The 2012 American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting and Conference kicked off with an inspired and energized view of the future of the legal profession, courtesy of keynote speaker Professor Richard Susskind.

Prof. Susskind, speaking to an estimated 1,500 law librarians gathered for the opening general session and keynote, explored the forces that have driven change in the legal profession, and offered a roadmap to the critical new roles that librarians will play as the profession evolves.

Prof. Susskind encouraged attendees to look beyond current roles and processes in their organizations, and consider how information technology, innovation and economic forces are re-shaping the legal marketplace and information management. He cited challenges confronted by corporate legal departments to do more with less, showing how discrete steps in their legal workflow are being deconstructed and reengineered to improve efficiency at every step in the process, citing offshoring, outsourcing, temp-sourcing and computerized document review as disruptors that have driven profound change in how legal services are delivered.

But while Prof. Susskind framed his remarks around process, showing a continuum from high-end, bespoke consultative services to automated and commoditized tasks, his message was clearly focused on outcomes: what clients are looking for, and what law firms and information professionals must do to deliver on their needs. And he described new roles within firms, corporate legal departments, academic and government institutions that information professionals are uniquely suited to serve to address these needs, including knowledge engineer and project manager. As Prof. Susskind sees it, legal information professionals are at the threshold of great new opportunities that can redefine their roles and value, and now is the time to act on them.

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