Category Archives: Library Associations

Early coverage of AALL-LexisNexis anticompetitive tying controversy — updated (again)

On June 7th, AALL sent Mike Walsh, CEO of LexisNexis Legal, a letter calling for the company to cease tying the acquisition of its other print and digital products to licensing Legal Advance. [Text of letter here ; text of press release]. Early coverage of this development include Jean O’Grady’s The Law Librarians Revolt: AALL Accuses LexisNexis of Engaging in Unfair Business Practices – Possible Antitrust Violations, Dewey b strategic, June 7, 2018 and Dan Packet’s Law Librarians Accuse Lexis of Anti-Competitive Bundling, American Lawyer, June 7, 2018 (behind paywall).

More… .

That AALL Letter Addressed To Mike Walsh CEO Lexis Nexis, House of Butter, n.d.

AALL Accuses LexisNexis of Possible Antitrust Violations, Legal Skills Prof Blog, June 8, 2018

Why Lexis’ Sales Approach Should Concern Law Firm Management and Leadership, Greg Lambert, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, June 11, 2018

Answering the call for AALL consumer advocacy: 10 years after the Great Recession AALL is living up to its potential — what’s next?, LLB, June 13, 2018

Law Librarians Accuse LexisNexis of Anticompetitive Sales Practices, Bob Ambrogi, LawSites, June 14, 2018

LexisNexis must talk with customers to show it cares, Kevin O’Keefe, Real Lawyers, June 14, 2018

AALL Quarrels With LexisNexis, Information Today NewsBreaks, June 19, 2018

 

Related background coverage prior to letter’s issuance… .

LexisNexis/AALL CRIV Conference Call November 28, 2017, 4:00 p.m., CRIV Blog, Dec. 20, 2017

What! Is LexisNexis discriminating against law libraries that cancel Lexis Advance? Law Librarian Blog, April 3, 2018

At 1:00 PM CDT Friday, AALL may decide to issue a “statement of disapproval” over one very expensive legal information provider’s tie-in negotiating tactics, LLB, April 4, 2018

“The Board will be gathering more facts in order to determine how to effectively respond” to LexisNexis’ tying ultimatum, LLB, April 10, 2018

Acquiring only what we need and can afford: Getting to “yes” with a vendor behaving like LexisNexis requires one shared imperative that is missing right now, LLB, June 1, 2018

Read more about it. — Joe

Answering the call for AALL consumer advocacy: 10 years after the Great Recession AALL is living up to its potential — what’s next?

The Great Recession sent AALL into a tailspin with members over consumer advocacy. Rank-and-file members’ calls for AALL to commit to consumer advocacy due to numerous complaints about price inflation and unscrupulous vendor business practices were pushed back by successive AALL executive boards during the Great Recession and its library-related aftermath, the “Shed West” (print) era, 2008-2013. Push backs? Sure, (1) the vendor liaison fiasco usurped CRIV’s traditional jurisdiction and authority; (2) the Vendor Colloquium and its (in)action plan left consumer advocacy almost entirely unaddressed and (3) the issuance of AALL’s Antitrust FAQ, our association’s stringent interpretation of antitrust rules, heavy-handedly reminded AALL members that “AALL cannot be used by any of its members as a vehicle for engaging in collective action that would be anticompetitive.” There was also the short-lived Consumer Advocacy Caucus which died on the vine due in part to the animus certain AALL executive board members had toward the group (and due to leadership changes within the caucus).

But that is in the past. Now AALL is living up to its potential in consumer advocacy. “Law librarians revolt,” said executive board member Jean O’Grady in her Dewey B Strategic post. The anticompetitive tying controversy with LexisNexis also demonstrates that our association can commit to consumer advocacy for AALL’s institutional members, the employers of firm, government and academic law librarians. AALL president Greg Lambert reminds readers that this controversy is not just about law librarians at Why Lexis’ Sales Approach Should Concern Law Firm Management and Leadership, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, June 11, 2018 (“It is definitely an issue which those outside the law firm libraries should take notice, and be very concerned. This is something that affects the entire law firm, not just the law librarians.”)

What’s next? “[AALL legal counsel] ask[s] on behalf of AALL that representatives of LexisNexis commit to a meeting with AALL leadership, which prefers and encourages open dialogue on this issue, as opposed to legal or commercial action,” is how AALL closed its letter to LexisNexis’ CEO Mike Walsh. While AALL did not stipulate a drop-dead deadline for discussions before taking legal or commercial action, it would be wise for LN C-suite occupants to meet with the executive board members and CRIV representatives before or at AALL 2018 in Baltimore next month. It most certainly would be a good idea to conduct this meeting (and hopefully resolve the controversy) before CRIV’s annual vendor roundtable which is scheduled for July 15, 2018. Remember, all members (and vendors) are invited to attend and participate in the roundtable discussion. I bet anticompetitive tying demands by Lexis will be a hot topic at the meeting. The roundtable may also learn of questionable tying practices by other very expensive legal information vendors. As CRIV explains “This roundtable discussion can often inform CRIV’s activities for the upcoming year.” So what’s next in my opinion is that all interested AALL members attend CRIV’s vendor roundtable.  — Joe

CRIV Vendor Roundtable

Sunday, July 15

1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.

Hilton Key Ballroom 9

Sagi’s A Comprehensive Economic and Legal Analysis of Tying Arrangements

From the conclusion of Guy Sagi’s A Comprehensive Economic and Legal Analysis of Tying Arrangements, 38 Seattle University Law Review 1 (2014):

There is currently a gap between the economic theory and the prevailing law regarding tying arrangements. These arrangements, which used to be considered essentially harmful, have been shown to possess limited potential for harm—certainly less significant potential than was previously thought. Moreover, tying arrangements have been shown to hold the potential for great and essential benefit. This Article has presented the main accepted modern economic insights, and has proposed the appropriate legal rules for analyzing the various tying scenarios. When the tying arrangement does not lead to a significant closing of the tied product market, and so it does not affect this market’s competitive structure, the legal per se rule should be applied. In contrast, when the tying arrangement leads to a significant closing of the tied product market, the rule of reason test should be applied, but not in the format that assumes that tying arrangements in these scenarios are harmful. Rather, it should be applied in a format that requires the plaintiff to prove the existence of real potential to harm competition significantly. If the existence of harmful potential is proven, the defendant will have to prove a significant efficiency justification. Then, the onus returns to the plaintiff to show that the anticompetitive potential of the tying outweighs its procompetitive potential.

— Joe

AALL issues press release calling on LexisNexis to stop its anticompetitive tying sales policy

“This policy has a detrimental impact on every AALL member using LexisNexis. We have a responsibility to come to the aid of our members and make their voices heard.” — Greg Lambert, AALL President, June 11, 2018 press release.

After failed attempts to discuss LN’s anticompetitive tying sales policy in a substantive way, our association issued this letter to Mike Walsh, CEO of LexisNexis Legal last week. On June 11th, AALL reinforced its position by releasing this press release. Read more about it. — Joe

AALL issues Dear Mike letter calling LexisNexis Legal’s tying sales policy anticompetitive [text]

June 7, 2018

Mike Walsh
CEO Global Legal Business
230 Park Ave, Suite 7
New York City, NY 10017

Dear Mr. Walsh:

On behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), I am writing to ask that LexisNexis cease its recently enacted policy of tying access to its electronic and print publication products to the purchase of a license to its Lexis Advance search product. AALL believes this practice is anticompetitive and detrimental to the long-term relationship between LexisNexis and AALL’s constituents.

As you may know, AALL is a national association representing the interests of legal information experts, and is focused on supporting its members’ efforts to provide timely and relevant information to their professional colleagues. Its members include law librarians, Chief Knowledge Officers, marketing and business development research analysts, web content and materials managers, judges, and other information specialists. Many of these members work for law firms and in similar corporate settings, supporting the work of practicing attorneys.

Historically, law firms have been able to purchase from LexisNexis publications and search services that fit the needs of their practice. This practice allowed firms to license access to specialized materials, such as Moore’s Federal Practice, leading treatises such as Nimmer on Copyright, Chisum on Patents, or Collier on Bankruptcy, relevant trade publications such as the various Law360 titles, or analytical tools such as Lex Machina, without necessarily licensing Lexis Advance, LexisNexis’ legal search product.

Since July 2017, however, AALL has received numerous reports from law firm-affiliated members that LexisNexis has adopted a new sales policy. Under the new policy, firms are required to purchase a license to Advance before they can purchase access to other LexisNexis publications and products. And those firms that do not wish to purchase Advance, for whatever reason, have been foreclosed from accessing other products they have used in their practice for years and, in some cases, for decades.

It is evident that LexisNexis has elected to leverage the demand for certain products and publications to extract purchases of its Advance search product. Such conduct is anticompetitive and likely prohibited by law. Equally as important to AALL, this new policy is detrimental to its members and the law firms they serve.

It also has put LexisNexis at odds with standards AALL has promulgated for its members and publishing professionals. The AALL Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers describes standards for the business practices of publishers that most directly affect librarians and other legal information consumers. These recommended practices are premised on the belief that good customer service and positive customer relations benefit legal publishers as well as customers. With this aim of mutual benefit in mind, Section 3.2 of the Guide provides that “Publishers should engage in open and fair negotiations with customers regarding licensing agreements and other contracts.” LexisNexis violates this standard by coercively tying access to publications regularly used and relied upon by legal professionals to a subscription to Advance. Likewise, by refusing to consider granting the type of stand-alone licenses it previously provided, LexisNexis fails to provide its customers an opportunity to negotiate contract terms as required by Section 3.2(c). Through its violation of these standards, LexisNexis has placed itself in apposition to the interests of the very law firms that it and AALL seek to serve.

The AALL Committee on Relations with Information Vendors (CRIV) his attempted to open a dialogue with LexisNexis regarding the impact of its anticompetitive policy on law firm libraries and on law firms. But, to date, LexisNexis’ response has been vague, incomplete, and unsatisfactory, evincing. no interest or intent to revoke or otherwise modify the practice in question.

Therefore, I ask on behalf of AALL that representatives of LexisNexis commit to a meeting with AALL leadership, which prefers and encourages open dialogue on this issue, as opposed to legal or commercial action.

Sincerely,

MICHAEL BEST & FRIEDRICH LLP

/s/

James P. Fieweger

Source Document

It’s a start in the right direction. — Joe

Kyle Courtney and Harvard’s State Copyright Resource Center team win 2018 AALL Public Access to Government Information Award

Kudos to the award winners. From AALL’s press release:

Courtney and the State Copyright Resource Center Team at Harvard University have created an innovative website that helps users easily access information about the copyright status of their state’s legal information. By offering an easy to navigate, free to use digital resource, the State Copyright Resource Center website educates the public on copyright law and policy and provides advocacy tools for open access advocates and libraries.

Visit the State Copyright Resource Center at Harvard University here. Very helpful. — Joe

Mart wins LLJ Article of the Year Award for the third time

This year’s award recognizes Susan Nevelow Mart’s The Algorithm as a Human Artifact: Implications for Legal (Re)Search. The article, which some may and I will say, is one of the most important articles published in the 2010’s, demonstrates how legal research is impacted by the biases and assumptions held by the programmers who construct the algorithms searchers use. Congratulations. — Joe

AALL’s 2018 New Product Award goes to BLaw’s Points of Law

According to today’s AALL eBriefing, Bloomberg Law’s Point of Law artificial intelligence solution has been awarded AALL’s 2018 New Product Award. For a review of the product, see Mark Giangrande’s LLB post.  — Joe

“The Board will be gathering more facts in order to determine how to effectively respond” to LexisNexis’ tying ultimatum

We have been reporting on recent LexisNexis tie-in attempts wherein the Company refuses to sell print or ancillary products in retaliation for cancelling Lexis Advance as if this may be a new company sales policy. Initially I thought a rogue LN sales rep may have created the reported situation involving a large law firm in Texas. Having now heard confidentially about similar tie-in negotiations, I and I have no doubt other invoice-paying law librarians are interested in finding out what is going on and what we are going to do about this to support member institutions. So is our association’s Executive Board.

At last week’s meeting, the Executive Board heard a request from CRIV to issue “a statement of disapproval of the LexisNexis policy.” Instead of issuing the statement, the Executive Board has decided to gather “more facts in order to determine how to effectively respond” according to AALL Member News for the Week of April 9, 2018. No word on who is performing the investigation, when it will commence and conclude, whether the results will be reported to the membership in a timely manner, and what AALL will do with the results of its investigation.

OK, our association isn’t exactly known for its consumer advocacy efforts on behalf of all institutional members but I hope AALL’s statement means that it will solicit additional information, this time from all law librarians who have been confronted with LN’s tie-in ultimatum. If your law library has been the recipient of LN’s ultimatum, I think the best people to inform right now are the members of CRIV. The more instances of similar negotiations, the better.

Let’s not let LexisNexis get away with giving the Executive Board the same sort of “answers” the Company gave CRIV when CRIV asked LN three times for an explanation. Here they are:

First attempted explanation — “Our pricing is different in each market and varies depending on which products and solutions work best for each customer. Accordingly, we sit down with customers and explain the pricing for their firm, including what products are sold together and which are sold separately. If any of your readers want to discuss, we are happy to do so directly with them.”

Second attempted explanation — “Keep in mind that Lexis has been selling integrated products as a package with Online for many years with notable examples such as Lexis Search Advantage, Lexis for Microsoft Office, Verdict and Settlement Analyzer, Profile Suite, LN Publisher, and Digital Library. As we retire Lexis.com this year, and upgrade users to Lexis Advance, we will more fully leverage our
platform that consolidates all content and tools to one ecosystem. This affords considerable benefits to users including being able to navigate seamlessly between products, have answer sets surfaced across products, and gain access into the central Online content repository, that formerly would have been restricted by product.”

Third attempted explanation — “It is impossible for us to answer this specific question with a blanket statement since all markets have unique pricing plans suited to buying preferences. What does apply at a broad level is that we are continuing to integrate products into Lexis Advance where all global content and tools will be housed and maintained to the highest level of accuracy and currentness. We are
exploring pricing and packaging options that offer a seamless experience across products and access to related answer sets not possible with satellite products. Please refer to related information provided in the LexisNexis/CRIV conference posted on CRIV Blog, Dec. 20, Again, If any readers wish to discuss, we encourage them to contact their account team directly.”

I call BS.

Hopefully, our association will aggressively pursue what may be the most serious complaint about LexisNexis in at least a decade. — Joe

At 1:00 PM CDT Friday, AALL may decide to issue a “statement of disapproval” over one very expensive legal information provider’s tie-in negotiating tactics

Yesterday I reported that CRIV has been unsuccessful in attempting to resolve a dispute involving LexisNexis and a large law firm in Texas over LexisNexis’ refusal to sell its print products unless the firm renewed its Lexis Advance license. (Since then I have heard about how LexisNexis has coerced other law libraries using the same negotiations tactic.). At 1:00 PM CDT Friday, the Executive Board will consider CRIV’s recommendation that AALL issue “a statement of disapproval of the LexisNexis policy.” If issued, what should the statement say?

How about a strongly worded condemnation of what may be anti-competitive tying because (1) two separate products or services are involved, (2) the sale or agreement to sell one is conditioned on the purchase of the other, (3) the seller has sufficient economic power in the market for the tying product to enable it to restrain trade in the market for the tied product, and (4) a not insubstantial amount of interstate commerce in the tied product is affected. Enumerating the elements of a per se violation of antitrust law might be a good start for advocating for our institutional membership base. — Joe

What! Is LexisNexis discriminating against law libraries that cancel Lexis Advance?

The following complaint was reported by CRIV to the Executive Board for the Board’s Spring 2018 meeting.

In July of 2017, an AALL member (a librarian at a large law firm in Texas) submitted a help request to CRIV regarding a change in LexisNexis sales policy that she felt was detrimental to her firm, and requested that CRIV mediate the situation with LexisNexis. Specifically, the librarian’s complaint alleged that when her firm decided not to renew its subscription to the Lexis Advance database, LexisNexis retaliated by stating that they would no longer be willing to sell any LexisNexis print materials or ancillary online legal products (such as Law360) to the firm.

In the Spring Meeting Board Book 2018 (Tab 14, PDF pages 186-188), CRIV reports to the Executive Board that our representatives were given unsatisfactory answers when they questioned LexisNexis about this complaint. Still waiting for an explanation… . — Joe

Nominations sought for the 2018 Roy M. Mersky Spirit of Law Librarianship Award for Public Service

Each year, the Roy M. Mersky Spirit of Law Librarianship Award for Public Service Committee honors a law librarian or law library organization for service to the community. Please help us recognize law librarians or law library organizations by nominating a worthy individual who has made a meaningful contribution to a social or charitable cause or concern. A review of past award recipients shows the variety of charitable work that may be recognized.

Award recipients are selected from nominations submitted to the Award Selection Committee, which consists of Dick Spinelli, Counsel to the President, Wm. S. Hein & Company; Professor Barbara Bintliff, director of the University of Texas, Tarlton Law Library; and Professor Richard Leiter, director of the University of Nebraska Schmid Law Library. The previous award winner, Steve Anderson, who was honored for his work with the Howard County Early Onset and Newly-Diagnosed Parkinson’s Disease Support Group and many other activities that address quality of life issues for people suffering from Parkinson’s, will also serve on the selection committee.

The award will be presented to the recipient during the 2018 AALL Annual Meeting in Baltimore.
An award will be given only when an outstanding individual is nominated. The committee encourages nominations from anyone with information regarding individuals who might fit the profile of an award recipient. Please help us to recognize the people who represent a special dimension of the “Spirit of Law Librarianship.”

The award, established in 1991 by Roy M. Mersky, former director of Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, and Richard Leiter, director of the Schmid Law Library at the University of Nebraska, was created in order to give special recognition to individual law librarians who might not otherwise be recognized by their peers for their important work. The award was established in lieu of accepting royalties from their book, published in 1991 by the Fred B. Rothman & Co., Inc (acquired by William S Hein & Co., Inc. in 1989), The Spirit of Law Librarianship. The second edition was published in the spring of 2004 by Alert Publications, Inc.

The deadline for nominations is June 1, 2018. To make a nomination, please contact: Professor Richard Leiter, Schmid Law Library, University of Nebraska College of Law, Lincoln, NE 68583-0902; rleiter@unl.edu. Information about past award winners, the nomination process and the Roy M. Mersky Spirit of Law Librarianship Award for Public Service Foundation, please visit tarltonapps.law.utexas.edu/slla

— Joe

Should the next AALL executive director be a law librarian or an association professional?

Recently AALL members learned that our association’s executive director is resigning after 11 years at the helm. Kate Hagan is leaving at the end of this fiscal year in September. A search committee chaired by Gail Warren, a former AALL treasurer, who also served as a member of the search committee that selected Kate Hagan for the job in 2007, has been formed. Will the Executive Board once again hire an association professional? Should it?

Whether the executive director should be a librarian or an association professional has been the subject of much debate within ALA recently. For nearly a century, every ALA executive director has been a credentialed librarian. In November, this changed when the ALA Council replaced the requirement by stating that a library degree is strongly preferred but not a required educational qualification for the executive director position. Some ALA members are opposed to the change and are trying to overturn the Council action by voting on a resolution to reverse the Council’s decision right now. Results will be announced on Wednesday, April 11th.

Prior to the current voting, ALA released a number of documents that framed the debate. Here’s one, ALA’s Pros/Cons Table which outlines the issues, issues that the reader can place in an AALL context with one caveat, AALL is a much, much smaller library association than ALA.

What candidate pool will yield the best available executive director for AALL? — Joe

Tenth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Tenth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition. The competition is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School.

The competition is designed to encourage scholarship and to acquaint students with the AALL and law librarianship, and is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses to attend the AALL Annual Meeting.

Winning and runner-up entries will be invited to submit their entries to Unbound, the official journal of LH&RB. Past winning essays have gone on to be accepted by journals such as N.Y.U. Law Review, American Journal of Legal History, University of South Florida Law Review,William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, and French Historical Review.

The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website: http://www.aallnet.org/sections/lhrb/awards

Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., April 16, 2018 (EDT).

AALL’s ‘extreme vetting’ removes post on professional ethics for suggesting collective action by AALL readers

As the gatekeepers for the databases and platforms that we use for research, librarians have an obligation to honor privacy and civil liberties in their libraries, and to stand up to research product companies helping ICE to build supersystems for “extremely vetting” citizens and noncitizens alike. — Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker, LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics, Law Librarian Blog, Dec. 11, 2017

Last week, Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker published “LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics” on the RIPS blog. (Later republished on LLB.) The RIPS blog contains the disclaimer that “All opinions expressed in the posts herein are those of the individual author and do not represent the opinions of RIPS-SIS or AALL.” The disclaimer wasn’t good enough to stop our association from taking down the post in its entirety on the advice of AALL’s general counsel and without consulting with the post authors until after the takedown.

Why?

Two answers have been offered to the above question. First, our association’s rationale may be that AALL fears an antitrust lawsuit from one of our very expensive legal information providers mentioned in the post. Alternatively, perhaps, AALL fears alienating an organizational member that contributes funding to our association. Since our association’s general counsel was involved, it appears likely that AALL was afraid of possible litigation on antitrust grounds for singling out LexisNexis in the blog post. If so, we have a problem here, one that cannot be addressed by our association without some risk exposure. How much? Would LexisNexis sue AALL over this? I seriously doubt it but…

According to a comment posted by Dennis Kim-Prieto to an Immigration Prof Blog post about the Lamdan and Harker piece:

The upshot of [LexisNexis’s role in ICE surveillance] is that LexisNexis may no longer be a secure research resource for immigration practice and appeals. By searing [sic] LexisNexis, attorneys are giving them access to their search terms, which is what ICE really needs to inform the algorithms that will run the proposed database. Every immigration attorney and clinic should, in my professional opinion, find another source to use instead of LexisNexis. You may be inadvertently putting your clientele at risk by using LexisNexis!

If that is the case, then we have a situation where our ethical concerns for searcher privacy in database usage cannot find expression in concerted activity under the AALL umbrella because it might lead to an anti-competitive boycott of LexisNexis. As a professional association we are sinking in the quicksand of antitrust rules again. — Joe

LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics

by Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker

A recent Intercept article listed the data corporations vying to build ICE’s Extreme Vetting surveillance system. The list of companies signing on to this project includes LexisNexis, a go-to product for legal and business research, news, and public-records searching. LexisNexis is a ubiquitous library resource. It can be found on public use computers and webpages in public, academic, and private libraries across the nation. For librarians in the legal field, especially, LexisNexis is an often unavoidable product, as it is one of two major research systems for the law.

Civil liberties activists and artificial intelligence (AI) experts quickly responded to the news by writing a letter, en masse, to IBM’s CEO, condemning the company’s potential participation in the ICE program. The AI experts decried the program as being “tailor-made for discrimination”, as it is meant to determine and evaluate an applicant’s probability of becoming a positively contributing member of society, as well as their ability to contribute to national interests and predict whether an applicant intends to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States. These types of programs have not been proven to be effective, and in other cases, have falsely labelled individuals as criminals or security risks. This program is not totally dissimilar to IBM’s role in the Holocaust as the statisticians and data-gatherers behind massive deportation and roundup lists. Librarians should be active participants in the conversation about the ICE project to build a system for surveillance and deportation.

Librarians are advocates and activists for privacy rights and the protection of personally identifiable information in surveillance, standing up against recent-anti-muslim Executive Orders and making it clear that libraries and information are for everyone. Librarians know that privacy and the ability to do research without fear of surveillance are the cornerstones of intellectual freedom. We have historically been active in the fight for civil liberties, even going to jail to protect our patrons from intrusive government surveillance.

Librarians are also invested in the ethical use of information. The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy emphasizes the role of “using information, data, and scholarship ethically” and the AALL Legal Research Competencies and Standards states that a successful legal researcher “distinguishes between ethical and unethical uses of information”. The Boulder Statement on Legal Research Education specifies that legal research instruction should include “an ongoing examination of professional standards, including the identification of ethical responsibilities.” Given this focus on ethics, librarians should explore and publicize the ethical implications of a system that would use personal data in a way that technology experts believe will falsely identify people as posing a criminal risk and expose those individuals to serious repercussions.

Critical information literacy, or understanding the source of information and the roles information providers have in society at large, is also a cornerstone of the library profession. As librarians, we must investigate the source of LexisNexis data. While many librarians are pleased by LexisNexis push-of-a-button dossiers on potential clients and library users are tickled that they can use LexisNexis products to track down ex-beaus and high school classmates, we cannot ignore the rotten roots from which this personal data springs. As of 2006, LexisNexis had the world’s largest electronic database for public-records related information. Along with Accurint, a huge public records database, LexisNexis purchased Seisint, a post-9/11 creation whose MATRIX system combines commercial and government records to enable the quick creation of “suspects” or surveillance targets. Seisint, and its MATRIX system, were condemned by civil liberties activists as a tool to propel the nation towards a “surveillance society.” It is incumbent upon librarians to understand and build awareness about the products we provide to the public. Especially if our patrons are likely to be harmed by ICE surveillance, we cannot, in good conscience, counsel them to use products under the LexisNexis umbrella to conduct research in our libraries.

As library organizations discuss ways library professionals can advocate for intellectual freedom, democracy, and equality, we should begin by grappling with how to react when our major database providers engage in massive surveillance projects with the government. It is an opportunity for us, as professionals to put our ethical standards and critical information literacy practices to practical use. As the gatekeepers for the databases and platforms that we use for research, librarians have an obligation to honor privacy and civil liberties in their libraries, and to stand up to research product companies helping ICE to build supersystems for “extremely vetting” citizens and noncitizens alike.

Editor’s Note: The above post was originally published on RIPS Law Librarian Blog, a publication of the Research, Instruction, and Patron Services Special Interest Section (RIPS-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries, on December 5, 2017. It was removed from the blog on the “advice of AALL General Counsel” as stated here. The authors asked to publish their post on LLB and I am happy to provide a means for this very important contribution to see the light of day. — Joe

 

Trends in AALL membership, 2007-2017: Law Firm/Corporate professional membership continues to decline

Since 2007, the biennial Salary Survey has reported on AALL membership by market sectors: Law Firm/Corporate, Government and Law School. The table, above, details non-AALL membership as a percent of the professional workforce as reported in the last six biennial salary surveys. The percent of non-AALL members in the law firm/corporate legal sector workforce increased 19% in 2017 compared to 2015 and has increased 56% since 2007. Note that the percent of the professional workforce in the law firm/corporate law sector who are not AALL members has steadily increased during the past ten years. No similar increase is manifest in the government and academic sectors.

Why?

Time to mount an AALL membership outreach campaign targeting non-traditional legal information professionals in law firms and corporate legal departments? — Joe

New milestone reached in law firm/corporate law information budgets

According to AALL’s 2017 Biennial Salary Survey & Organizational Characteristics, total information budgets increased substantially for government and law firm/corporate law libraries but not academic law libraries when compared to the 2015 survey results. Government libraries’ information budget increased 31% and law firm/corporate law libraries’ information budgets increased 26%. Academic law libraries’ information budgets were flat.

Electronic information budgets as a percent of total information budgets essentially was unchanged for government law libraries in 2017 at 35%. Not so for other market segments. Electronic information budgets as a percent of total information budget rose 16% for law schools, from 38% in 2015 to 44% of total information budgets in 2017. Law firm/corporate law libraries’ electronic information budgets rose 9%, from 69% to a record 75% of total information budgets in 2017. No time in the history of AALL’s biennial surveys has a market segment reached this 75% milestone. Is the end of this substitution trend in sight? I have my doubts. — Joe

Relevance: AALL leadership requires a diversity of types of institutional perspectives holding the office of president

There was a time in the not too distance past of AALL when it was very unusual for someone other than an academic law librarian to hold the post of elected AALL president. Diversity of types of institutional perspectives in the AALL’s presidential officeholder was lacking. Between the 2000-01 term and 2011-12 term, for example, academic law librarians held the position of AALL president 11 of the 12 terms of office. During that time, it was fairly commonplace to hear complaints that AALL was no longer relevant to the professional careers of many AALL members, particularly among disenchanted firm librarians.

Since 2011-12, the situation has improved. From the 2012-13 term through the current 2017-18 term, government law librarians, academic law librarians and firm law librarians each have filled the presidential post twice. Could this be why we hear fewer, quieter complaints about the relevance of AALL for members’ professional lives and their employers’ missions? — Joe

AALL members, time to get your vote on

This year’s slate of AALL candidates —

Vice President/President-Elect:

Michelle Cosby, Associate Director, Univ. of Tennessee Law Library
Carol A. Watson, Director, Univ. of Georgia Law Library

Executive Board Members:

June Hsiao Liebert, Firmwide Director of Library & Research Services, Sidley Austin LLP
Liz Reppe, State Law Librarian, Minnesota State Law Library
Karen Selden, Metadata Services Librarian, Univ. of Colorado Law Library
Christine L. Sellers, Research Specialist, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Resources:

Candidates’ Statements and Bios

Recording of the AALL 2017 Candidates Forum for President-Elect

Recording of the AALL 2017 Candidates Forum for the Executive Board

Q & A PERSPECTIVE: Get to Know Your 2018 AALL Executive Board Candidates, AALL Spectrum, July/August 2017.

— Joe