Marie is a Knowledge and Information Officer at Clifford Chance. She was made Free of the Company in February 2019 and we have taken this opportunity to get to know her a little better. She is seen in this photo with her sponsors Court Assistant Mike James on the left and Liveryman Dominic Graham on the right.
Can you explain a bit more about what you do and what a Knowledge and Information Officer within the context of a legal firm actually does?
When I describe my role to those outside of the profession I usually say I'm a librarian and researcher. Rather than sitting in a separate library I am embedded and sit among the finance lawyers.
I help the lawyers by conducting legal and business research, keeping them up to date with, for example, the latest news on their clients, on topics such as Brexit and the replacement of Libor, and on UK and EU legislation as it progresses through Parliament. I provide information, which is why I am an "Information Officer".
The "Knowledge Officer" aspect is because I also work with the lawyers to collect and organise their own personal knowledge – for example, when they create a document with an unusual clause in it I try and find an appropriate home for it (usually on the intranet or in a precedents collection) and endeavour to make it as discoverable as possible, so that if another lawyer needs a similar clause in the future they can use the example rather than start from scratch.
Congratulations on winning a Young Stationers’ Award for Books and Archiving. For those not at the Young Stationers’ Dinner can you explain what you won the award for?
I won the award for my involvement and contributions to the library and information profession. I have spoken at various conferences both in the UK and in America on libraries in the corporate legal sector. I have also volunteered in numerous roles including as President of SLA Europe, and I have also mentored students and new entrants to the profession. I was extremely honoured to win the award and huge thanks is due to Anne Welsh, my personal tutor from UCL, and to Katharine Schopflin, a fellow volunteer at SLA Europe, both of whom very kindly nominated me!
Was the Awards Dinner your first visit to the Hall – Can you remember your first impressions?
Yes it was – in fact, I'm sorry to say that I had not heard of the Stationers' Company before being nominated for the award! I remember being absolutely stunned by the grandeur and beauty of the Hall and feeling rather humbled by having dinner in a place that was so obviously steeped in history. It was a truly spectacular evening!
Do you feel that storing knowledge in print has had its day and that the future will become more and more dependent on digital archives?
Some of our lawyers are absolutely wedded to print and would not part with their trusted books with their handwritten annotations and flagged pages for all the world! But these lawyers are becoming much fewer, and trainee lawyers are coming in with expectations of information being available digitally on mobile devices. For librarians, digital resources throw up myriads of new challenges; such as organising digital resource licences for multiple people instead of purchasing one print book which could be shared around the office, and the challenge of how to provide easy access to our digital resources when we no longer have a physical library where a lawyer can come and browse the bookshelves.
In our office I think we would be stretching the term 'library' to describe the remaining couple of bookcases we have left! Certainly in the corporate legal sector the ease of being able to read up on the latest hot topic while on the way to see a client seems to be the future.
You have recently become a Freeman. What are you looking for from Membership?
I am already a member of several library and information associations including CILIP, BIALL and SLA Europe, but what I am looking forward to from the Stationers' Company is the opportunity to network with those in different but related professions to myself, as well as to attend more fabulous dinners in the spectacular Stationers' Hall!
One of the things that many people say they are looking for is the opportunity to network – do you think networking is still relevant to younger people in this age of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, etc?
Absolutely! I think social media is actually a great way to facilitate in person networking – for example, the Young Stationers Committee advertises networking events on Facebook and Instagram. With in-person networking you can never predict the serendipity of who you might end up chatting to or what you might end up learning - which is what I have enjoyed about the social events I've attended at the Hall so far! So many of the Stationers have had such long and varied careers and particularly as a younger professional some of the conversations have been very educational (as well as entertaining!).
I know that you are already working hard on behalf of the Young Stationers – can you explain what you are doing for them?
I am currently responsible for the Young Stationers newsletter, which we email monthly to Stationers under the age of 40. Our aim is to the make the Stationers' Company as transparent and as approachable as possible to Young Stationers and to promote content and events which may be of particular interest to them. I've really enjoyed working with the Young Stationers Committee – they are a lovely bunch and Ella Kahn is a fantastic Chair!