The Influential Law Librarian: A Product Evaluation Checklist

May 8, 2017 Daryn Teague

It’s no secret that the role of the law librarian – whether inside a non-profit institution, a corporate library or a law firm – has been undergoing dramatic transformation in recent years. In fact, Duane Strojny, Associate Dean of Library and Instructional Support and Professor at Cooley Law School, argues in the RIPS Law Librarian Blog that, “law librarians are facing some of the most significant changes since the dawn of online legal research databases … in the early 1970s.”

Reed Tech recently provided an educational forum for law librarians to learn more about practical steps they can take to advance their careers: “The Influential Law Librarian: Six Keys to Success” webinar. It can be viewed on demand by clicking here.

In recent blog posts, we unveiled those six keys, 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.

We conclude this series of blog posts, based on the Reed Tech webinar, by recapping another practical learning introduced by Koppang: how to create and utilize a product evaluation checklist.

“It’s important to understand clearly how your firm looks at products overall as well as how you should consider individual products from the standpoint of a law librarian,” said Koppang.

She suggested the following two buckets of questions for the evaluation process any time your team is considering the acquisition of new tools to help the professionals in your organization work more efficiently or more effectively:

  1. Contract

The very first question you should ask is about pricing, according to Koppang. In fact, she advises that you should never even bother with a product demo without getting some baseline of information about whether or not it’s worth your time to investigate the tool. If the process moves forward and you have some level of interest, she recommends that other key questions to ask include:

  • Is there a minimum contract length and are there any price locks?
  • Are there any ongoing spending requirements?
  • Can you have concurrent users on the tool?
  • How does the vendor approach firm-wide pricing (e.g., size of firm or practice groups, etc.)?
  • Are there any additional costs that will be incurred with the purchase of their product?
  1. Functionality

Koppang says the next key bucket of items to evaluate involve what the product is able to achieve for your team. One key example here is whether there are cost recovery tools built into the product, which is important not only for its functionality but also for your efforts to persuade internal audiences to make the new investment. Other questions that she advises you to explore include:

  • What is the range of options that our users have for how to obtain the deliverables they need from the software?
  • What specific monitoring/alert functions does the tool offer?
  • Can you identify the scope of the databases that are used in the product?
  • Does your tool offer machine translations, human translations or both?
  • How much customer support do you provide (e.g., help desk hours, training options, etc.)?

“It’s a good idea to ask for as much time as possible to test the products you evaluate under real-life conditions, ideally two weeks,” said Koppang. “As part of that testing period, I would recommend having someone on your team call the vendor’s help desk with a specific question and see how they respond. Find out how well they know their product and how they’re going to respond to your questions. From my own personal experience, I’ve found the LexisNexis customer support team to be extremely helpful with resolving any issues that come up while using their tools.”

Koppang talked specifically about some of the powerful products within the LexisNexis® IP Solutions suite that her firm has employed with great success.

For starters, she introduced LexisNexis TotalPatent One™, 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.

Koppang also walked attendees through the highlights of LexisNexis PatentAdvisor®, a tool that improves patent prosecution outcomes by helping IP professionals to understand what makes a patent stall, grant or fail. The product empowers users to craft a more effective and systematic prosecution strategy, based on data that provides important context about USPTO patent examiner allowance rates and time lines. The software delivers valuable insights about why certain patent applications take longer than others to reach allowance, allowing professionals to devise better strategies.

“I’ve been really loving this product, we’ve been using it a lot lately,” said Koppang.

The “Six Keys to Success” webinar was hosted by Amantha S. Allen, Esq., user experience and professional development manager at Reed Tech. Allen, who earned her law degree at the University of Dayton and worked in the patent prosecution and licensing department at NCR Corporation, joined the LexisNexis intellectual property group in 2010.

Allen introduced the audience to one more product they may want to evaluate for the IP practitioners inside their firms: LexisNexis PatentOptimizer®, a tool built for better patent drafting and dissection of issued patents. Created by patent attorneys for patent attorneys, PatentOptimizer® streamlines patent analysis and serves as a critical quality control check when drafting patent applications or dissecting issued patents.

“Despite common perception, most librarians are adept at implementing change,” wrote Strojny in the RIPS Law Librarian Blog. “The charge for law librarians goes beyond the usual. Librarians are completely revamping their job descriptions. It is a definite state of change or be left behind.”

One important way that law librarians can be leaders within their organizations is to establish themselves as well-informed and reliable evaluators of useful products that can improve performance within the firm.

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