Guest post by Sarah Lin, Information Architect and Digital Librarian, RSTudio, Inc. 

For eleven years, I worked at a large global law firm, Reed Smith, and during that entire time, I cataloged books that were not located where I was and managed our entire ILS and materials workflow with a dispersed technical services team.

Logistically, we handled this by having staff in other locations scan the title page, verso, and sometimes the table of contents to me via PDF.  I gave them the information on how to calculate height, which led to a funny conversation over the phone as I tried to communicate that height meant spine, not the height of the book if you laid it flat on a table, nor the width from spine to edge.  The situation was challenged by the fact that the folks on the ground in other locations were usually contractors in the office anywhere from twice a month to three times per week.  Communication had to be timed, emails responded to promptly when timezones didn’t interfere, and I had to be absolutely consistent in what I asked of each person so far away from me.  Indeed, because my team was used to not seeing me in person when I lived in Chicago and they were around the globe, when I moved to California and started working from home there was not any notable difference in our interactions save the time change!

Probably my biggest remote challenge came when I was asked to catalog the books in one of our German offices.  There wasn’t a dedicated library staff member in the office, and due to the time difference between California and Germany, my schedule never overlapped with the secretary who was the keeper of their Excel spreadsheet.  In the end, that didn’t matter because I was instructed that she didn’t have time to help me anyway.  So, I took a spreadsheet, plus my college German, OCLC Connexion and Google, and proceeded to get bib records and create item records for just about every title.

Now, unless librarians today had the foresight to scan title pages and versos before they left their offices for the last time for the foreseeable future, there isn’t anyone left to send a scan, much less open a shipment of new books.  And more impactfully, there aren’t any users to read those print titles!  What advice I have left to offer, though, is actually the most important aspect of successful remote cataloging, and really any kind of remote metadata management: be ok with imperfection.

If I worked with actual books now, I’d be thinking about running a report of all records entered during my time working from home once I was back in the office.  In the interim, I’d be going with the best guess if I wasn’t certain which of the many OCLC records I had to choose from and moving on to the next task.  I’d be thinking about metadata cleanups that I could do without needing to see a book in person—typos in the catalog, authority control, and the like.  I might spend time updating procedural documentation or working through what’s likely to need to be done once the doors open again.  My best guess is that access to online resources and expanding online collections are top of mind (if my Twitter feed from academic friends is any indication), and you can run a URL check and import records from home just as well as you can from the office.

If working remotely is new for you, give yourself some time to adjust and expand your thinking—you can probably do all of your jobs, so long as you accept the substitutes you have for your usual workflow, and think creatively about making do with the situation you’re in.

If you’re like the majority of us and are stuck at home for 2 weeks+ you may need some help to avoid going stir crazy, or just take your mind off of things.

WHAT TO WATCH

TV / Movies
If you’re looking for mainstream TV and movies, some internet providers make streaming content free to their customers (see Xfinity Stream). If you’ve cut the cord from cable TV and your internet provider doesn’t offer something like this, the big 3 providers offer 30 day free trials for new customers. (*Previous customers with a different email address are also usually eligible for free trials…)

See this post for other providers offering 7 day free trails (Disney+, HBO, CBS All Access, Apple+, etc.)

If you don’t already have one or more of these streaming services, you could sign up for the trials back to back to extend your options for as long as possible. (Just don’t forget to cancel before the end of your trial if you don’t want to pay!)

Arts / Culture
If you already have one or more of these or you’re just looking for something a little more artistic / less mainstream, research your local hotspots for performing arts/artists to see if they’re streaming anything online. For example, a jazz club in my town is live-streaming a lot of their previously booked performances via Facebook live.

image of a jazz quintet

Source: YouTube, “Live @ the Dirty Dog – Straight Ahead”

The Metropolitan Opera has been streaming their performances for free. You’ve probably also seen that many major institutions around the world are offering “virtual museum tours.” These range from virtual tours of the spaces themselves to scrolling images of the items in their collections. Many zoos, aquariums and animal nurseries are also offering live feeds of their adorable occupants. (If you’re stuck at home with kids, put on a live feed of some penguins and play a game of narrating what you think the animals would be saying to each other.)

Educational / How To
You could also try to catch up on all those Ted Talks you’ve bookmarked to watch later… You don’t have a ton of those saved? Just me? Ok.


WHAT TO READ
(After you’ve gotten through everything at your local public or institutional library. ♥)

Black and white image of potted plants

Source: CNN’s The Wisdom Project, “Inspirational quotes to get us through the coronavirus shutdown”

Inspirational / Funny
I’m a big fan of The Wisdom Project by David Allan. He just posted a timely piece on inspirational quotes that also includes references to a lot of good books, movies, shows and songs. I especially love the quote from Eddie Izzard, who, if you don’t already know, is a fantastic comedian. And who couldn’t use some laughs right now? (Here’s one of my favorite skits of his to get you started: Cake or Death. He’s also written a book, which I’m currently listening to him narrate–Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens.)

Feel Good Stories
If you’re like me and have signed up for a ton of newsletters despite knowing you probably won’t have time to read them, now might be the time to go through a few of the most recent and decide if they’re worth continuing to subscribe to. CNN’s The Good Stuff is one I like and am planning to keep, mostly for the feel-good stories, and partly because it only comes once a week.

Self-Improvement
If you’ve been too busy to catch up on your reading  now’s the time to get through that book (or 10) you’ve been wanting to read. Same goes for catching up on reading for professional development. Sometimes it feels like I’m too busy doing my job to spend time reading about how I could be doing it more efficiently, or with more compassion, or [fill in with whatever applies to you].


BONUS! WHAT TO LISTEN TO

While this post focused on things to read and watch during the Coronavirus shutdown, I feel I can’t end it without also recommending some tunes to sample when you’re tired of reading and watching all of the stuff listed above. Check out the Coronavirus Awesome Mix 2020 on Spotify. (Not saying Coronavirus is awesome. But this playlist sort of is. Also Spotify (with ads) is free.)

If you’re more of a talk radio person, NPR is curating two podcast playlists to help you manage anxiety and stay informed.

NPR playlist of podcasts on Spotify

Source: NPR.org, “Coronavirus Podcast Playlists: Manage Stress And Stay Informed”

Stay healthy!

By: Artie Berns, Research/Emerging Technologies Librarian, Western New England University, School of Law

With the coronavirus giving many of us a reason to work from home a, wouldn’t it be nice if there was some sort of app to do video conferencing and screen sharing? Actually, there are quite a few: Skype, Google Hangouts, and many others. Many of them provide users with a free option to do video conferencing. In this post, I have been asked to talk about one in particular: Zoom. Given our circumstances, I thought it would be good to create a step by step guide on using Zoom.[1]

Many of you are probably familiar with Zoom already. I had many Zoom meetings even before I became explicitly aware of its existence; I would follow the link provided when others would invite me to a Zoom meeting without paying much attention to the platform they used.

Earlier in this school year, I was shopping for a screen sharing tool to assist our LLM students remotely[2] and a colleague suggested Zoom. With the free account, users have unlimited one-on-one meetings and screen sharing options; this seemed like a good choice for what I intended.

I’ve asked my good friend and fellow AALL member Mandy Lee from Chicago-Kent College of Law Library to help with this post by having a Zoom meeting with me.

To hold a Zoom meeting, you’ll first need an account. To sign up for Zoom, follow this link, then follow the directions to create an account. Even if you don’t have an account, you probably already have Zoom’s client program since it gets downloaded if you attend a Zoom meeting.

Assuming you have an account and the client, to start a one-on-one-meeting, start the client and sign in to your account.

Once you’re logged in, hit the New Meeting button.

This begins your meeting and, by default, will give you the option of setting up your audio. If you are new to using Zoom, you should test your microphone and speakers before joining the meeting. There are also options to call into the session. Checking your audio before joining will help ensure your meeting runs more smoothly.

Once you confirm your audio is working, you will be in your personal meeting room. Congratulations, you have started your first Zoom meeting.

Right now, it’s a meeting of one. By clicking on Invite Others, you’ll get a pop-up screen with methods for sending invitations. Zoom will automatically populate your Contacts screen with other people who are signed up for Zoom and have the same domain as you in their email addresses. You can also hit the Copy Invitation button and send several options for joining your Zoom meeting will be placed in your clipboard that you can then paste into an email message.

Here I’m sending the copied invitation information to Mandy.

Since I’m using the free version and I’m not sure how long the meeting will last, I’m not inviting more than one person. I could have a meeting of up to 100 people using the free version, but the meeting would be limited to 40 minutes. To get longer group meetings, I would need to upgrade my plan. The Pro plan is the next tier up and costs $14.99/month. You can explore Zoom plan options here.

A few minutes after I sent the invitation, Mandy joined the meeting with her video off.

She was able to turn her video on by hovering over the Zoom client window, so her controls appeared, then hitting Start Video.

Notice how Mandy’s video has a yellow outline? That signifies she is the one who either is talking or has talked most recently. Now that we were both on video we decided to take a virtual work-from-home coffee break before moving on.

Having caffeinated ourselves properly, it was time to get back to work.

First, some screen sharing. You can screen share by hovering over the client and hitting Share Screen. This launches a dialog box with all of the options for sharing the screen. Options include sharing whatever is on the screen currently, a Whiteboard, an iPhone or iPad, or any application currently open on your computer.

Initially, I chose whiteboard, just to see how it works. Whiteboard is built into Zoom and seems to be a convenient way to communicate visually.

Next, I intended to screen-share a blog post that I was working on at the time. Instead, my cat Burnley decided to Zoombomb our virtual meeting.

I understand that this can be a problem when hosting a Zoom meeting, but I was surprised one of my family members decided to engage in such behavior. You can prevent users from Zoombombing your meeting by going to the Advanced Sharing Options menu and limiting who can share to the host.[3]

After Burnley’s interference subsided, I was able to screen share my blog post in progress with Mandy.

Depending on how you have your meeting configured, participants may not be able to screen share. In those cases, you may want to make one of your participants the host. You can do this by clicking on Manage Participants, then hover over the participant who you want to make host and hit More >. Then select Make Host from the drop-down menu. When you make someone else host, you stop being host.

After I made Mandy the host, she was able to share a photo of a partially printed legal form filled in by John Adams.

I hope that this blog post will be helpful to many of you who are just getting started using Zoom while answering the call to be socially distant. Thanks to Mandy Lee for her help with putting together this blog post. I realize that Zoom has many more features than I have covered, but I wanted to just cover the basics here.

[1] I am aware that the normal audience for this blog probably doesn’t need this kind of help.

[2] Western New England University School of Law offers a fully online LLM in Elder Law.

[3] This would not have prevented Burnley’s intrusion.

Is our new online teaching reality exacerbating your copyright anxiety? In this post, we’ll provide some sources and search strategies for images you can use freely. 

 Photograph of tall bookshelves, with marble busts along the ends of the shelves.

Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash

Several sources for free stock photos have popped up in the past few years. Unsplash bills itself as “the internet’s source of freely usable images,” and hosts over 1 million high-resolution photographs made available under the Unsplash license. Under the license, all photos published on Unsplash can be used for free, for commercial or noncommercial uses, without permission or attribution (although attribution is encouraged). The exception is that you may not compile Unsplash photos to create a similar service. Similar free stock photo sites include Pexels, Reshot, and StockSnap.io; see also this great roundup of 28 free stock photo sites. Be sure to check the license for each site to make sure it permits your particular use of the image. 

An illustration of an armored knight on horseback.

A Tournament Contest, artist unknown, ca. 1560-1570. J. Paul Getty Museum.

Many museums have made their collections (well, digital images of their collections) free to use, whether with the Creative Commons CC0 license or another license permitting reuse. The Creative Law Center has a great roundup (scroll to the bottom of the post). The jousting knight to the left comes from a digitized 16th-century German book in the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Open Content Program

Some image sites and search engines that aren’t exclusively free-to-use also permit you to filter results by license. On Flickr, for example, you can filter your search results by license type to identify images with any Creative Commons license, images for which commercial use or modifications are permitted, or images without any copyright restrictions. You can filter Google Images search results by usage rights as well (after running your search, click “Tools” underneath the search bar, then “Usage Rights”). Just double-check the rights with the image source – Google doesn’t always get the usage rights right. 

Photograph of a white ptarmigan on a branch

Ptarmigan, Denali National Park and Preserve (from Flickr)

You can use the Creative Commons Search to search across more than 300 million images usable under Creative Commons licenses. Most of the images come from Flickr, but hundreds of thousands come from museum collections (including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rijksmuseum). After searching, you can filter by the specific Creative Commons licenses to find images that permit (or prohibit) commercial use and modification, or images that require attribution (or don’t). 

Black and white drawing of an ice cream coneWhat if you just want an icon or symbol, not a photograph? Try The Noun Project. You can create a free account and use the entire collection as long as you credit the icon’s creator; with a paid account ($39.99/yr/person), attribution is not required. Without a pro account, the attribution will be a part of the image you download.

What if you see an image on Wikipedia that you want to use? Good news – you probably can! Subject to the terms of its license, that is. To check, click on the image, then on “More Details” in the lower right-hand corner. You’ll get to the image’s page on Wikimedia Commons, and the license details will be described at the bottom of the page. Most of those images are under some sort of Creative Commons license, so you may be required to attribute the creator or be restricted from commercial uses. You can also search across all Wikimedia Commons images.  

Finally, images don’t stay under copyright forever, and although it’s not always easy to determine copyright status, you can at least be sure that any work first published in 1924 or earlier has now entered the public domain in the United States. The Library of Congress has gathered free-to-use images from its digital collections, most of which are in the public domain. Check out Old Book Illustrations for, well, old book illustrations; most are in the public domain but you should check the image details to be sure. Project Gutenberg provides e-book versions of works in the public domain, many of which contain illustrations; for example, poor Conrad, above, from Heinrich Hoffman’s Struwwelpeter

There are many, many more sources for free-to-use images online! We haven’t even talked about images created by the U.S. government, which cannot be copyrighted (try USA.gov’s image search). There are also some great free-to-use fonts; I’m itching to find a project where I can use Dana Library Hand or the beautiful initials from this digital edition of Euclid’s Elements (scroll down for initials font). Do you have any go-tos we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments!  

 

Use apps like Trello and Slack to create places for both business and community.

Amidst the anxiety, fear and overwhelm we are all feeling, many of us across the country have been scrambling to figure out teleworking for our libraries while setting up physical spaces at home. I have been extremely lucky to have such enthusiastic teammates (big shout out to my partners in establishing our library’s Trello board and Slack workspace, Student Services Librarian Geraldine Kalim and Copyright & Research Services Librarian Stephen Wolfson) to share in this transition with our colleagues at UGA Law Library. And I am happy to report that everyone who has joined these online spaces so far seems to be enjoying them (and communicating pretty effectively too)!

Trello

Some of us in the law library were already using Trello for smaller teams (our library bloggers), and to track large and long-term projects (the library systems team has a robust board for our transition to OpenAthens authentication). Even this very CS-SIS blog uses Trello to share ideas and assign writers to posts with due dates. Based on this experience the library thought Trello would be a good space to share with librarians and staff resources related to our COVID-19 preparations and planning, and to track the progress of tasks related to this unprecedented time.

For our library, the Trello board includes columns for:

  • Resources (a place to keep links or attached documents we might need access to like VPN instructions)
  • 5 Departments (administration, access services, collection services, research services, and I.T.)
  • Various Teams (for tasks involving members from multiple departments)
  • Done (for tasks completely finished)

We are also using Trello’s color-coded labels for identifying items on the board by type, and most task cards in addition to title include short descriptions, related attachments, due dates and activity notes. Task cards are then “assigned” to the individuals responsible. This has been excellent for everyone having one primary location they can access from anywhere, without getting lost in email strings, to check on the progress as we were in the early stages of planning our responses related to COVID-19 closure.

Why not KanbanFlow? Two of the reasons we decided on Trello instead of the similar application KanbanFlow was the nice mobile device app counterpart that Trello offers, and the ability to include attachments on task cards for free.

Not all channels have to be serious business. Create community with channels for laughing or venting.

Slack

We thought about starting everyone off in Slack instead of Trello, but initially decided Slack might have too high of a learning curve. With at least a few others already using Trello, it was our starting point. Earlier this week though we broadened our Slack workspace invites to the entire library and it has really surprised us at how much fun our colleagues are having in that space. The two serve slightly different purposes at this point but the main thing that sets Slack apart from our “all business” Trello is the sense of community it is creating. We have a mixture of channels for serious work (ex. #reference, #digital_commons, #systems) and several that are lively with /giphy [keyword] commands running wild (#what_ya_watching, #home_office_with_a_view, #positive_panda, #anxiety_primal_scream_zone) where people can share how they’re feeling about the current events, recommend movies or series to each other, and post photos of their home office spaces. When coworkers join everyone has been awesome about welcoming them to the space, and we have a channel for keeping tips and tricks related to using slack called #slackhelp.

Connect other apps with Slack.

App Integrations

A huge benefit to using these two tools together is that you don’t have to check both spaces. One of the many apps Slack offers to add in is Trello. Using the Trello app, you can connect boards and use commands to push notifications from one space to the other. There are many other apps too! We are all using Zoom as our face-to-face meeting alternative, and using either One Drive or Google Drive to share docs and collaborate from. There are app hook-ups for each! There’s even an Outlook Calendar app to sync calendars with if your institution uses Outlook. (A quick test of this automatically updated my status to match my calendar’s “In Meeting” and reset my status when the meeting was over. It was beautiful!)

Getting Users Onboard

Some librarians and staff were already using these two tools while others had never used either tool. To our surprise, Slack has been better received than Trello. We credit this to the GIFs, and the ease with which we can all share pet photos. We started small and invited a few people to each platform first (groups of 3 and 4 at a time). As the spaces were more established with columns and tasks in Trello and channels in Slack we expanded our invitations gradually by department. As I am writing this post, I have sent an email to the entire library sharing the “invite” links to each, and a calendar invite for a Zoom screen-share demo session early tomorrow morning. In this session I plan to walk users through the following in Slack:

Status can be a fun or serious way of letting coworkers know when you are available while teleworking.

1. how to set up your profile, edit your display name and photo, and customize your status
2. demo creating, finding and sharing channels
3. tour our channels so far (ex. #slackhelp)
4. show examples of attached docs
5. how to share gifs using /giphy [keyword]
6. how to use threads for discussion
7. starring content and searching content
8. how to connect and integrate apps
9. using direct messages with individuals
10. differences between the mobile, web and desktop apps

Welcome colleagues that are just joining the space.

 

I’m also planning to use this time for Q & A from those that attend, fielding questions about both Slack and Trello, and let our other slack super-users (our I.T. folks, I.T. Librarian, and our Copyright Librarian) to screen-share and show tips or tricks I may not know myself. Scheduling a time for everyone to attend is not any easier teleworking than it was in real life, so I plan to record this session and upload the video for us to refer back to or watch later. So far I have been relieved and amazed by the quick adaptation my colleagues of varying technical backgrounds have had with these two tools.  How are you and your colleagues communicating while working from home? Are there other applications working well for you, and what tools are you taking this opportunity to experiment with?

 

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Thanks to Amanda Watson, Director of the O’Quinn Law Library, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Houston Law Center and Vice-Chair of CS-SIS, for this post. 

Let’s be honest: distance management is strange. It requires a set of muscles many of us have never had to flex. As managers, we are spending our mental energy trying to support new systems of learning, patron populations with new challenges, and of course we can’t forget to manage our teams. I would like to offer the following ideas to help with this new lift:

  1. Manage to the top. When I was a younger law teacher, an esteemed colleague told me to never teach to the bottom or middle of the class. He said you always have to teach to the top, and trust that you are giving everyone your best, and allowing them the opportunity to rise to their best. Don’t give your team micro-managing tasks. Instead, challenge them to help your library by bringing their own best to the table. What does this look like? Create a shared document (use a google document if you don’t have a system in place), and ask everyone to contribute three ideas for distance work. Invest in those ideas. I can hear some of you saying, well if you had an employee like I have, you’d never say something like that. I promise I’ve had a version of that person. In honesty, they may not contribute. But if you spend all your management time focused on that employee, you’ll miss all the incredible contributions of your team. Manage to the top.
  2. Add a back-up plan. Then give your back-up plan a back-up plan. What are some tasks your team can accomplish when they don’t have a clear idea of what to do? Do they have access to a professional development platform? Is everyone Westlaw/Lexis/Bloomberg/etc. certified? Can you divide the top 100 law schools up in groups and ask your team to review their websites and catalogs for ideas to improve yours? Can you mail your people stacks of postcards, so they can handwrite notes to students encouraging them in this new environment? All of our great ideas don’t have to be creative or tech-savvy.
  3. Stay in touch. Communicate with your team. Tell them what you know. Tell them what you don’t know. Ask how they are. Use Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Slack (or a combination of them all) to set up team chats, meetings, and file locations. Send them a video, plan a weekly call, or virtual team meeting. Emails are fine, but true collaboration is better.
  4. Be unceasingly loyal to your team. As library managers, we will build some incredible things. We’ll be part of some cool projects. But in the end nothing will matter more than how we treat the people who worked with us. Think about them, their challenges, and lead from that perspective.

Today’s post is part 3 of 3, covering various aspects of the recent ABA Techshow in Chicago.

Thanks to Artie Berns, Research/Emerging Technologies Librarian, Western New England University, School of Law Library, for this fantastic series on the ABA Techshow!

In my two previous posts, I discussed a few of the products featured at the 2020 ABA Techshow. This post is about the educational sessions available at Techshow. Since my focus this year was on learning about products in the Exhibit Hall, I didn’t attend very many of the educational sessions. However, I feel that a discussion of the event that doesn’t discuss the various educational sessions would be incomplete.

A little overview of the structure of Techshow will contextualize some of what is discussed below. The educational programs within Techshow are divided into subject areas called Tracks. Some Tracks span two days and include eight sessions, others are for a single day and include four sessions. Of particular note to academic law librarians is that this Techshow marks the first year of an academic track being included as a full-fledged track rather than being considered experimental or not officially part of Techshow. This year’s academic track was called Next 20.

That being said, of the few I educational sessions I was able to attend, I found the session, Bridging the Justice Gap: AI and A2J, to be the most useful. Before going to this year’s Techshow, one of my school’s adjunct professors expressed interest in creating an A2J project where students could develop chatbots. During this session, one of the presenters, Quinten Steenhuis, shared his experience in creating such a system to assist Boston area tenants with housing issues. After the session, I was able to obtain Mr. Steenhuis’s contact information and obtain some advice on how to proceed with such a project.

The following are the experiences shared by other law librarians and law students who attended Techshow with their law librarians. In some instances, I have done minimal editing for spatial rather than content concerns.

Michael Robak, Director, Schoenecker Law Library, University of St. Thomas, School of Law

Discussing the increasing inclusion of legal academia in the Techshow:
[W]ith the advent of the Academic Track, Techshow attendance and interest has become even more robust.  And Thomson Reuters and Techshow have begun law student sponsorships which has also increased attendance.  I think though, most importantly, there are Law Librarians who are adding “tech ed” to their portfolios to complement the “ed tech” hats many already wear.  Legal research is now part of the practice platforms our vendors are creating and, as Information Professionals, it makes increasing sense we play a significant role in the development of technology education at our institutions.

The pitch for academic attendance is easy.  Most law schools produce lawyers who will practice as solos or in small firms.  Those lawyers will need to effectively utilize technology to efficiently practice law.  While this has been the general story for a while now (remember Techshow started in 1986), technology is an ever-moving target.  Techshow is the sweet spot for attorneys who want to stay abreast of the changes and how it can improve their practice.  Larger law firms are there too as well as government attorneys but it is the combination of the track presentations and materials presented, the newer practitioners in attendance who we can ask the question – “now that you’ve been out of law school, what would have helped you to better understand tech?” and vendors that you won’t see at any academic conference.  These three elements provide law librarians, hands down, absolutely the greatest ROI for conference attendance.

Discussing session: Seeing is Believing: Virtual Reality Preparedness:
Mathew and Kenton’s presentation provided clear direction and guidance on both the possibilities of VR technologies as well as their practical uses.  VR clearly offers the legal industry real potential.  And law schools are exactly the right place for VR R&D to be underway as so ably and entertainingly explained by Matthew and Kenton.  This wasn’t just a “let’s talk about possibilities” presentation.  This was a nuts and bolts, clear and concise, explanation and demonstration of things you can be doing today at your law school.  And with only a very modest investment in the technology.  What a great start for the Next 20 track.

Julie Randolph, Reference Librarian, Temple University, Beasley School of Law Library

My favorite session at Techshow was one I hadn’t expected to get all that excited about – Order, Order:  Law Firm Document and Knowledge Management.  Temple University Beasley School of Law’s librarians are planning to introduce a class on law practice technology in the near future, so I came to Techshow to learn more about what technology law firms of all sizes – as well as other legal organizations – use.  Coming from a big law background, I didn’t have a good understanding of solo and small firms’ technology needs and challenges.  This session gave me a great deal of insight as to where solo and small firms may be technology-wise, provided a thorough run-down of a document management system’s core functions, and included information on specific document and knowledge management systems appropriate for these smaller firms.  As a bonus, after the presentation, I started chatting with someone in the row in front of me who then expressed interest in having me present at a CLE panel he’s starting to assemble – you never know what kind of connections you’ll make at a conference!

Debbie Ginsberg, Educational Technology Librarian, Chicago-Kent College of Law Library

Cloudy – with a Chance of Sanctions — or Success!, presented by Nicole Black and Jim Calloway

With these speakers, how can you go wrong?

When asked, many lawyers report they aren’t using “the cloud” for practice.  But of course, in 2020, almost all of us are in one way or another, even if we don’t really remember that Dropbox is actually a “cloud” service.

Knowing what risks and benefits our cloud usage involves is a part of maintaining our technological competence (now required in 38 states).  It’s easy to forget to think wholistically when we are trying to buy a service to solve a problem, but it’s important that lawyers understand exactly what they are purchasing.  They need to know the full ramifications of the service on their business, their clients, their security, and their data.  And, as I remind students from time to time- you’re lawyers.  Read the usage agreements and other terms of service!

I teach this concept to students when I can, but the session provided a useful overview of things not to forget.  A few tips to keep in mind when we use software housed on outside servers (or, really, any technologies):

  • Investigate your provider: Do they provide the level of security you’d like?  Will you be able to retrieve your data?  How will confidentiality be maintained?
  • Read your Service Level Agreement: Remember that with many providers, you can negotiate the terms.
  • Check your provider’s financial stability:  Will they be around in 5 years?  Is another company about to buy them?
  • Check your own financial stability: Can you pay for a whole year, or just month-to-month?  What happens if you don’t pay?

Using cloud services is, for most lawyers, pretty much unavoidable.  But doing your research and planning from the start can avoid many problems later on.

Jenny Wondracek, Director of Legal Educational Technology and Professor of Practice, University of North Texas, College of Law

The 60 Tips in 60 Minutes session is always my favorite session.  I learn so much in such a condensed amount of time as the presenters offer up some of their favorite technologies and tips.  Some of the highlights include:

  • Use the word Draft in an email To: field to prevent accidental sending of a draft email.
  • Using PowerPoint to record a presentation? It can now live caption the speaker with pretty good accuracy.
  • The iPhone can be used as an assistive listening device. Turn on the Hearing setting to use your phone as a microphone, and then hook it to Bluetooth enabled earbuds or hearing aids.
  • Best travel mouse – Microsoft PL2 ARC Touch Mouse (I added it to my Amazon Wishlist!)
  • Find out if you have been hacked – https://haveibeenpwned.com/

These are just a few that caught my attention. Want to read more of the 55 tips?  See Ed Walters’ Tweet Rollup – https://twitter.com/i/events/1233814215984664577

Kimberly Hale, Juris Doctor Candidate 2020, University of North Texas, College of Law

As a first time ABA Techshow goer, I didn’t know what to expect. The Techshow did not disappoint; every session I attended was informative, engaging, and useful. My favorite session, however, was Bring Design Thinking to Your Law Practice by Susan Letterman White. Session attendees came to the workshop with a current project or problem and, after working through the Design Thinking process, were able to leave with new ideas for practical solutions to those problems. I learned that, unlike traditional problem-solving, the focus is not on the cause of the problem; instead, Design Thinking helps people progress toward a solution through a collaborative, creative process. During the workshop, we partnered up: one person took the consultant role and the other played the client. My “client” was faced with the problem of high law clerk turnover at her firm. Rather than focusing on the cause of the turnover, we talked through potential ways to solve the problem (e.g., creating an official law clerk onboarding and training program, in addition to other ways to improve the overall culture of the firm). The exercise was a great introduction to the Design Thinking process. In a former career, I worked as a marketing professional, and what I enjoyed most was creative brainstorming for new content ideas. Design Thinking embodies that creative side. Now, as a May 2020 graduate, the prospect of integrating Design Thinking into my career is very exciting!

Kelsey Dozier, Juris Doctor Candidate 2020, University of North Texas, College of Law

My favorite session was the keynote, which featured Mary O’Carroll the head of legal operations at Google. I really enjoyed her optimistic perspective on the direction in which the legal industry is heading. One of the things I have always found the most daunting about joining the legal industry is the uncertainty of my place in it in the future, particularly in the context of technological advances that are so often ignored or avoided by attorneys for fear of them rendering lawyers obsolete. But Ms. O’Carroll described an ever-changing and innovating legal industry that doesn’t fear obsolescence in the face of change. She envisions one that embraces change for the betterment of our industry that will not render lawyers obsolete, but rather allow them to provide more legal services to more people than ever before. I found her perspective refreshing and inspiring in the face of an industry historically resistant to change, and I hope to share in that perspective as I build my career.

Kenton Brice, Director of Technology Innovation, University of Oklahoma College of Law

The ABA Techshow is always an incredible time to learn, network, and grow as a professional.  This year was no different.  I had the opportunity to see some old friends in the legal technology world and to make some new connections that will hopefully grow into friendships in the future.  Aside from meeting and talking with people that are incredibly smart and forward-thinking about the legal profession and the normal tracks of learning at Techshow, this year, I took in two sessions on wellness and well-being.  Both of these sessions were incredibly valuable.  My favorite was a session entitled “Create Your Personal Well-Being Plan” presented by Tharwat Lovett and Roberta Tepper.  This session included a road-map for well-being, and actually provided a paper (I know, low-tech) hand-out that helped guide our process.  In the end, I had a toolkit to take with me that I am now leveraging already!  Although this was not necessarily a “tech”-oriented session, this session has already helped inform my everyday life, including my relationship with technology.

In addition to my own experience at Techshow, I had the opportunity to take 10 of the law students from the University of Oklahoma College of Law with me.  They had an incredible time at Techshow.  I’ve included a few of their (anonymized) statements about Techshow below.  If you are wondering whether sponsoring law students is something that your institution should do, I hope these will help encourage you towards a firm “yes”!

“Attending Techshow gives students a rare opportunity to switch gears and focus on practicing law. The event brings together so many professionals dedicated to delivering quality legal services. As technological advances go from new ideas to industry standards, we need to be aware of what’s coming. The atmosphere is friendly, and whether you are a tech wiz or someone with minimal tech experience, this is an event worth attending.” – OU Law 3L

“As a law student, Techshow is not something most of us would think about let alone be aware of. It is geared towards attorneys and that is evident by the lack of students at the conference. This should not be the case. If we want to advance the legal profession and provide better value for our clients, then more students should be attending conferences like this and the other tech conferences offered during the year. As a new graduate, we might not be able to offer the most value to clients because of our lack of experience, but we should be able to offer our firms a lot of value through our knowledge of technological advancements that are changing the legal field. This is something we can take out into the legal field in order to make a change.” – OU Law 3L

“Techshow was an absolutely awesome experience! If you have the ability to attend, I highly recommend you do so because Techshow was an incredibly valuable opportunity. Not only did I learn a ton about new and upcoming legal technologies, I also developed some great professional connections and made some fantastic memories. The Techshow schedule was jam-packed with informative lectures and fun events which always kept things interesting. If you are interested in learning about new legal technology and networking with those in the legal tech industry, Techshow is a must-attend event!” – OU Law 2L

“Techshow is a unique experience for law students. It is one of the few environments where students can see multiple practice management platforms, timekeeping applications, litigation aids, and other legal technology side by side, to see what is not only new but provides the best solution to a particular problem. The ability to talk to vendors and see an in-person demonstration is only available to law students at this kind of conference because the real-life tools that are necessary for the practice of law often are ignored for educational purposes in the standard law school curriculum.  Not only is Techshow valuable for the experiences with legal technology vendors, it is also one of the few places law students can have such a broad swath of choices for ongoing practice-specific education. While most conferences have general themes and lawyers can choose CLE experiences based on the theme of the conference, the sheer number of tracks at Techshow allows lawyers and students to create an experience that most suits their needs. For those students who feel that there is a hole in their knowledge, Techshow is a way to shorten the learning curve, in order to be a practice-ready, value-adding individual in their firm sooner.” – OU Law 2L

“When one considers the legal profession, the adjective “cutting-edge” probably is not one that comes to mind. After all, the law invariably lags other elements of society, and the industry that facilitates its gradual march is no exception. But ABA Techshow is a place where innovation thrives and conventional notions of what the practice of law is like and should be are turned on their heads.

From the first minutes of the conference, rising legal tech entrepreneurs showcased their ingenuity in leveraging automation and artificial intelligence to solve problems spanning the most mundane aspects of client billing to the quandaries of the access to justice gap. And for nearly 72 straight hours thereafter, some of the most forward-thinking legal professionals in the world shared insights that promise to make us better, more efficient lawyers who can create value for clients in ways that have never been possible before and have only recently become conceivable. Large discussions on automation, cybersecurity, lawyer well-being, the client experience, and other topics were wonderful venues for gaining exposure to broad observations about the state and trajectory of the profession, but the greatest value came from smaller, more intimate conversations that took place while roaming the expo hall, standing in line for lunch, or attending one of the many “after hours” networking events.” – OU Law 3L

This is the conclusion of the three-part series. If you missed the first two posts, check them out!
Part 1
Part 2

Today’s post is part 2 of 3, covering various aspects of the recent ABA Techshow in Chicago.

Thanks to Artie Berns, Research/Emerging Technologies Librarian, Western New England University, School of Law Library, for this fantastic series on the ABA Techshow!

In my last post, I covered my favorites from Start-Up Alley. This post covers some of the coolest products from the main Exhibit Hall. At this year’s ABA Techshow, I was a man with a mission—to get a good look at every product vendors were showing off. This year’s co-chairs, Catherine Sanders Reach and Heidi Alexander, did not make this an easy task; they had managed to fill every single vendor booth. With only two and a half days to review all the products, I did not spend much time at the other informational or educational sessions. In the next post, I have asked several of our law librarian colleagues to share their thoughts about what educational sessions they found most interesting or useful.

Exposition Hall: Exhibitors

Outside of Start-Up Alley are the presumably more established exhibitors. This year’s Techshow had over 120 exhibitors and the expo was jam-packed. Many of these will be familiar to the folks I expect are reading this blog: Clio, Fastcase, etc. I’m not going to discuss products with which I feel the readers of this blog are already familiar unless they have added a new feature. With that being said, here are a few that I thought were exceptional.

Trial Template

Trial Template is a product that will help you leverage Microsoft Powerpoint presentations in the courtroom or anywhere a mesmerizing image would help keep the attention of an audience. It is a collection of images, animations, and preformatted slides created with the needs of trial attorneys in mind. For instance, the collection includes a 3D model of the human spine that the user can rotate and view from any position. Another example is an animated target graphic that can be used to emphasize a particular spot within a still photo in evidence. There are hundreds of other visual aids within this package. Trial Template’s creative director, Matthew Kimmins, has informed me that the company would be honored to help support legal education by providing access to the product to law schools.

Earth Class Mail

Want to go paperless? Earth Class Mail wants you to go paperless too. So much so that they have created a service that reroutes all of your snail mail to one of their regional offices, scans it, OCRs it, shreds it, and delivers it to you digitally through email or deposits it on a cloud drive. They can even sort out junk mail. Earth Class serves both individuals and businesses (legal being a primary focus) of all sizes.  Consumers make up a large percentage of their customer base.

Blue J Legal

Blue J Legal’s product Tax Foresight uses AI to predict IRS classifications or outcomes in cases. The user chooses the type of determination to be made and answers a questionnaire about the situation. For example, whether a worker would is classified as an employee or an independent contractor. After answering a few questions, the AI makes a prediction of how a particular issue would be determined that includes an indication of the confidence that the prediction is accurate, an explanation of why the prediction was made, a list of cases with similar facts as yours, and references to binding cases. The user then has an option to change some of the factors upon which the prediction was based to see how the prediction changes.

Compose by CaseText

CaseText has created yet another innovative product, Compose. For a fee, Compose can create a first draft of different types of motions in Federal Court. Users select the type of motion needed and provide party names. Then users can choose specific relevant arguments that are added to a downloadable document. Compose will suggest authorities to cite for particular arguments.  Additionally, users can also do case law research on the spot by utilizing the product’s integration with CaseText to search for other relevant authorities.

Watch for part 3 to be posted on Friday.

Today’s post is part 1 of 3, covering various aspects of the recent ABA Techshow in Chicago.

Thanks to Artie Berns, Research/Emerging Technologies Librarian, Western New England University, School of Law Library, for this fantastic series on the ABA Techshow!

I recently attended the ABA Techshow. This year, I was a man with a mission—to get a good look at every product vendors were showing off. In this post I will discuss what I considered to be the most exciting and innovative products from the Start-Up Alley. My next post will cover several products from the main Exhibit Hall, and after that, I have a report which combines the thoughts from several of our law librarian colleagues about their favorite educational sessions.

Exposition Hall: Start-Up Alley

Start-up alley showcases the contestants of the Start-Up Pitch competition. The competition pits new legal tech products against each other for some fabulous prizes, mostly advertising. You can see a full list of contestants for this year’s competition here. My favorites from Start-Up Alley include Woodpecker, Lawgood, and Josef.

Woodpecker

This is a document automation product that helps produce fillable forms. You simply input a document or set of related documents you have already created for Woodpecker’s AI to analyze. Woodpecker will create fillable forms from whatever you fed into it and will then ask the user to go over the list of fields to make sure each field is just what you want it to be. The user then has a fillable form based on their own document, which could be used with Microsoft Word’s mail merge feature. Woodpecker’s founder and CEO, Alex Melehy, is enthused at the prospect of working with law schools and is willing to provide free access to Woodpecker.

Lawgood

This company has a product called Contract Workbench that can generate contract documents based on current federal law within a specific jurisdiction. Users select the type of contract to be drafted and fill out a short questionnaire, including questions such as jurisdiction, party’s position, and other relevant information. Contract Workbench will then produce the desired document for the attorney to review. At various points throughout this document, there are sliding bars that can be adjusted to favor either party or be neutral.

Josef

Josef is a visual tool that helps attorneys create chatbots. The tool allows branching logic, so one could conceivably create a somewhat complicated expert system for a multitude of uses. Josef has a minimal learning curve because instead of a scripting language, the user is presented with a visual representation of the concepts and can dictate how they connect, similar to creating a flowchart. Josef also includes smartphone apps for the prospective client can use to connect to your bot.

Watch for part 2 and 3 to be posted on Wednesday and Friday.

CALI Con 2020 Agents of Innovation PosterChicago, first week of June.  Usually in the mid-70s.  Might not rain. Cubs are in town Wednesday, Sox on Friday and SaturdayThe Monet exhibit will still be at the Art Institute.  The Lincoln Park Zoo is always free, as is the big ‘ol BeanGyros and hot dogs everywhere you look (just don’t ask for ketchup).  There’s plenty of pizza, too!  

You’re just dying to visit us.  How could you not be?

Getting there is easy — the 2020 CALI Conference will be held at Chicago-Kent on Thursday, June 4, and Friday, June 5, 2020.  It’s great to go as an attendee, but even better (and cheaper), to go as a speaker!  Submission proposals are due on Friday, March 6 – you still have plenty of time!

But I’ve never spoken at a conference before!

CALI is a great conference for novice and experienced speakers.  Your audience is engaged and will lots of questions — if not during the presentation, then during the many, many food-laden breaks.  

You’ll never be hungry for long at a CALI conference.

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