February 2015 Business Meeting Round-Up

CALL held its third Business Meeting of the year at Morton’s Steakhouse, 65 E. Wacker Place, on February 26, 2015.  President Margaret Schilt called the meeting to order at noon and praised the Meetings Committee for finding a great new venue.  Margaret welcomed one new CALL member, Peter Kaiser from Bloomberg BNA.

Meeting Sponsor

Sean Hearon of Wolters KluwerVice-President/President-Elect Julie Pabarja then introduced and thanked our meeting sponsor, Wolters Kluwer Law and Business.

Sean Hearon spoke on behalf of Wolters Kluwer and thanked the Association for the opportunity to be at the meeting.

Meeting Speaker: David Mendelsohn

Julie then introduced the meeting speaker, David Mendelsohn, Managing Partner of the Chicago Office for DLA Piper and a partner in the Financial Services group, to give his talk, “The Future of Law Firms from a Managing Partner’s Perspective.”

David MendelsohnMr. Mendelsohn focuses his practice in the area of insurance and reinsurance transactional and regulatory matters and provides global regulatory and compliance advice to Fortune 500 and other international companies in a range of industries.

Mr. Mendelsohn graduated with honors from the Lancaster Gate School of Law and IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, where he was named one of the 125 Alumni of Distinction. He has been nominated by in-house counsel and peers to appear in the Guide to the World’s Leading Insurance & Reinsurance Lawyers, named an Illinois Super Lawyer, and is included in the international listing of Super Lawyers, Corporate Counsel Edition.

Legal Services Market

Mr. Mendelsohn started his talk by describing the legal services market as “flat,” and a “buyer’s market.”  He said that this is a market where clients are the ones with the power to force changes, causing enormous tension between clients and firms and between firms.  Mr. Mendelsohn noted that there is a growing divide between law firms that will grow and become more profitable and those in the next tier below those firms.

He then explained the client side of the relationship, stating that he has noticed something he finds “rather ironic.”  He noted that clients, which he took to mean corporations and their in-house legal departments, are facing broader issues, more regulation, and are dealing with a wider range of issues in more countries with fewer resources.  He said that they are reducing the use of outside counsel, and driving down costs through discounts and fee arrangements.  Mr. Mendelsohn shared some statistics from a survey of in-house law departments.

David Mendelsohn on CLO 2014 Survey

He noted that only 4% of law departments are content with the status quo with outside counsel.  He also noted that 90% of those surveyed obtained price reductions from their law firms.

Mr. Mendelsohn concluded that those statistics show that clients are not getting the satisfaction that they thought they would get from putting price pressure on law firms.  He then dismissed the idea that the legal service delivery model is important to this group, noting that most respondents either said, essentially, that they only cared about results or said that how a law firm provides service matters, but that other factors may take precedence.

Finally, Mr. Mendelsohn analyzed the answers that law departments gave when they were asked about their internal clients, the Board of Directors and upper-level executives.  When asked what those groups value from the law department, they answered that management wants advice to senior executives, support to the Board, governance advice, and compliance regulatory advice.

Further, the least important item was “controlling legal expenses.”  Mr. Mendelsohn concluded that there is a “complete disconnect” when only 4% of clients are happy despite 90% receiving price discounts that executives do not care about.  He said that the “debate is off kilter” and law firms “need to get it recentered” on what law departments’ internal clients actually want.

The Future for Law Firms

Mr. Mendelsohn then spoke about how law firms are focused on maintaining and building market share, but noted that few law firms are thinking about strategy.  He noted that law firms save money by moving jobs to less-expensive labor markets, allowing people to work remotely, and using management tools and metrics to measure performance and allocate resources.

He opined that big data is the future for law firms.  He asked the CALL members present to imagine the amount of data possessed by DLA Piper, a law firm with over 4,000 attorneys.  He said that, for law firms, information is an asset waiting to be monetized and then pointed out that librarians know how to find information.

David Mendelsohn on changes to the legal field and law libraries

The Future for Librarians and Law Schools

Mr. Mendelsohn then wondered how librarians will “pivot” to do something different.  He said that he didn’t have an answer, but noted that the only way we can make it happen is to understand the market and our organizations and where the issues and opportunities are.  Mr. Mendelsohn stated that libraries are “an underutilized asset in the law firm world” and a cost center, so we must give value and find a way to make libraries revenue centers.

Mr. Mendelsohn then turned his attention to law schools, concluding that law schools have to change their models because jobs are scarce, and what law schools teach and how they teach it is “archaic.”  He predicted a growing gap between the top law schools and those at the next level, the same as what he described happening in law firms.

CALL Member Questions

Mr. Mendelsohn then took questions from the CALL members present.  One member asked, “If there’s a partner who insists that he needs a book and can’t work online, is he encouraged to leave?”  This got a big laugh from the membership and the speaker.  Mr. Mendelsohn acknowledged that it is difficult for people to change the way that they do things, but law firms will not be able to keep things in hard copy.

Feburary 2015 CALL Business Meeting

He concluded that, “When people can’t do their job effectively, that’s when they’re let go.”  Another member asked, “Can you give some examples of how the librarians at DLA Piper have crossed over into this new world and are using technology or interpreting big data?”  Mr. Mendelsohn said that the firm has centralized the way in which attorneys access the help of librarians, and uses librarians for work that used to be left to lawyers.  He noted that there should be a larger role for the library on the marketing side because there is too much overlap between marketing and the library.

David Mendelsohn answering questionsA member then asked, “How do we come to the attention of hugely busy people?”  Mr. Mendelsohn answered that “substance counts” and librarians must understand the firm and the market.  He also stressed finding those who support what you have to offer and getting them to help you get the right audience at the right time.

Another member asked whether it helps clients understand what a librarian does to rename the librarians something more technical.  Mr. Mendelsohn opined that the problem did not come from clients because “clients love lower rate work,” but, rather, the trouble is ignorance on the part of lawyers of what librarians can do.

A member asked what new data will be created from the pool of unmonetized information and knowledge.  Mr. Mendelsohn answered that DLA Piper has information about outcomes of litigation that it could break out by jurisdiction and other facets.  He said that if they could package that information and let clients know about it, clients could settle with more confidence.

Committee Announcements

Margaret thanked Mr. Mendelsohn for speaking and invited several committees up for announcements.

Community Service:

Valerie Kropf said that the Community Service Committee is collecting food and monetary donations to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository.  The Food Depository assists more than 800,000 adults and children in Cook County every year through a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.

Mentorship & Leadership Development:

Eugene Giudice thanked everyone who has been supportive in attending the Mentorship and Leadership Development Committee’s meet ups.  He said that the next event would be a morning donut and coffee meet up with the AALL Local Arrangements Committee for the 2016 Annual Meeting in Chicago. Eugene also reported that those who live in the western suburbs can look forward to a meet up this spring in the Wheaton/Winfield area.

AALL Local Arrangements:

Later, Maribel Nash spoke on behalf of the AALL Local Arrangements Committee and her co-chair, Megan Butman, to say that they will be available at the meet up to speak with anyone interested in the work of their Committee.

She also said that, as the annual meeting in Philadelphia approaches, CALL members should be on the lookout for a call for volunteers to staff the Local Arrangements table in Philly, as well as volunteers for Local Arrangements for the 2016 meeting in Chicago.

Government Relations Committee:

Joe Mitzenmacher reported, on behalf of the Government Relations Committee, that Congress is considering HR 741, the US Library Trust Fund Act, a bill designed to apply tax overpayments to a trust fund that could go to libraries.

He reported that the bill has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee and that CALL may be able to enlist the help of local legislators and committee members, Reps. Danny Davis and Peter Roskum.

Grants and Awards:

Maribel Nash then reminded the membership that it is CALL awards season and the Grants and Awards Committee seeks nominations for the following chapter awards, to be awarded at the May meeting:

  • The Agnes and Harvey Reid Award for Outstanding Contribution to Law Librarianship: presented for outstanding service to the Chapter during the previous year or for contribution to law librarianship.
  • The Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Law Librarianship:  presented to a retired or soon-to-be retired CALL member for their outstanding lifetime achievement in law librarianship.
  • The Award for Outstanding In-House Publication is given to an individual or group who created in-house library materials (print or online) that are user- and staff-oriented, are relevant for law libraries, and are outstanding in quality.

Maribel reminded the group that criteria for each award can be found on the CALL website. A list of past recipients of the awards and information about the CALL Grants and Awards Committee are found in the CALL Handbook.  She asked the membership to please submit their nominations by March 27, 2015 and feel free to let anyone on the Committee know if they have any questions.

Maribel added that the Committee is also always awarding CALL grants, and CALL members who have never received a grant are especially encouraged to apply.

She reminded the members that, in addition to grants for the Annual Meeting, grants are available for other professional development opportunities of interest to members, including the CALI Conference for Law School Computing, the ABA Techshow, and the Special Libraries Association (SLA) conference. To apply for a CALL grant for the AALL meeting in Philadelphia, the application form is due by March 30.

Reminder about Executive Board Election

Margaret then reminded everyone to vote in the Executive Board election.  She introduced the slate of candidates for CALL’s 2015-2016 Year:

  • Vice-President/President Elect: Joseph Mitzenmacher, Loyola University Chicago School of Law Library, Todd Ito, D’Angelo Law Library, University of Chicago
  • Secretary: Diana Koppang, Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP, Eugene Giudice, Latham & Watkins LLP
  • Director: Kara Young, Pritzker Legal Research Center, Northwestern, Konya Lafferty, Supreme Court of Illinois

Margaret added that the next CALL Business Meeting will be Thursday, May 14, 2015 at Wildfire Chicago, 159 W. Erie.

The meeting adjourned at 1:22pm.