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Exploring the World of Legal Librarians

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In our earlier blog, we explored the world of parliamentary librarians and looked at a few of the essential soft skills for your overall success as a librarian. In summary, librarians should have research, communication, organizational and interpersonal skills to effectively assist borrowers or users. They must be able to use a variety of research tools, communicate complex concepts easily, keep track of all library materials, and promote library events and programs.

For the next installment of our series, let’s look at the world of legal librarians! Have you ever wondered what the job entails?

A legal librarian will broadly be responsible for managing the print and digital collections at law firms, government agencies, legal or law faculties at universities, and nonprofit organizations focused on legal outreach. These organizations can vary in size and scope. Legal librarians could find work in places such as the United Nations or Supreme Courts, news organizations, bar associations and leading law firms.

Being a Legal Librarian

Legal librarians, also known as information professionals or legal information specialists, need to have an in-depth knowledge of the legal system, including laws, regulations and court decisions. They should also be familiar with various databases and e-journals that are used in legal research, as LexisNexis, Westlaw, HeinOnline, LegalTrac and other online resources. Further, central to the role is the ability to understand the fundamentals of research and how to recognize reliable sources. An average day for a legal librarian may include:

  • providing reference or research services to users for projects or legal casework.
  • cataloging new books or materials.
  • helping users, borrowers or patrons find resources.
  • assisting users in forming effective search queries in databases or other legal sources.
  • updating records.
  • hosting, organizing or taking part in library events.
  • creating bibliographies for lawyers or students for use in court cases.

A legal librarian may also help deliver content on topics such as best practice for legal research, copyright laws or intellectual property rights. In addition to being knowledgeable about library policies and procedures, it’s vital to have strong computer skills in the use of specialized library software programs and utilize online databases effectively. It is important to stay up to date on changes in technology, and stay abreast of trends in the field of library science.

What’s in It for Me?

  1. Challenging and varied work: working as a librarian in a law library can be a very interesting and varied position, with exposure to a variety of legal topics and documents.
  2. Professional growth: working as a librarian in a law library provides the opportunity to develop professional skills and knowledge in a rapidly changing profession. The role allows scope to stay on top of the latest trends in technology, legal research techniques, and library management.
  3. Networking opportunities: By working in a law library, there’s the opportunity to network with lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals. This can be a great way to make contacts and gain insight into the legal profession.
  4. Connect with an international community of information experts through organizations such as BIALL, ALLA, and AALL.
  5. In demand: With the ever-changing legal climate and the need for accurate legal research, law librarians are always in demand.

From this very brief insight, a legal librarian possesses the unique ability to combine an appreciation for research and resources with knowledge of laws, regulations and court decisions, database systems and other reference services. It requires dedication and hard work both within and outside library walls – but a career in this field can be immensely gratifying!