Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

Looking back at vendors and the AALL Annual Meeting

Recently, registration opened for the 2022 AALL Annual Meeting (shameless promotion! Register here) and I began to think about past conferences.

Luckily, and perhaps amazingly, AALL keeps a record online of all past conference locations going back to the first meeting in 1906 (help in Narragansett Pier, Rhode Island). Scrolling through the list I realized that many older locations were in smaller cities, likely due to the to the smaller size of the organization.

Scrolling though the list is a great distraction:

“Hey, it was held in Saratoga Springs! I used to live near there!”

“French Lick, Indiana? Where’s that? To Google maps!”

Needless to say, this list can be a great game!

However, I also realized (and I promise, this is connected to CRIV) that several meetings were held in Rochester, New York (1945 and 1978). A wonderful city, but also (former) home of Lawyer’s Co-Op. I don’t know the details of these meetings, but I have a feeling that the location of a major legal vendor played a role. Of course, this could also be nothing more than a coincidence.

What role should vendors have in supporting the annual meeting? Is it fine to have vendors sponsor events at a meeting?

I realize and recognize the amazing work that the AALL annual meeting planning committee does, and don’t want to second-guess decisions. What if a vendor, say Bloomberg Law offered to sponsor a meeting but wanted it in New York City? Or maybe in the digital age location matters much less than it did in 1945 or 1978.

What makes a “good” vendor?

Deciding the criteria for a “good” vendor is a personalized and complicated question to answer. The needs and priorities of libraries vary tremendously even in the (relatively!) small world of law libraries. While the exact importance of factors may vary, I suggest that these are items we should be reviewing when we review vendors:

  • Product. Does the product fill a need? Does this item (print subscription, database, service) fill the need that still exists? Are there other alternatives? Changes in library staff, leadership, law school program changes, technology, and the marketplace make it useful to re-examine a product’s need in your library.
  • Cost. Sometimes cost will be an absolute number while other times it is best expressed as cost per use.
  • Usage. Is this item used by most of the first year class? By an entire upper-level writing course? By a single faculty member for scholarship? Although these questions may appear to be framed as “good” to “bad”, maybe that resource is key to that single faculty member’s scholarship. How much weight to place on this factor will vary depending on budgetary needs, however even low-use items may be of great importance to key members of the law school community.
  • Vendor commitment to equity and social justice. How committed is the vendor to diversity, equity, and inclusion? Is this surface-level commitment via social media or are there concrete steps taken by the company? See earlier posts on this blogs for some great examples of vendor action in this area.
  • Customer service. What happens when things go wrong? Flexibility can also fall into this category

Finding a balance between these factors can be tricky. What about a great product with poor customer service? An expensive product with low usage? There are many tricky questions we could ponder. However, this small blog post is simply a reminder against not examining any factors and thinking the scariest phrase in all of collection development: “we’ve always done it this way”.

Legal Podcasts from Law 360

Podcasts are great entertainment for long commutes, road trips while eating lunch, or just for some much-needed downtime. But what happens when you’re tired of true crime podcasts?

Law360 (Lexis) has podcasts!

Right now, Law 360 produces three podcasts – Pro Say (not a typo), The Term, and Legalization. Each episode is about 30-40 minutes long and available via traditional podcast apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher as well as directly via the website here.

Pro Say is “a weekly podcast from Law360, bringing you a quick recap of both the biggest stories and the hidden gems from the world of law. In each episode, hosts Amber McKinney and Alex Lawson are joined by expert guests to bring you inside the newsroom and break down the stories that had us talking.” There are over 200 episodes available as of February 2022.

The Term “is a podcast for the busy U.S. Supreme Court watcher. Give us about 15 minutes each week and we’ll catch you up on all the big action at the nation’s highest court, along with a list of what to watch in the coming sessions.” Right now, there are almost 100 episodes and understandable this podcast will likely become more relevant as controversial cases appear before the Court.

Legalization “explores some of the murky legal scenarios playing out for cannabis businesses across the country. We share first-hand accounts from the businesses and attorneys grappling with an industry that is often legal at the state level but prohibited at the federal level.” It is just starting a second season.

Whatever happened to. . . ?

A look back at the AALL New Product Award Winners 2000-2009

Almost each year AALL chooses a New Product Award that “honors new commercial information products that enhance or improve existing law library services or procedures or innovative products which improve access to legal information, the legal research process, or procedures for technical processing of library materials. A “new” product is one that has been in the library-related marketplace for two years or less. New products may include, but are not limited to, computer hardware and/or software, educational or bibliographic material, or other products or devices that aid or improve library workflow, research, or intellectual access. Products that have been reintroduced in a new format or with substantial changes are eligible.”

But what is the track record of these awards? For many years the Grammy Awards “best new artist” was derided as a curse that doomed new artists. Do AALL New Product awards follow that track? Let’s have a look!

2009: Subject Compilations of State Laws (HeinOnline)

A good choice! Hein’s database has only expanded since 2009 and” the 2017-2018 volume adds more than 1,000 entries under 310 main subject headings. Researchers now have instantaneous access to more than 27,000 bibliographic records, many with extensive annotations. There is no longer a need to browse the twenty-plus print volumes in the series.

Most importantly, the annotations link directly to articles and other documents residing in HeinOnline. In all, more than 14,000 records link to HeinOnline periodicals, while the majority of other records link to case law or external websites. Additionally, users will find a subcollection within the database called “Other Related Works” which contains links to more than 670 full-text documents within HeinOnline. Database users also enjoy access to the current and all prior volumes in this series.” (full details available here).

2008: Cassidy Cataloging Services (WLX Cataloging Record Service)

Since 2008 Cassidy Cataloging has expanded the number of records available. Many libraries use their products to provide easier access to electronic resources. Although the titles of these collections have changed, a full list is available here.

2007: No award.

At first glance the “no award” years are worrisome. However, upon reflection, this is a good idea! Not every year is going to have an amazing new product and recognizing this fact keeps the high quality of choices. (Unless an amazing product debuted in 2007! Did I miss something?)

2006: No award.

2005: Thomson Gale (The Making of Modern Law)

This database instantly placed thousand of historic legal materials in the collections of many law libraries. Currently this remains a thriving database that is widely adopted by libraries. “Together, the distinct collections that comprise The Making of Modern Law cover nearly every aspect of American and British law and dig deep into the legal traditions of Europe, Latin America, Asia, and other jurisdictions, both classic and contemporary. Encompassing a range of analytical, theoretical, and practical literature, these collections support and complement the traditional study of law by featuring valuable books from the most influential legal writers throughout history.” More information is available here.

2004: Jenkins Law Library & American Lawyer Media (ALM) (palawlibrary.com)

ALM gradually acquired this resource and redistributed the content to other titles in their electronic databases.

2003: No award

2002: No award

2001: William S. Hein & Co., Inc (Hein-On-Line)

Since 2001, HeinOnline (spelled differently now) greatly expanded and is available in almost all law school libraries in the United States.

2000: IndexMaster, Inc (Indexmaster)

I am not familiar with this title, and it apparently ceased around 2010.

Conclusion

So what does all this mean? In brief, most of the resources that win this award have stood the test of time and remain important parts of the law library collection even 20 years later. I recommend keeping track of current New Product winners as the track record is pretty good!

Agree? Disagree? Did AALL miss major products during this time such as in 2002 or 2002? Was your favorite database snubbed in 2000?  

Inflation & CRIV

Recently inflation is in the news (see the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and AP). Rising inflation is a hot economic topic as the prices for many common items soar. Even bacon is 20% more expensive from 2020 to 2021. Bacon!

So, what does this have to do with CRIV?

Well, potentially nothing, but it also might be a useful metric in gauging the reasonability of vendor pricing increases during negotiation of renewals.

The Department of Labor created a Consumer Price Index (CPI) Inflation Calculator available here. This calculator allows you to enter in prices for a particular year and month and see the equivalent in other years & months. The calculator lets users compare prices from 1913 to present. Although the calculator is handily displayed on one screen, there are extensive resources to look behind the curtain available.

For example, $10,000 in November 2016 has the same buying power as $11,459.94 in October 2021. Furthermore, that same $10,000 in November 2006 now has a buying power of $13,726.50 today. Needless to say, this calculator can be a great distraction but it does help provide some context for vendor pricing.

Of course, there are drawbacks to this resource. Notable, it is the Consumer Price Index. It is looking at the buying power of “. . . All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) U.S. city average series for all items, not seasonally adjusted”. Needless to say, there are many categories such as food and gasoline, but legal databases and books are not included.

But don’t worry bacon costs are well documented in the CPI.

Is this background useful when negotiating with vendors? Are law library resources too specialized that a general consumer price index is too disconnected to be useful? Should there be a law library inflation index? Let me know in the comments below.

Rising FTEs and Budgeting

According to the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) the number of applicants and number of overall applications are up over 20% and 30% respectively. LSAC’s website is surprisingly transparent as it includes a publicly available graph charting the week to week total number of applications and total number of applicants. Additionally, users can easily compare between the last five years on the chart to see the trends in admissions. While this may not necessarily translate into higher incoming 1L classes, and it is not institution specific, it does raise some questions such as:

  • Are any of your schools databases tied to FTE (full time equivalents)?
  • Do you expect your school’s FTE to increase based on the national trends?

While looking at national numbers as a crystal ball for individual law schools may be tricky, it is possible to see trends in a larger incoming class and use this number to assist in budgeting for FTE-sensitive databases. Checking with your own Admissions office can help sharpen predictions as well.

Has anyone found it effective to try to predict future FTEs when budgeting? Is it closer to psychic predictions than science? Comment below!

Further useful links: The TaxProf Blog frequently reports and analyzes future class sizes using the LSAC data above.