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“A procedure known as a mind-meld [performed by Mr. Spock, a Vulcan, of Star Trek fame] . . . mak[es] it possible to share thoughts, experience, memories, and knowledge with another individual.” www.Wikipedia.org. Why is there a need for a mind meld between the generations of attorneys within a firm? Those who have to ask that question are probably from the Mature Generation and think that the way things were done then is the way things should be done today. Lawyers need to move on from that premise if they want to fulfill clients’ goals by continuing to offer quality, timely and cost-effective service. These are just as important today as they were “in the beginning.” The widely used designations for the generations typically found at law firms today are as follows: The Mature Generation: born 1925-1945; The Baby Boomers: 1946-1964; Generation X: 1965-1981; and Generation Y: 1982-2003. Every generation has its own way of achieving these goals, and, while a seamless approach to change would be ideal, it is as unrealistic as the mind meld. This article will deal with achieving these objectives through the eyes, ears and nose of a law librarian. Information retrieval is both an art and a science. Take legal research . . . please. First, what is it? In addition to the process of retrieving information that supports legal decision-making, today’s legal researcher must be armed with the skills to tackle more than a purely legal environment. Business and economic research skills must be cultivated as firms continue to offer a full array of services to clients. “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” remarked Mark Twain, after his obituary was prematurely published. Every few years someone pens a piece praising the panorama of electronic resources available and concludes that law libraries and their bun-adorned librarians are no longer needed. What world these folks are traveling through is open to question, except for the fact that it’s not the real world. The wild glut of information now available must be tamed by a gatekeeper, also known as a librarian. A part of this perception is derived from the fact that today’s research databases are designed for the end user, or so the vendors would have you believe. While some attorneys are active end users, many are not, and those who are often don’t go beyond learning basic search techniques. This leaves an often expensive resource partially wasted. So here it is, 2006, and a deluge of information assaults every aspect of life via a multitude of media. Those who sift through and chew on each new byte take an enormous burden off those who must tend to the immediate needs of current and potential clients. And managing very expensive resources is an art that should be performed by someone with the librarian’s focus, who can analyze content while matching value with the firm’s culture. This is serious business. Generational dichotomies abound. Ways must be found to harness and manage the research expectations of clients, partners and staff who are diversified both generationally and culturally in an arena that is overflowing with this rich and abundant, but also incorrect and, therefore, dangerous information. According to the Wikipedia definition, the generation gap (noun) occurs “when older and younger people do not understand each other because of their different experiences, opinions, habits and behaviour.” “Whow a genRAshon gap lik there wasnot 1 b4,” wrote “Kenny,” in an Internet response to Associate Professor Catherine Beavis of Deakin University in Australia, in attempting to define the generation gap. Kenny’s “kwik” retort and “casUL” shorthand is a dead giveaway as to his Gen Y origins (e-mailers who don’t punctuate or bother to complete thoughts or sentences). OK, so these gaps have been around since the days of Blackstone’s Commentaries; library professionals are still saddled with the issue of providing quality legal research as the baton is passed to those who were born with a triple latte in one hand and an iPod in the other. How does one fill the gaps and still present the best work product to clients? Although we are hugely sympathetic to the disgruntlement the senior generations feel about the “tossing of the tablets,” unless a clearly defined retention philosophy is followed, a firm risks a Jurassic traffic jam-lots of noise and frustration with no one moving forward. The need to get with the virtual program is a harsh and uncomfortable reality. The way it was By way of explanation and to expand Gen X and Yers’ understanding of the path that’s been traveled, here’s a bit of history: Early in the careers of the Mature Generation, reference librarians would escort an attorney to the Centennial Digests, where the attorney would then park him/herself for several hours to comb through topical key number indexes directing the attorney to various cases in the West’s Reporters that were classified under the correct key number for the issue at hand. Reporters were pulled off the shelves and parked in a study carrel. After hours of reading the full texts of cases, Shepardizing began. This was an arduous task that utilized many bound volumes and soft-covered supplements. Knowing what was missing was critical to the project. Simultaneously, librarians combed through journal indexes, and identified, copied, cut and pasted appropriate articles on the topic. But it is pointless to harp on what was. It’s time to move on to seek thrills from the virtual places one needs to go. What’s a law librarian to do now? Strap on your virtual seat belt for a worthwhile ride where enjoyment, passion and even thrills are still to be found traveling over the river and through the woods . . . and, maybe, finding the way back to grandma’s house. Who would have thought that toilsome tasks would take mere seconds or, at most, minutes today? The expectation now is that everything can be done immediately and electronically, and a desire for instant gratification rules. Why wouldn’t it? Shepardizing is now done in minutes. One can track corporate relationship paths, and create “take to meeting” reports on the fly. But while many things are made easier and faster, the challenge shifts to assure that the end result meets the lawyers’ standards of quality. Today’s Gen Y students have spent much of their time studying for the purpose of passing the next test. It’s not their fault. The political and economic circumstances surrounding today’s educational system have made the quest for the whys and wherefores not all that sexy-if knowledge happens to be retained along the way, that’s considered a bonus. One can see what a laborious and unrewarding process the mechanics of legal research is to the current generation. The Internet has aided and abetted the newer researcher by making it appear that the gathering of information will be instant and free, and the information itself unfailingly correct. With this erroneous perception, the new lawyer is faced with the quandary of what to do when the realization hits that the Web is imperfect. The power of the written word is so sacrosanct that what seems to reek with reliability may prove one’s worst enemy. While the Internet is full of sites that help debunk false statements, it is more complicated to pick up the subtleties of outdated laws or regulations. (At this time, please excuse a formal plea to all who publish on the World Wide Web and to their audience. Webmasters: Date your documents. Your sites are nice but useless unless you date your documents. Users: It is the duty of responsible users to look for the “Contact Us” button available on most sites, and use it. Users will be pleasantly amazed by the many responses.) Believe it or not, training can be a very sensitive issue. It is sometimes met with the rolling eyes of Gen X and Y. They are “on Google all the time” and don’t feel they need a class covering Internet imperfections or how subscription databases differ. To be honest, training sessions would probably be more crowded if the billable hour weren’t a top priority. This holds true for each generation, although the Mature Generation bears the added pressure of sometimes feeling like Luddites. But classes are critical for all who practice law. It is extremely important for the older generations to make the time (perhaps during the 25th hour of the day) to learn what tools have taken the place of, or now complement, the coveted book. No one expects this group to be expert in the ins and outs of online research; however, an overview with periodic upgrading is essential if the generation gap is to narrow. Seniors should know what the newbies are reading and in what formats. Once they are properly schooled, research advice will drastically change, and the fear of associates “going online” will dissipate. Training for the young and the old saves money, ensures that the right resources will be used for the right purpose, empowers the user and opens the door for more meaningful communication between the generations. And speaking of communication, when time pressures prevent thorough coaching, law librarians have their hands full attempting to assist, although there are amusing rewards. A request for the “Lewy Laws” turned out, after too many wasted efforts, to be the treatise by Louis Loss on Securities Regulation. Look in the right place As deadlines get more unreasonable, and when expertise on a topic has not yet been cultivated, Gen X and Gen Y will seek their comfort zone-an online source-and will desperately attempt a search. Here is where a quick read of treatises on the subject would more properly focus and prepare one for online research. A trip to the library may even solve the problem, making an online search unnecessary. Seize the book and save the moment, as well as money. In this case, finding one’s way back to grandma’s house can pay off. Of course, on the other hand, disallowing all use of online sources can be penny wise and pound foolish. Although not as popular as in the olden days, and not nearly as exciting as the new database aggregators, CD-ROMs certainly still have their place, though they are sometimes problematic as to updates and functionality. But they offer less stress while searching, since it is rare that usage is billed back to a client. Subscription databases that a firm chooses not to bill back to clients provide a cost-effective alternative to Lexis and Westlaw and other “bill-backables.” This is not to say that they replace Lexis or Westlaw. These are the staples for legal research, and although competition is giving them a run for their money, they are here to stay, at least through the next generation. If databases such as CCH Internet Research NetWork, RIA Checkpoint, OneSource, Capital IQ, idExec, Securities Mosaic and others are not running on the meter, a world of “guilt-free” searching opens up. But along with this “free lunch” come certain quirks within each database. One bad experience often prompts an attorney to resolve never to use the database again, which helps neither the attorney, the librarian nor the client. To repeat: When training is offered . . . go! Licensing for proprietary databases has become quite the moneymaker for vendors. No longer should the size of a firm alone dictate the cost of a license. If a fantastic product is used by 20 attorneys, why should a license cover 200 . . . or more? The savvy librarian must try to educate vendors, who, for the most part, say they are listening-but change comes slowly. As shelf space is shrinking and databases are multiplying, information technology (IT) staffs are blossoming in law libraries. The librarians who dabbled with technology, along with the assistance of a firm’s IT staff, were saviors to all during the tumultuous technological transition from manual research to cyberspace, but the time has come for a sophisticated hybrid of techie/librarian. As library staffs devote more time to designing Web sites, exploring functionalities that are intuitive, pushing information to a demanding audience and offering technical assistance for the products they license, the demand grows for the technically savvy specialist. New responsibilities will push librarians into unforeseen territory. This may be an uncomfortable position for a profession so geared to law and order, but, as one advertisement put it, “the greatest risk is not taking one.” Build it and they will come-maybe. Set up a Starbuck’s corner in the library-where the shelves used to be. The idea is to set a friendly, nonintimidating atmosphere where attorneys will be greeted with service with a smile. Sure, everything old is new again. But e-mail runs rings around telephone calls and personal visits. As librarians are building Web sites, adding RSS feeds, writing blogs, pushing electronic sources out and trying to keep their electronic publishing intuitive, attractive and chock full of value, they must also start producing podcasts and perhaps videocasts in order to keep their new audiences interested and informed. Let this be a sign off (and don’t forget to use the log-out button) with a KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid! It’s best to take one project at a time. Attorneys from the Mature Generation might try to learn about one new research source per month. Baby Boomers should also follow this recommendation, and offer to take a few moments to mentor the newbie regarding some tried and true research methods. Members of Gen X or Y should remember that, although their work/personal life balance goals are to be greatly admired, we live in a multigenerational world where diversity rules: Let it! Rissa Peckar is library director at New York’s Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. Joseph L. Biagiotti is assistant library director/head of reference at the firm.

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