The role of the law firm librarian as undergone dramatic change as technology, artificial intelligence and other innovations have allowed some information service professionals to reinvent the job. This has brought these professionals into areas of knowledge management, strategy, business development, client engagement and legal process improvement that are changing the way they approach their role within the firm.
Katherine Lowry, Director of Practice Services at BakerHostetler, is one such innovative soul. (Eight years ago, Lowry shifted her career to report to the CIO and broadened the context of her services around technology, information, and driving greater value in services delivered by her team.) Lowry recently discussed with Legal Executive Institute how her role at the firm has evolved; and in Part 2 of our interview, she discusses her involvement in the firm’s business development and client engagement strategies, and the firm’s newest initiative, IncuBaker.
Legal Executive Institute: Previously, you spoke about how your role at the firm has evolved into one that, in turn, has allowed you to transform other aspects of the firm. Has this evolution changed how the firm interacts with its clients or how it identifies new business development opportunities for your practice groups?
Katherine Lowry: It’s changed in a couple of significant ways. Originally, it was Bob [BakerHostetler’s longtime CIO Bob Craig] and myself identifying, and bringing awareness to our Partners on the impact of technology to the legal practice. This included monitoring new legal start-ups and developing a framework to analyze our research in a tool created by my team called the Legal Nexus of Forces.
This engagement process with our attorneys and clients helped us see that there was value in our research and ideation around improving our services using technology.
The evolution of where we’re at now is transforming this process. About a year or two ago, I was asked to go out to a client pitch. Since then, I’ve been to several of them. And it’s become more of a corollary to what I’m trying to do here at the firm — to bring what I am doing internally out to clients. For example, today, we have years’ worth of research and product studies that allow us to engage with clients frequently in collaborative ways through team calls or providing CLEs to communicate the advancement of technologies and how they change the landscape of our firm and the entire legal industry.
During the collaboration discussions at the table and the client pitches, it has been really helpful to have someone like me there to ask, “What kind of technology do you use? How do you use data?” It is a great compliment and pairing to our attorneys who are focused on delivering the best legal services to our clients, and I’ve had a lot of success at our client pitches in that regard.
After one pitch, we ended up receiving an invitation to return to complete a CLE program for a client. It was just the relationship partner, myself and Bob, and the client gave us one hour — we ended up staying for two because they had so many questions. It really hit home that clients found value in our research and identification of technology-driven solutions.
Legal Executive Institute: So, was it this process that then led the firm to create IncuBaker?
Katherine Lowry: In a way it was. This engagement process with our attorneys and clients helped us see that there was value in our research and ideation around improving our services using technology. We worked with our Policy group to form IncuBaker, a more formalized Innovation team. One that is founded on research, awareness, collaboration across our attorneys and clients to deliver new opportunities. The future of IncuBaker in 2018 will continue to focus on machine learning, DLT/Blockchain Technology, and analytics. We want to explore with the clients how they’re using these technologies in their business and how it can improve our relationship.
That’s why we got into IncuBaker. We’re really trying to transform the dialog around certain technologies, not just internally, which is of course very important, but with our clients as well. We know that things like machine learning or distributed ledger technology are going to be some very disruptive technologies, especially for the legal industry. Previously, there was really not a path in place to decide how the firm would examine and use these technologies and help clients navigate these areas.
To really make a difference, we need to understand how these technologies can impact the firm, then collaborate with our clients and figure out what that ultimate impact is there too. I feel that’s what IncuBaker can offer — it can make sure that we have good communication back and forth for the businesses and the other administrative departments to understand how the firm can utilize these and other technologies.
We need to ask these questions now. What do these technologies mean? Does this mean we can offer a new line of service? Are we structurally set up to be able to have and apply machine learning?
Legal Executive Institute: Does that take a lot of internal coordination?
Katherine Lowry: I would say, overall, it’s a top-down approach, and we’re making sure to work appropriately with the group chairs, asking them to provide attorney liaisons to participate in studies and conduct proof of concepts to determine what technology will provide the greatest amount of value. As far as administration departments, it’s really about collaborating with them and casting a vision of what’s possible together.
That’s where the engagement with the client, I think, is going to get even more valuable as we progress. The undertone is technology, but it’s really about understanding. “What are their business issues? What are they trying to solve?” From there, we feel at Baker, we’ll have great intelligence to figure out what we should focus on to support them and to provide even better service to them.
And I think we’re having a lot of success so far with that.