Current awareness provision: New lawyers and emerging technology demand change

"A new breed of lawyer with a different skill set and current awareness preferences are challenging our practices," says knowledge manager at Eversheds Sutherland LLP, Catherine Jackson. In this Q&A, Catherine outlines why current awareness provision is changing within firms and how Eversheds Sutherland has improved its service to benefit both internal stakeholders and clients.

1. Why is current awareness provision in law firms changing and what action do librarians need to take so they can stay ahead of the curve?

The increasing role of technology, rise of alternative products and a new breed of lawyer with a different skill set and current awareness preferences are challenging our practices and processes. As information professionals, we should continue to stay proactive, commercially aware of market and technological changes, listen to our users, be flexible and adapt our services to suit their changing needs.

2. What changes have been made to current awareness provision at Eversheds Sutherland? How have the firm and its clients benefitted from this?

At Eversheds Sutherland there is an underlying culture of innovation. Our Knowledge and Information teams work closely with our legal and operational teams to understand their requirements and to offer straightforward solutions.

A key element of our knowledge strategy is ensuring that our legal teams have the best tools and information readily available, to equip them in providing a high quality, strategic and efficient service to our clients. Our current awareness service helps to underpin all of this. We understand that BD is now a huge part of our lawyers’ daily lives, so we have developed personalised feeds to support them. We implemented self-service solutions for those lawyers who want to do it themselves. We looked at how we could streamline and automate the necessary but lower value alerts. We also recognise how important horizon scanning is to our clients and have seen increased demand for bespoke client updates and online horizon scanning trackers. We have also been investigating how AI can support the development of our current awareness services and make us more efficient.

3. What are the key challenges facing librarians working on this in firms right now?

Key to any current awareness service is the need to align itself to the firm's strategy and to work within its budget. As information professionals we have faced many challenges over the years and we have always been proactive: investigating how to 'do more with less', reviewing whether to move to a single provider or considering whether to include premium content in our alerts.

These challenges never go away and we should continually look at how we can improve our processes and services, not just on an annual or cyclical basis. We now face a new world of work. The digital, mobile workspace, millennials and multi-disciplined lawyers who all have a different approach. We also have to monitor more fast paced changes and the unknown challenges of Brexit!

4. What guidance would you give on tackling these challenges and overcoming the barriers to success?

  • Remain commercially aware
  • Keep on top of market trends
  • Build close relationships with providers
  • Use your skills as information professionals to evaluate products and develop solutions
  • Consult with a mixed group of users and promote your services to the leaderships teams to gain buy-in
  • Seek to understand the daily challenges that our lawyers face