AALL Conference Report: Getting to Know Vendors

By , August 23, 2012 10:54 am

by Anna L. Endter 

One of my goals at the AALL Conference this year (based on a suggestion from my current boss) was to spend some time talking with vendors about how they do what they do. I’ve spent the last couple of months learning to use new tools and databases in a law firm setting and haven’t had much time to focus on understanding things like where vendors get their content and how they pull it, what their workflow looks like or what services they offer that I’m not currently using. I came back with a better understanding about various products and services that I use all the time. The following are some examples of what I learned from the vendors.

  • Vendor Workflow:

I use a company called Research Solutions frequently and really wanted to know how they get the hard-to-find or out-of-our-subscription documents so quickly. They were happy to explain their process and workflow. As I understand it, requests come in and are keyed into their system. Someone then checks to see if they have easy access to the article, for example, through one of their database subscriptions. If the answer is no, the request gets sent to an “actual human” (their words) who will research the item and try to track it down. They have runners stationed in and around a few libraries–like the University of Washington and UC Davis–who can quickly locate and scan documents. Research Solutions also has a network of other libraries where they can borrow resources if needed. They often use the British Library for materials that are hard to obtain elsewhere.

  • Vendor Improvements:

I spent a fair amount of time talking with the folks from Docket Navigator about their new content. The most important thing I learned from them is that they now include International Trade Commission Section 337 patent infringement investigations. Best of all, they include links to the underlying ITC documents and ITC investigations are included in patent litigation searches. This is a good example of why it was worth my time to talk to vendors; I learned about a new enhancement to a product that will help me in my work and is part of something that my firm already subscribes to.

  • Vendor “News” Products:

I noticed that there were quite a few vendors focusing on “news reporting” enhancements and products. I heard from several vendors about newly-developed resources that feature teams of attorneys who analyze and synthesize the news each morning and then write original content about case developments, trends, etc. This content can look a lot like news articles, which some vendors are even now “allowing” attorneys to email outside of their firms without a password. When I participated in some of the vendor demonstrations and looked at their examples, though, I noticed that unlike a traditional article, there was often no byline with the author’s name. I don’t know that others would agree, but it seems to me that before you email an article to a client you might want to make sure that the source is reputable. Knowing who wrote the article–beyond simply identifying the vendor that is providing the article as “original content”–could be important.

I asked a couple of vendors if they could tell me anything about the authors of the articles that they were using as examples of their products. Some vendors answered this question better than others; some tried to locate bios for the attorneys writing for them but, generally speaking, this is not information that is included in these news reporting services. I noticed that this kind of proprietary news reporting/summarizing was something that vendors really focused on promoting at the Conference as a way to add value to their products. What do you think about vendors focusing on this kind of content? Do you want to know who authored an article or is the identity of the vendor providing the content good enough? I am interested in hearing your feedback.

I am looking forward to spending time in the Exhibit Hall again next year.

2 Responses to “AALL Conference Report: Getting to Know Vendors”

  1. […] L. Endter wrote about what she learned from vendors at this year’s Annual Meeting over at the LLOPS website. She talked about new insights into […]

  2. Margie Maes says:

    Taking advantage of the conference to get to know your vendors is a great use of your time and a terrific way to build relationships. The questions you asked should give vendors some hints about what their customers want to know. I wonder if any of them suggested ways to communicate with them throughout the year when you don’t have the face time.

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