BIALL Conference 2015: Report

Brighton: location of BIALL conference 2015

Brighton: location of BIALL conference 2015

Helen Robinson has very kindly written a report on her experience of the BIALL Conference 2015, held last month in Brighton.

It is a long way from Edinburgh to Brighton. When I arrived (hot, bothered and tired) on the Wednesday evening I was beginning to wonder whether it would all be worthwhile. I was staying in the conference hotel which made everything very convenient.  As we were right on the sea front (although my room had a view of the car park!), in rare moment of time off from the conference I even had a paddle in the sea!

I found the Exhibition really useful, taking the opportunity to speak to several vendors.  There was a Magna Carta quiz. In order to get all of the answers you needed to speak to all of the exhibitors which I managed to do.

Thursday night’s entertainment, sponsored by ICLR, was “A Night at the Museum”.  There was a treasure trail around Brighton Museum which encouraged you to talk to people.  Friday evening’s entertainment was the annual dinner and I was privileged to be sitting with Elizabeth and Lissie from Avizandum when they got their award for BIALL Supplier of the Year.

Below are detailed the sessions I attended with some points I took away from each:

Willi Steiner Memorial Lecture – Commercial and regulatory evolution of legal services: implications for the information professional. Professor Stephen Mason.
Professor Mason is an excellent speaker. He outlined trends in the provision of legal services and identified trends for the future.

  • Partnership structure of law firms is flawed and not fit for the future.

He was also critical of legal education in recent years and the expectation that lawyers completing their traineeships are ready to deliver a good service for clients, when this is not realistic.

Key roles for information professionals are:

  • Effective legal research
  • Articulating research results persuasively
  • Developing skills in others and mining intelligence in relation to clients

Information gatherer – Knowledge Connector. Esther Wheeler and Kathryn Hay from the Medical Defence Union.
This talk highlighted the differences between an information gatherer and a knowledge connector and illustrated this with examples as to when each kind of behaviour was appropriate in a service.

Infiltrate and conquer? Showing the world what librarians can do. Emily Allbon, City University London.
Emily was a law librarian but has now moved to “the dark side” and is a law lecturer.  Her talk was how, by creating opportunities and expanding horizons beyond the library world, you may find opportunities beyond being a law librarian arise.

Emily’s research has come up with a list of skills that people still had from their time as a librarian:

  • Organising work of a team
  • Effective organisation of information
  • Leveraging knowledge from colleagues and peers
  • Management of business needs and technology
  • Presenting
  • Budgeting
  • Dealing with difficult customers
  • Ability to understand complex ideas
  • Resourcing people’s needs
  • Writing/abstracting
  • Being a ‘hub’ for information
  • Knowing who to speak to/being able to connect things/people
  • Research skills
  • Tenacity to achieve results

Who knew we could do all this stuff!

Challenges faced and practical techniques for managing dispersed teams. Rona Blair, Pinsent Masons.
What if you manage a dispersed team? Teams may be dispersed across different countries in which case cultural differences and even time zones can create challenges. Increased flexibility offers many advantages – staff motivation, decreased staff turnover, decreased need for office space. A trend to more flexible working affects how teams are working together. Managing a team that are located together can be hard enough but at least it is much easier to co-operate and collaborate.  Modern working raises challenges for team working – Rona called it “Agile Working”.

Pinsent Masons is exploring ways of agile working.  Rona’s team are all currently located in the UK: 8 members of staff, located in 4 different offices, responsible for 8 libraries. Some of her team work alone. There has been little opportunity for the team to meet physically, largely due to the cost.  So they have a weekly team call. They have to make meetings count so focus on the 3 biggest things affecting them each week.  They take advantage of technology and ensure that they collaborate across the team, sharing diaries and clear agreed processes and procedures.  Being able to see each other builds trust.  Personalities still play a part in dispersed teams and despite likes and dislikes it is important that there is trust and mutual respect.

The Monkey and the Camera: a copyright snapshot. Emily Goodhand, Copyright Expert.
This session attempted to bring us recent developments in copyright law, specifically following numerous changes to the exemptions relating to copyright law in 2014.

  • Hypertext linking to works on the internet is not an infringement of copyright unless that material previously originated from behind a paywall – confirmed in ECJ case
  • A physical signature is no longer required in relation to a copyright declaration and e-signature or digital declaration is fine.  However it was confirmed that some kind of written declaration (email is fine) must be acquired before any copying is done by library staff
  • Copying for compliance with disability legislation extended to include conditions like dyslexia, provided a copy is not available commercially on “reasonable terms”
  • Preservation copying – copy as many times as necessary, no longer required to keep original, must not be able to reasonably purchase a copy
  • No longer necessary to charge for copying done
  • Guidelines of 5% of a work have no statutory basis. The guideline is a “reasonable proportion” and a judgment about what is reasonable – not defined
  • “Fair dealing” not defined in legislation, must not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rights holder. Infringement occurs when whole or substantial part of item copied – ECJ Case
  • Need to defend your actions:  always acknowledge the source/author sufficiently
  • Mention of professional indemnity insurance protecting against copyright infringement
  • Website: aiming to make copyright law accessible

The Library without walls: striving for an excellent law library service post-earthquakes. Sara Roberts, Law Liaison Librarian, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
A truly moving talk about the effect of 2 years of catastrophic earthquakes on the law library at the University of Canterbury, which was much wider and far reaching than the obvious immediate damage you envisage.  One thing which struck me was the accelerated pace of change as a result of the disaster. The University simply did not have the resources to restore the status quo, leading to the closure of the law library and loss of staff.

The continuing evolution of Knowledge Management in the legal profession: challenges and opportunities for knowledge and information professionals. Jane Bradbury, Head of Knowledge and Information at Slaughter and May.
A look back at the development of KM in law firms and how the economic crises has pushed Library and Information Services to demonstrate innovation and value to the business.

Staff retention. Donald Lickley, Sue Hill Recruitment.
It costs on average £30,614 to replace a member of staff – temporary workers, management time, HR time and advertising. This figure does not include cost of training a new member of staff.  Generally 16% of employers are measuring this cost to the organisation.

Main reasons why people leave their jobs:

  • Limited opportunity for promotion
  • Money
  • Supervisor lacked support
  • Boredom
  • Lack of leadership
  • Working hours
  • “Unavoidable” reasons
  • Poor employee relations
  • Favouritism
  • Contribution not recognised

Perceived threat of change or redundancies can also push people to leave.

Nationally, 4 years is now the average tenure. This is because of:

  • Better recruitment – getting a better fit candidate, therefore more likely to stay
  • Strategy for retention – ensure that a realistic preview of the job is given and take care not to raise expectations at interview
  • Organisational strategy – is long term retention a valid goal for the organisation?
  • Recession lessening impact

It should be acknowledged and supported that a good employee might want to leave.

Moving, relocating or renovating libraries – lessons learned. Ruth Bird, Bodleian Law Librarian.
Ruth shared a variety of hints and tips for dealing with projects related to designing, moving and building new libraries on whatever scale.

Pre planning stage most important:

  • Visit lots of inspiring libraries
  • Learn the language (of architects, planners, project managers, builders)
  • Allocate roles – set up planning groups
  • In design talks emphasise functional nature of libraries, the fact that they need to work is not something that architects always think about.
  • Visualise what square metre looks like
  • Think about the detail – lift capacity, security
  • Ask for more than you need – it lets you bargain and looks like you are being generous if you accept less
  • Keep notes of phone conversations and meetings
  • Always read the small print of plans, this is where the important stuff is
  • Measure and then re-measure and then measure again

Plan to a ridiculous level of detail. Such projects stretch you in ways you never imagined!

Inform users early of developments but don’t alarm them:

  • Think about interruption to the service, downtime, timing of project, alternative space
  • Manage expectations so no one is shocked about what library is able to do
  • People issues – staff facilities, food, seating all need extra planning
  • Seek input from users as to what can be inaccessible during process

On completion – celebrate with all those involved in the project!

Saturday morning was an unusual series of informal, short presentations from suppliers where the presenters wore aprons and sat in armchairs! I am not entirely sure how helpful these sessions were but I was interested in the Wildy’s presentation and in particular the figures demonstrating the continued rise in the number of law books being published each year and also the growth in eBook sales (although this still only amounted to 5.5% of the total sales).

Thank you, Helen. It sounds like the trip to Brighton was worthwhile after all!

BIALL Legal Foundation Course: a review

An SLLG member applied for an SLLG bursary to undertake the BIALL Legal Foundations Course. This is their review of the course.

I started a new post as librarian with Dundas & Wilson in January 2013. It had been 21 years since I worked as an Assistant Librarian at the Faculty of Advocated library, but I was amazed at how quickly I remembered the basic principles, the names of all the standard texts, and was delighted by how far LexisNexis online had developed.

I was responsible for answering enquires from the Dundas and Wilson Edinburgh, Glasgow and London offices, and after a few months, realised felt unsure about the English law enquiries, so decided to do something about improving and extending my knowledge in this area, to make me feel confident I was providing a good service.

I applied for a SLLG bursary to do the BIALL Legal Foundation Course offered by the University of Westminster, and was pleased to be awarded the full amount. I managed to attend the Induction afternoon in London in the University of Westminster, and met many of my fellow students, most of whom were based in London, and were starting out in their careers as law librarians. I found it more useful to meet the staff, especially Avis Whyte the course leader.

The course is a distance learning course, lasting from Oct to April, covering 17 topics over 23 weeks. The topics are designed to cover all aspects of English law and range from ‘The English legal system’, Tort, Contract, Sale of Goods, Criminal, Employment, EU, Immigration, Human Rights, Wills & Probate, Civil procedure, Family IP, Media, Land, Company and Banking.

There is a lecture a week which, depending on the person giving the lecture, lasts between 60 to 120 minutes. There is then a multiple choice test at the end of each section or lesson. To be awarded the certificate of completion you are required to get 100% in each test. Luckily, you can do the test as many times as required, and you are given four weeks for each lecture. If you miss any lectures, there is another chance to catch up at Christmas, and at the end of the course.

I set myself the goal of doing the course every Monday evening from home, and tried not to back-slide. With trepidation, I started my first course (it has been a long time since I did any formal education!) and I found it to be really interesting. I started looking forward to my Monday evenings and absorbing the content – some more than others – and the challenge of getting 100%. I found some to be challenging e.g. Corporate and company law, and others surprisingly familiar: IP, family, immigration and criminal law. I think I read too many detective books!

There were the usual disgruntlements you will get with any course – inaccurate/out of date slides, people talking to fast or too slow; presuming you have too little or too much prior knowledge of a subject, and the usual technical problems, but on the whole it was really good, and I would recommend it to anyone who has to work with English law, especially those at the beginning of their career.

I found the history and the interpretation of English law very interesting and instructive, and quite challenging and also Tort, because it is so different. It introduced me to the basic ideas and the main legislation, and detailed the major cases, the options for the judges, the different approaches, and also the constantly changing aspect of the law e.g. sale of good catching up with online shopping.

It proved to be far more relevant than I ever imagined it to be, when the merger of Dundas & Wilson with CMS Cameron McKenna was announced at Christmas. From May 2014 onwards I have now been answering research enquiries as part of the CMS Cameron McKenna library team from staff all over the world (but mainly England). It has given me much more confidence in my understanding of enquiries, and in my ability to find and present the relevant results to enquirers.

Many thanks to the SLLG committee for awarding me the bursary to complete the course.