This guest blog post was written by Christina McKennerney, Legal Information Services Specialist at Liberty Mutual Insurance
When I assumed leadership of Liberty Mutual’s legal department law library in July 2019, my new title was what some people might view as a jumble of corporate jargon: “Legal Information Services Specialist” (LISS). Colleagues at other organizations were simply “Director of the Law Library.”
Why the long mouthful? My title is a testimony to how much our department values legal information services and the specific expertise information specialists have in their field. Because of that valued relationship, we are given the green light to prioritize the latest technology to support the deployment and consumption of information services so our legal professionals can do their best work.
This focus on technology and innovation in sharing information was particularly advantageous when the COVID-19 pandemic made working from a home a necessity, removing professionals from the physical spaces and materials they normally use. Fortunately, for Liberty Mutual, it was a largely painless transition from the office to a virtual environment.
This transition sharpened our focus and increased momentum and support for initiatives we were already planning. Since mid-2019 we have made a special effort to reimagine the delivery of electronic and on-demand resources and training, which gave us a considerable head start last year when transitioning to a 100 percent work from home environment. I’d like to share how proactively diversifying resources before it is necessary can provide a similar path forward through almost any disruption.
Diverse Objectives & Strategy
One of the first tasks in reconceiving Liberty’s legal information services was to develop a multi-year road map, setting out a vision for everything from training to current awareness to resource evaluation and procurement. The vision was built from priorities previously set by the legal department, giving us both a scaffold from which to build and ready-made support to advance mutual goals: upskilling, technical competence, the digital transformation of resources, and data-driven law.
Using industry surveys and competitive intelligence from organizations like the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), we benchmarked our current status across a spectrum of services. Finally, we set out three to four specific objectives within each priority, such as a customized on-demand training program, procuring new electronic research resources to replace unused print, and socializing new tools within the department.
Having all of this in place well before we were sent home last March lowered our stress level and fear of being left out of the loop. The road map, with its diverse objectives and strategy, had set us up for success.
Forging ahead with the initiatives set out on our road map required breaking down each project into bite-size pieces where necessary to obtain buy-in from our customers and department leadership. When looking to add new technology services, doing a test run with a smaller, core group of select customers is an excellent way to prove value. Because we documented processes, successes (and challenges), and customer feedback, we had everything we needed when asked about feasibility and viability.
A pilot is a lighter lift for everyone, potentially at a lower price than a full enterprise roll-out. Vendors, especially those at smaller companies or start-ups, were happy to work with the information services group to craft a pilot that offered a chance of success for their product and our initiative.
Once our toolkit was stocked with a diverse set of resources, it was time to position legal information services as the go-to guide, weaving together and unlocking new sources of knowledge. We tried to think of our customers as brand-new skydivers and ourselves as the tandem instructors — technically they could take the leap on their own but they would be much more comfortable with us there to assist.
This approach did take up more time at the outset. However, it built a level of trust in our services that saved time later when the customers successfully employed a wider range of resources, building their own resilience in the process.
Diverse Skill Sets
With the time recovered from successfully building out new resources and guiding customers toward self-sufficiency, a librarian can dedicate more of their day to strategic thinking around information initiatives. Legal information skillsets continually intertwine with new aspects of the practice of law in an ever-changing and modernizing legal industry.
Resource evaluation, authoritative information retrieval and synthesis, and telling a story from data are just some of the unique sets of talents that help successfully navigate a digital age. Tying the library to department initiatives that focus on upskilling, technical competence, the digital evolution of resources, and data-driven law helps pass those skills on to practitioners.