Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Law Libraries Roundtable Events

South Central Roundtable

OU Law volunteered to host the South Central “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Law Libraries” roundtable and so I was fortunate enough to be allowed to attend. This is the third iteration of a national conversation on what the new AI technologies could mean for the future of law libraries and (more broadly) law librarianship. I thought I would fill you in on my experience and explain a little about the purpose and methodology of the event. The event follows Chatham House Rules so I cannot give you specifics about what anybody said but I can give you an idea of the theme and process that we worked through.

Law Library Director Kenton Brice of OU Law elected to partner with Associate Dean for Library and Technology Greg Ivy and SMU to host the event in Dallas, TX because it was more accessible for many of the people that we wanted to attend. I’d never been to SMU and it’s a beautiful campus in an adorable part of Dallas – here’s a rad stinger I made in Premiere Pro:

Not cleared with SMU’s marketing department

TL;DR: If you get invited, I would highly recommend that you go. I found it enormously beneficial.

History and Impetus

The event is the brainchild of Head of Research, Data & Instruction, Director of Law Library Fellows Program Technology & Empirical Librarian, Cas Laskowsi at the University of Arizona (hereinafter “Cas”). They hosted the inaugural session through U of A’s Washington, DC campus. You may have seen the Dewey B. Strategic article about it since Jean O’Grady was in attendance. The brilliant George H. Pike at Northwestern University hosted the second in the series in Chicago. I know people who have attended each of these sessions and the feedback has been resoundingly positive.

The goal of this collaborative initiative is to provide guidance to law libraries across the country as we work to strategically incorporate artificial intelligence into our operations and plan for the future of our profession. 

Cas, from the U of A Website


The event takes the entire day and it’s emotionally exhausting, in the best way possible. We were broken into tables of 6 participants. The participants were hand-selected based on their background and experience so that each table had a range of different viewpoints and perspectives.

Then the hosts (in our case, Kenton Brice and Cas Laskowski) walked us through a series of “virtuous cycle, vicious cycle” exercises. They, thankfully, started with the vicious cycle so that you could end each session on a virtuous cycle, positive note. At the end, each table chose a speaker and then we summarized the opinions discussed so that the entire room could benefit from the conversations. Apparently, this is an exercise done at places like the United Nations to triage and prepare for future events. This process went on through 3 full cycles and then we had about an hour of open discussion at the end. We got there at 8am and had breakfast and lunch on-site (both great – thank you Greg Ivy and SMU catering) because it took the entire day.

We had a great mix of academic, government, and private sector presented at the event and the diversity of stakeholders and experiences made for robust and thought-provoking conversation. Many times I would hear perspectives that had never occurred to me and would have my assumptions challenged to refine my own ideas about what the future might look like. Additionally, the presence of people with extensive expertise in specific domains, such as antitrust, copyright, the intricacies of AMLaw100 firms, and the particular hurdles faced in government roles, enriched the discussions with a depth and nuance that is rare to find. Any one of these areas can require years of experience so having a wide range of experts to answer questions allowed you to really “get into the weeds” and think things through thoroughly.

My Experience

I tend to be (perhaps overly) optimistic about the future of these technologies and so it was nice to have my optimism tempered and refined by people who have serious concerns about what the future of law libraries might look like. While the topics presented were necessarily contentious, everybody was respectful and kind in their feedback. We had plenty of time for everybody to speak (so you didn’t feel like you were struggling to get a word in).

You’d think that 8 hours of talking about these topics would be enough but we nearly ran over on every exercise. People have a lot of deep thoughts, ideas, and concerns about the state and future of our industry. Honestly, I would have been happy to have this workshop go on for several days and cover even more topics if that was possible. I learned so much and gained so much value from the people at my table that it was an incredibly efficient way to get input and share ideas.

Unlike other conferences and events that I’ve attended this one felt revolutionary – as in, we truly need to change the status quo in a big way and start getting to work on new ways to tackle these issues. “Disruptive” has become an absolute buzzword inside of Silicon Valley and academia but now we have something truly disruptive and we need to do something about it. Bringing all these intelligent people together in one room fosters an environment where disparate, fragmented ideas can crystalize into actionable plans, enabling us to support each other through these changes.

The results from all of these roundtables are going to be published in a global White Paper once the series has concluded. Each roundtable has different regions and people involved and I can’t wait to see the final product and hear what other roundtables had to say about these important issues. More importantly, I can’t wait to be involved in the future projects and initiatives that this important workshop series creates.

I echo Jean O’Grady: If you get the call, go.

Why Law Librarians?

Some of you reading this may be skeptical that these new AI technologies are 1) within your skillset and/or 2) worth the effort to learn. I’m the congenital optimist who is here to win you over. These tools are on the verge of revolutionizing the field of law (once they get out of their prototype phase) and I can’t think of a better group of people on law school campuses, in government organizations, and in law firms to evaluate and implement these technologies. Law Librarians (traditionally) have two crucial skill sets that make us well-suited to take the lead here:

  • We understand how information is organized and
  • We understand how information is used in the research and practice of law.

This is an AI Youtuber with ~70k subscribers who develops and trains LLMs from scratch. Do you see what he has listed as the number one discipline that people need to learn to use these tools? Computer Science skills rank third on his list compared to “Librarianship and Information Science” at #1.

This dude gets it.

Many of the tips that David Shapiro provides in that video for people creating custom LLMs will be absolutely obvious to law librarians because we live and breathe these every day at our jobs: taxonomies, data organization, “source of truth,” etc. Whether in the tech services department or research instruction, we are well-versed in organizing and finding information.

We already have many of the data structures in place that could be easily used by these technologies. Besides constructing the initial models, our role will be pivotal in continuously updating and assessing their effectiveness. Moreover, we will provide vital guidance on the proper utilization of these tools.

Does this list look like something your Technical Services department does? Can you think of anyone else in your organization who would be better at making knowledge graphs, indexes, or tables of contents for legal materials? Who would be better suited than your Research and Instruction team to teach newcomers how to interact with these tools to get the information that they need? Who in your organization is best positioned to teach (or already teaches) information literacy? I would argue that nobody can do it better than law librarians (not even computer science people).

Now What?

Let’s mobilize a push to collaborate on these tools. We need to get groups of law librarians together who are interested in rolling up their sleeves and digging into the nitty-gritty of creating, auditing, and using LLMs. I am a member of LIT-SIS in AALL and maybe we need a special caucus to address this specific technology. Additionally, we can get consortiums of schools together in each state to develop our own LLMs – outside of the subscription-based products that will roll out for Lexis and Westlaw. Anything we build ourselves will have the needs of our community at the forefront. We can build in all of the transparency, privacy, and accuracy that may be lacking in commercial models. Schools can build tools that would not be commercially viable at firms. Firms and courts could build specialized tools to achieve their unique workflows. It opens up many options that are not available if we’re stuck with the one-size-fits-all nature of Lexis and Westlaw subscriptions.

This is an open-source model that is close to competing with GPT4 (ChatGPT’s underlying model). There are many of these and new models show up every day.

There are many options to create, train, and locally run custom LLMs as long as you have the data. As David Shapiro said in the video, “data is the oil of the information age” and law libraries are deep wells of the type of data that could be used to accurately train these services. Additionally, when you are locally hosting an LLM many of the concerns surrounding privacy, permissions, and student data completely evaporate because you are in control of what information is being sent and stored.

To do all of this, we need organization, collaboration, and funding. Individually this could be difficult but if we band together in consortium, we can get a lot done.


Students are an incredible resource in this area. Many of them come to law school with computer science and data science backgrounds and can help with the creation and development of these models. They need mentors and organizers to help focus their efforts, provide resources, and nurture their creativity. In addition, they provide a deep reservoir of diverse voices and experiences that may not occur to people who have spent decades in academia, the public sector, or law firms. We can bring in students to have competitions to create their own LLM apps for law practice and access to justice initiatives. We can fund fellowships to do work at schools, courts, and firms. We can bring them under our wing to usher in the next generation of tech-savvy law librarians. We can leverage the excitement and energy associated with these new tools to attract new talent into our field – I skimmed TikTok and the #ChatGPT hashtag as around 7.7 billion views. To do that, we need to brainstorm together so that we can get these programs in place.

In Sum

As the torchbearers in this promising venture, it’s time for us, the law librarians, to step up and show the world our unmatched prowess in harnessing the potential of LLMs in law, weaving our expert knowledge in information science, law, and emerging technology. Let us band together, utilizing the rich data reserves at our disposal, and carve out a future where legal technology is not just efficient and transparent, but also a collaborative masterpiece fostered by our relentless pursuit of innovation and excellence.