Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Law Firm Librarians Speak Out About the Real World

Last Thursday's BlogTalkRadio show was very informative. Particularly because we had a lively group of law firm librarians who were quite willing to share their ideas about the skills that law students/recent graduates lack. The firm librarians were Liza MacMorris, of Wilson, Sonsini, Mary Staats, of Farella Braun & Martel, Kathy Skinner, of Morrison Foerster, Sara Paul, of Paul Hastings, Camille Reynolds, of Nossaman, and Peg LaFrance of Orrick. (Many, many thanks to them all.) The message was loud and clear:

First, we need to be very focused on teaching students the value of secondary materials. To a person, they were very concerned that students understand that beginning research with an appropriate secondary source can save them not only a great amount of time in conducting their research, but it can save their clients lots of money, too, because it will mean more precise and more efficient online searching later in the research project. The group was also adamant in this regard that it doesn't really matter whether they are beginning their research with a secondary tool that is in print, online or otherwise. The consensus seemed to be that many firms were still keeping the key treatises and practice materials.

Second, we were admonished to spend more time instructing our students about cost-effective online research techniques. Things like strategic use of research trails, tabs, etc. The message here is clear, CALR in law firms is costly! And any techniques that can be used to reduce the costs is something to be strived for. Since we academics have no reason, let alone day to day incentive to utilize such things, we need to make an extra effort to do so. Here's a situation where calling upon our Wexis representatives to conduct specialized training in these issues. I know that I will be attending them, too.

Third, several of the librarians said that new lawyers and summer clerks need to better understand how to use the librarian. Many come in firms unsure what they can ask librarians, and, then fail to do so. Not only are firm librarians willing and able to assist with help on research products, but often they can help locate experts within the firm. For example, if someone is given the task of researching an issue, sometimes a firm librarian can tell the researcher that another attorney in the firm is either an expert in that topic, or has recently conducted similar research. That person may be the best place to start. The bottom line is, new attorneys and summer clerks shouldn't be shy about asking the firm librarian for help and advice.

Finally, there's been a number of requests for a transcript of the chat room discussion that consisted of nearly 80 participants.
Click here for a copy of that transcript.

In the meantime, I think that the discussion will benefit any librarian who teaches legal research. It can be listened to at the show's website, here, or it can be downloaded from iTunes here. Of course, you can click on the box to the right and listen to it right here, right now.

There's also a discussion begun at the show's Facebook page: http://tinyurl.com/nouem4/. Please feel free to join in.