How To Choose the Right Current Awareness Platform for Your Law Firm

ByClare BilobrkPublished inTechnology OverviewsDecember 28th, 2022

Current awareness and related updating activities are central to the library and information role. According to a recent survey by the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians, 95% of information professionals are involved with delivering current awareness and updating services. And the American Association of Law Libraries’ State of the Profession 2021 reported 30% of law libraries are responsible for curated newsletters and competitive intelligence.

Current awareness has different meanings for different audiences. For legal information professionals, it refers to the process of scanning multiple resources to meet end-users’ specified keywords and search parameters. Resulting alerts can be pushed out via email or RSS feeds, or the user can be put in control in order to pull the information they want via a dashboard or intranet.

In order to automate and streamline this important and time-consuming activity, there are many news monitoring and content aggregation platforms on the market. They all guarantee to increase the efficiency of your current awareness offering, but you have to choose the right one for your firm. Read on to find out more.

Why does your law firm need an automated current awareness solution?

Why is current awareness so important? Specialist application of knowledge is what professional services firms sell to clients. Consequently, the value of your library and information team lies within the quality of knowledge being circulated around your firm. Knowledge must be timely, accurate, relevant, tailored and proactive.

To become more efficient. Current awareness isn’t just reading the news every morning – it requires specific and targeted information that is relevant to your business and clients. However, this is time-consuming, so you need to automate as much as possible.

To know your industry. Legal professionals need to be aware of developments in specific practice areas. This includes industry news, as well as regulatory and legislative developments. They also need to know when competitors are in the news.

To gain a competitive edge. Law is a competitive industry and the proper current awareness gives you the edge. Lawyers and other professionals must be proactive and reach out to clients ahead of time, predicting future trends and warning of potential issues.

To see an improved ROI. Since the legal industry is information-driven, it is crucial for firms to choose the most convenient and cost-effective current awareness strategy. Get more out of your expensive subscriptions and see an increased ROI on your budget.

What functionality should your law firm expect from a news aggregator?

A recent AALL conference session highlighted content aggregation platforms' “must have” functionality. Information people want the ability to:

  • Curate Newsletters. Move articles around a newsletter prior to publishing. There should be freedom to upload articles, as well as edit any/all text to appear in the completed newsletter.
  • Deliver Newsletters. Apply flexible timing for newsletter delivery. There should be functionality for users to choose when they want to receive it.
  • Manage Sources. Include all types of structured and unstructured data, from websites to APIs, RSS feeds to internal know-how.
  • Brand Newsletters. Include logos and organizational colors in the newsletter templates. There should be built-in flexibility to include ToC, headings, headers and footers.
  • Manage Privacy and Licenses Ensure publishers/sources are restricted where necessary to meet the terms of licenses and subscriptions.
  • Manage End-user Access. Implement SSO/IP authentication for convenient and seamless user access.
  • Report on Analytics. Download reports to view clicks, opens, usage and any other information you need for management reasons.
  • Access Customer Support. Unlimited access to helpful and accessible customer support, as well as education/training and product updates.

Many of these were specifically mentioned in the session but information people need to be aware of other functionality available from premium content aggregators. You need to do your research and speak with your library and information network to see which service suits your firm’s requirements the best.

Who in your law firm should be involved in choosing a current awareness platform?

This depends on your own firm’s internal processes. You will certainly want to involve the rest of your library and information services team in the research and pre-selection process. The team will be able to discuss and refine their requirements which will inform the scope of the project and allow you to plan.

  • The marketing and business development departments will want to be involved. Given their interest in competitive intelligence, company information and client development, they will have similar news monitoring needs.
  • The IT and InfoSec departments will need to be informed to ensure that the provider fits within your firm’s ecosystem, from a tech and security point of view. Depending on the firm's structure, IT might also include Innovation or Legal Tech teams.
  • The procurement team to ensure costs and risks are appropriately addressed.

What are the best practices for law firms when working with content aggregation vendors?

The best relationships are built on open and honest communication and can help you avoid failure. All of your vendors need to know your organization’s goals, challenges and requirements. While these should be established at the onset of onboarding a new product or resource, it’s always good to keep your vendors in the loop on any developments, projects or changes in your organization.

Some key points to consider:

  • Know your limitations regarding budget, staffing and technology. Projects are held up by one or all of these issues – don’t underestimate how much time and resources you will need to invest in a current awareness roll-out. Talk to people who have done it and they will give you the low down!
  • Know your endgame goals regarding your finished product. Although you should have a clear idea about what you want to achieve, don’t be held back by a lack of imagination! Again, speak with people who have implemented automated current awareness platforms and ask what functionality has surprised them (in a positive way).
  • Know your core audience and get them excited about the benefits. Start with a small group of “project pioneers” and develop a good quality assurance process. As the service grows in popularity and success, your champions will talk to colleagues and the wider community. This will generate interest and guarantee higher rates of take-up and engagement later on.
  • Know your vendor’s roadmap and what is on the horizon. Does the product have features to grow into and how often does the product get enhancements? If you are in close communication with the vendor you can not only get advance warning about updates but you can potentially get involved in product development. You can then make the most of the platform’s functionality and keep wowing your end-users.

Anticipating where failure might occur is crucial. There are several ways to mitigate the risk of failure when implementing new technology and happily it has become the norm to talk about your experiences with others and learn from them. Legal tech implementation projects can stumble and fail at any point; the wrong product, the wrong people or even the wrong time!

Where do you go from here?

Once you decide that your firm needs an automated current awareness system, how do you find out what is on the market? You need to do some research - to make the process easier, here are some sources which are not vendor-affiliated.

  • LAC Group explored and compared five current awareness vendors and published a report called "Nothing but the Relevant Content." Their intention was to support the evaluation process, as well as make people aware of automated current awareness and media monitoring.
  • Jinfo is an invaluable resource for information professionals. They review many information management systems, including current awareness platforms. Each review is undertaken by an information professional and they usually have full access to the platform they are reviewing. They take time to find out the pros and cons of each system.

Checking out external and independent reviews is such a vital step in making an informed decision on your provider, as it enables you to look beyond that company’s marketing materials. Finally, nothing beats getting insight and advice from other information professionals who are already using an automated current awareness service.

Technology Overviews
Topic Specialist, Vable
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