Strategic Librarian

Using strategy to develop the law firm library.

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Using Storytelling as a Marketing Tool and more

I always enjoy reading the articles that get written for summer associates at this time of year.  You can always count on finding at least one or two on  The most recent article, Hello, Summer Associates, and Welcome to Chapter 1 by Ari Kaplan, provides excellent advice to summers regarding how to market themselves to their firms.  The article discusses storytelling as a marketing tool.   The Ten Turths about Branded Storytelling by Alain Thys on the Marketing and Strategy Inovation Blog talks more directly about marketing and storytelling.

As individuals who market their services, resources, and more, librarians could benefit from the same advice.  We most often market our libraries by letting attorneys and staff know about the benefits they could derive from using our services.  Using storytelling, we can talk about what our users experience or better yet, they could tell the story.  What makes some stories so good and others fall flat?  Seth Godin has the answer in his blog post Ode: How to tell a great story.

I saw the power of storytelling at my last firm.  The IT staff was introducing a time tracking toolbar that stayed running on the computers once launched.  As timekeepers moved from project to project, they could click on an icon and change the client and matter that they were working on.  This allowed them to capture time more accurately, which in turn, would keep them from guessing how much time they spent when they did their time entry later.

One of the group heads was so taken by the technology that he offered to accompany the IT staff member to each practice group meeting in the firm and tell his story.  As he was well respected by other lawyers, they paid attention to him when he talked about how the application changed him from a lawyer who was always late in recording time to one, that not only entered his time in on time, but also increased his billable time overall signifantly.  His willingness to tell his story made a big difference in the acceptance and use of the toolbar.

Besides it’s use for marketing, storytelling is also very useful as a knowledge sharing technique.  Librarians Sandy Bradley, Barbara Lupei, and Mary Ray of the Weapons Division at NAVAIR created a storytelling initiative within their organization as described in their article, The Power of Storytelling.   Some law firms are also testing this type of initiative (even if they aren’t aware that they are storytelling) through practice meetings, mentoring, etc.  One firm recently started meetings where the partner in charge of a successful matter would be the speaker as he shared what was done, what they learned to benefit their knowledge of the law and their own best practices.  Once a month, a new partner tells his or her story.

Finally, stories help build culture within an organization.  The stories that are told about leadership actions within an organization will support and maintain whatever culture exists whether it is good or bad.   John Kotter describes how this can work in his Forbes April 12, 2006 article The Power of Stories.  I can’t help but think of the firms that allow partners, who are abusive to staff, to continue their less than suitable behaviour.  By not doing something about those partners actions, the firm is supporting a culture where staff may not feel they are valued.  If you want to make changes to your culture, start taking action that make up the inspiration for a story.

Additional resources regarding storytelling include:

Annette Simmons, The Story Factor, 2006.  An exerpt from the book is available at the International Storytelling Center.

Jay Conger The Impact of Strategic Storytelling, Les50ns (50 Lessons).  This is a video that runs 4.39 minutes.

Marie Wallace, Guide on the Side: Storytelling, Wake up Sleeping Beauty, LLRX, March 1, 2002.

Mary Abraham, Storytelling and Law Firm KM, Above and Beyond KM, May 2, 2008.

Storytelling: Passport to the 21st Century Website created by Stephen Denning, author of Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations, Butterworth-Heinamann, 2000.


RivalMap : Competitive Intelligence Knowledge Management

I ran across a interesting web service recently named RivalMap.  It is a service that provides the following functionality (according to their website).

RivalMap is web-based collaboration software that gives companies a central place to share and address information about competitors and their industry. If your company spends any time watching competitors and their activities, RivalMap will make the management and communication of competitive information much easier and more effective.

After signing up for the free service that allows 3 users access with the ability to create unlimited workspaces, I set up a workspace for my own company.  The cost of the service jumps to $49 for 5 users, $99 for 10 users and $199 for 25 users.  Besides giving access to more users, the fee-based service provides storage for file sharing and SSL Security.  Enterprise licensing is available as well.

Upon entering the workspace, which I titled Competitors for lack of imagination, I was presented with a Dashboard that would later provide me a chart of competitors by threat level and the latest activity.  Other tabs on the menu which, stretched across the top of the screen, included:

Competitors: This tab allows you to create entries for your company and for any competitors you specify.  A sub-menu provides tabs for Competitors, Products, and Concerns.

  • Competitors – Create a posting for each competitor that includes name, website address, profile, concerns, clippings, notes, customers, and a SWOT analysis. 
    • Concerns are comments about specific threats the competitor may present. 
    • Clippings are articles or web posts worth noting. 
    • Notes are just that – free form notes about the competitor. 
    • Customers provides detailed records on the competitor’s customers including customer name, location, market segment, sales amount, date of sale, description of sale and website. 
    • SWOT provides the ability to list strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats faced by the competitor.
  • Products – Create postings for competing products including profile, product name, competitor name, product website, concerns, clippings, and notes. 
  • Concerns – Provides a listing of all concerns for all competitors and products providing the ability to list general comments and comments on how the concern will be addressed

Clippings: Described above under Competitors.

Notes: Described above under Competitors.

Customers:  Slightly different from the use of customers above, here you post information about your own customers.  After setting up market segments, you are able to create a post about each segment including notes, clippings, needs, and customers. 

  • Needs – Track segment needs designating them as:
    • Must-Have – a benefit/function that must be present, or the customer will be very dissatisfied
    • One Dimensional: a benefit/function that increases customer satisfaction as it improves
    • Attractive – a benefit/function that is not expected but highly satisfies the customer.
  • Customers – create a posting about each customer including the same information listed above.

Comparisons: This tab allows you to create a matrix that compares competitors by category and attributes.  For example, I could create a category of the services I offer and the attributes each service has.  I could then add competitors.  Following that, I would rate how my company compares to my competitors by category/attribute.  The following screen-shots demonstrate how the matrix would look. 



In addition to providing great information, each tab provides the ability to filter results in multiple ways.

This looks like a very useful service is that would be a valuable addition to any CI program.  One concern is that, like any knowledge management system of its kind, it takes team members willing to take the time to enter content.  The success in using the service will only come with commitment.  As for functionality, a reporting function seems to be missing.  This may be because I was using the free service.  You would definitely want to check that out before subscribing to the service.

 ~ Nina Platt

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Does Today’s Education System Prepare Students for Life?

Web 2.0 and its use in the workplace continues to be in the news, discussed on blogs, and generally guessed about as we work to determine what the next important step is in the use of technology.  While we think about tomorrow and how we will meet the needs of those coming into the workplace, it is also interesting to note the changes in technology use by the younger set and whether we are really preparing them to work in the new world.

The motley crew in the photo below are my nieces and nephews (please don’t let them know I have this photo on the web – I have favorite aunt status with some that I don’t want to lose) who are all now in their 20’s except for the tall fellow on the left who is 31.  Despite the range of ages from just turning 20 to the grand old age of 29, they have some things in common. 

  • They’ve all had cell phones since their teens or in some cases pre-teens
  • They all use laptops/notebooks, not desktops
  • They spend as much or more time text messaging than they do talking on their phones
  • They use IM/Chat when they aren’t talking on the phone or text messaging
  • They watch very little television in comparison to what my generation did at their age
  • They are proof to me that their generation thinks, communicates and collaborates differently


Another experience I had about 30 years ago tells a tale about younger generations growing up with different experiences.  While taking a much needed after-Thanksgiving-dinner nap, I was tapped on the shoulder, awaking to a two year old’s face about six inches from mine – my oldest nephew, Nathan.  Once I got his face in focus, I asked what he needed.  He handed me a computer game called Merlin that my brother owned, and asked in a very clear sentence, “Nina, will you re-program this for me?” 

Once I pushed the buttons he needed pushed, I sat back and wondered just how smart this kid was.  He is 33 now and still as smart, but I think just about any 2 year old born since the computer has become personal, grew up with similar needs.  

While I digress about family, my focus of this posting is how our education system has or hasn’t kept up with the needs of its students during the same time.  My guess has been that it isn’t keeping up – confirmed for me by the results of a survey delivered via video clip created by Michael Wesch and his Digital Ethnography students. 

The survey indicates that we have a long way to go to integrate technology into the classroom.  As time moves on and future generations go through school and graduate into the workforce, will we be ready for them in the workplace?  How will we engage them beyond the monthly paycheck?

Is Ron Friedmann Missing Something?

Ron Friedmann reported this week on an article in Business Week (10/1/07) titled, The Water Cooler is now on the Web.  After describing the gist of the article, Ron offers up a skeptical view of whether or not BigLaw lawyers would take the time to network via the social (I like to think of them as professional) networks on the web.  He ends by asking, “Am I missing something?”

Before I had a chance to comment, Andrew Tricket (Knowledge and the Cardinal blog) offered the same thoughts I was about to share.  Yes, Ron, you may be missing something.  I doubt that the lawyers who are 30 to 40 years of age and up will replace the literal water cooler for the virtual one.  I do, however, think that the 20 somethings that are now entering the firms, will use professional networking to connect with clients and other lawyers.  I also hold out hope that the same young lawyers will adopt knowledge management in ways that other generations haven’t. 

 I have my own skepticism about KM and other topics but I can’t help feeling positive about the future of KM in the hands of Generation Y.  There is one thing that could prevent them – the lack of understanding from BigLaw regarding the online culture followed by their unwillingness to respect it and to encourage the incoming lawyers to spend time at the virtual water cooler as they share and develop their knowledge. 

See the posting on this blog regarding Enterprise 2.0 for more on this topic.

Enterprise 2.0 : What is it and will it find a place in law firms?

I was fortunate to be able to participate as a panelist at the Emerging Technologies breakfast at the SLA conference in Denver in June.  My part of the program was to present on Enterprise 2.0.  I have often seen knowledge management (KM) in law firms as a glass half-empty endeavor but with Enterprise 2.0, there may just be a chance that KM can be successful. 

Enterprise 2.0 is the implementation of Web 2.0 technologies and initiatives within the organization.  Andrew McAfee (professor at Harvard who first used Enterprise 2.0 as a concept) defines Web 2.0 as the “digital platforms for generating, sharing and refining information”.  

McAfee defines Enterprise 2.0 as “Platforms that companies can buy or build in order to make visible the practices and outputs of their knowledge workers”.  It could also be said that Enterprise 2.0 takes Web 2.0 a step further using the same digital platforms for generating, sharing and refining knowledge.  The digital platforms are wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, social networking, instant messaging, portals, mashups, and other Web-based collaborative applications.

The attached slides describes both along with a discussion of McAfee’s model for Enterprise 2.0 called SLATES.  It also includes some examples of the use of Enterprise 2.0 in law firms. 

Of course, whether organizations benefit from all this is doubted by some, including a recent debate by Andrew McAfee and Tom Davenport prior to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference held in June 2007 in Boston.  View an on-demand version of the debate.  In a posting on his blog, McAfee states that he sees the difference in their thinking in that he has addressed the topic as if it is something new and Davenport sees the technology mentioned as having been around for some time.  I agree, the technology isn’t new but putting the various apps together in one package puts a new spin on how to engage users.

I may be a bit naive in believing the following but I think we will see a change in the willingness of lawyers to actually participate in KM initiatives.  Lawyers graduating from law school today are experienced in using the digital platforms described in this slideshow.  They are also part of a culture that believes in end-user content generation and sharing.  Unless law school and first year at a law firm changes them profoundly, they will be looking for this type of technologies to use with their practices. 

That leaves my glass half-full.   I’d love to hear what you think.