Ark Group Conference: Managing Your Law Firm Library

On the 29 of November I was delighted to attend the Managing Your Law Firm Library conference organised by the ARK Group. I'd been invited to talk on a panel with the very lovely Laura Woods and Loyita Worley and as such was able to attend the entire conference, despite not working in a Library setting anymore!

The Conference itself was organised into several themes the first of these was Resource Management and the first of the speakers was Sarah Brittan from Baker & McKenzie. Sarah talked in great detail about the review the Library & Information Services team at Baker & McKenzie had been part of and the outcome of that review. As a result of the review the structure of the service was re-organised and Information Specialists are now embedded within practice groups rather then sitting within a central library. It's interesting to see that more Library & Information Services are looking at embedding staff. When I worked in my previous firm I undertook two stints within practice groups. Both of which were immensely useful as I was there to answer any questions they had relating to resources or research. Within my current firm the Information Officers are all embedded within practice groups, which seems to work really well.

The second speaker within the Resource management section was Fiona Fodgen. Fiona provided attendees with some useful tips on how to manage a Library budget using excel and whilst I don't currently have and budget responsibility I will be keeping the tips handy in case I should do in future.

However of most interest to me during the first part of the conference was Chrissy Street's presentation on "Demonstrating value through the use of a business case". Whilst I do prepare business cases, what I was most interested in was Chrissy' use of Confluence as a tool for creating business case templates.Whilst Chrissy and her team had been creating business cases for subscriptions and renewals for some time, they had found that gathering feedback when using email was difficult and proving inefficient. So Chrissy and her team created a template within Confluence (wikis) that would let them populate the template with information about the subscription/online database and then ask fee-earners for their feedback.

I'm a big fan of wikis and especially Confluence so I can see how useful it would be to be able to send a link to a fee-earner and ask them to add their comments about the subscription/online database. One of the questions I did want to ask was whether the business cases were public, in other words could other practice groups see what was being renewed or what wasn't being renewed and potentially comment on it. Chrissy's answer to this was that it could potentially happen but hadn't so far. I think that's certainly something to consider if you're thinking about using Confluence to create business cases, as by default Confluence pages are "open" so anyone who has access to Confluence can view them. I was very impressed with what they were doing though and will certainly look to see if we can do something similar internally. If you're interested in reading more about these two sessions then Laura Woods has written an excellent summary on her blog.

The second part of the Conference included the panel session I was involved in. This went surprisingly well, although I was surprised (but perhaps shouldn't be) that so few people were using Twitter and other social media tools. There was a lot of discussion during this session including the use of Twitter, RSS, Pulse, Google+ and BYOD, we seemed to cover a lot in a short amount of time and thankfully people seemed to enjoy the chance to ask lots of different questions.

The final session of the day was the one I'd been looking forward to most as it was delivered by Nick Davies of the "Really great training company" Nick talked at length about how we can influence people more effectively through networking. Without writing too much about influencing as I'm no expert, there were several things which I thought were really useful.

So one of the first things Nick talked about was how you can "persuade" people to do stuff. That might be to invest in a new piece of technology or to give you some more money. Either way it's important to remember the acronym SPICE whenever you're trying to persuade someone to do something. SPICE is represented as follows:

  • S = Simplicity - don't over-complicate what you're trying to sell or people will switch off 
  • P = Perceived self - You need to think about why someone will want to do something. What is the value to a fee-earner or partner 
  • I = Incongruity - Not doing what people expect you to do, in other words sell your ideas in a creative way
  • C = Confidence - You need to be confident in your argument
  • E = Enthusiasm - You need to have this otherwise individuals wont believe what you're saying

Nick also talked about two essential elements when influencing other people. These were Credibility and Trust without these people wont take you seriously. Credibility generally comes from Qualifications and Experience, so if you're not currently displaying your degree certificate or other certificates you should be! Trust is more difficult and takes some time as Nick explained via a Trust triangle*

So the Trust triangle looks a bit like this:

  • Acknowledgement is at the bottom - this is that someone acknowledges you exist.
  • Understanding is next - So individuals are interested in what you do and want to find out more
  • Acceptance comes next - This is where individuals ask what other skills you might have
  • Respect follows acceptance - You've provided something and have garnered respect for it
  • Trust - You've become the go to person
  • Bond - After a year you might bond with them by sharing person details

As ever this was a really interesting session and was full of useful information. Right at the end of the session Nick had time for one question and was asked what he thought of social media for networking. Nick's answer was that social media is networking without talking, this made me giggle but I'd actually disagree with this to some extent. Whilst some social networking tools mean you don't have to talk to people ultimately social networking tools, in which I'd include Twitter can help people find common ground and interests and encourage them to meet in real life.

Overall this was a really interesting conference, which If you haven't attended before I would encourage you to do so, or maybe think about presenting!

*This could be a made up term!