. He also emphasised the need to provide adequate and suitable training for all those using the system. This process of training and feedback then allowed him and his team to make significant revisions to the portal, highlighting the need to listen to your users. James’ presentation provided an object lesson in the problems and pitfalls in implementing any major IT project, but also showed that with good management, success is possible.

“Delivering a Current Awareness Service to Solicitors” – Amanda McKenzie, Olswang

Once again, a session dedicated to law firms. This session focussed on current awareness delivery within law firms. Amanda McKenzie raised two interesting points in what was otherwise largely a “how to” session. The first was with regard to information taken fron blogs. She stated that such information wasn’t used in her current awareness service, since it couldn’t be considered “authoritative” in the way that other sources of information are. This struck me as somewhat unfair, given that blogs can be sources of news and other information, as well as of opinion. The second was McKenzie’s efforts to define roles for the members of her information service, in making it very clear that her team’s remit was to source and provide information, and that it was the role of professional support lawyers to interpret that information. This seemed to me to be a valuable example of an information service clearly defining its role within the wider organisation in which it operates.

“Service to Distance Learning Students: A Student’s Perspective” – Edward T. Hart, University of Florida

This final session of the day provided a great deal of food for thought, as my organisation currently offers distance learning courses. It was delivered by Edward Hart, a law librarian at the University of Florida. Hart was also a recent student on a distance learning course on EU law offered by Northumbria University. His experience was a mixed one, to say the least. He felt that, in fulfilling their own roles,  library staff went “above and beyond” in providing an excellent customer service. Where he found things more frustrating was with regard to the academic faculty. In particular, he found that faculty’s inability to liaise with library to organise training sessions, and to adequately recognise the special research needs of distance learning students to be particularly short-sighted. This problem was especially acute in the lack of adequate legal research training, a skill that was to be absolutely key when completing coursework later in the course. He also found it pedagogically inappropriate to have sessions delivered with students from another course on international trade, many of whom had limited English language skills.

The session provided plenty of points to think about, and in particular the way in which my organisation delivers services to distance learners. I feel that, generally speaking, our service is good, but this is no reason for complacency. For example, the idea of a “books by post” scheme, as mentioned by Hart, seemed an interesting idea and one worth some further investigation.


2 Responses to “BIALL conference, day 2, Fri 15 June”

  1. JamesM Says:

    Neil I’m glad you enjoyed my session it’s nice to receive feedback via this medium. I’m going to add links to your posts so far to the BIALL Blog.

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