Law Librarian – Career Overview
Law librarians are information resource experts who work in law schools, corporate law departments, law firms and government libraries. Law librarians assist attorneys, students, staff, and library patrons on the use of legal and business research resources and facilitate cost-effective legal research through their extensive knowledge of print and electronic media.
In these times of economic restructuring, the role of law librarians has grown. Today, these highly educated professionals serve as leaders, researchers, and educators to a cross-generational audience.
Law Librarian Job Responsibilities
Law librarians collect, analyze, evaluate, research, teach, and disseminate information to facilitate accurate decision-making. Law librarian roles vary, depending on the librarian’s practice setting: law firm, law school or corporate law department/government agency. Learn more about the role of law librarians in a variety of work environments.
Most law librarians possess a master’s degree in library/information science. Many colleges and universities offer library science programs, but employers often prefer graduates of programs accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). Most master’s programs take one year to complete although some take two years. Many positions also require a law degree from an ABA-accredited law school.
Law librarians must be service-oriented team players, attuned to technical trends and able to provide effective leadership. Excellent research and analytical skills and a working knowledge of legal reference sources, legal publications and computerized legal research platforms is essential. Strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills are required to analyze and identify the best research resources and to resolve complex issues using technology. Excellent oral and written communication skills and strong organization, time management, and project management skills are also necessary to manage a variety of complex projects with tight deadlines.
Law librarians are primarily employed in law firms, corporate law departments, law schools, courts, and local, state and federal government agencies. Law librarians, particularly those employed in the law firm environment, may work under tight deadlines which can be demanding and stressful.
Many law librarians work normal business hours. However, librarians employed in fast-paced environments such as law firms may work long hours. Law school librarians usually have the same workday and vacation schedules as law school professors.
Law Librarian Salaries
Salaries of librarians vary according to the employee’s qualifications and the type, size, and location of the library. According to the Bureau of Labor Stastistics, librarians with primarily administrative duties often have greater earnings. Median annual wages of librarians in May 2008 were $52,530 while the middle 50 percent earned between $42,240 and $65,300, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $81,130. The average annual salary for all librarians in the federal government was $84,796 in March 2009.
Since law librarians are highly educated and specialized, and many law librarian positions require a law degree, law librarians tend to earn higher salaries than librarians in other industries.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for law librarians is expected to be as fast as the average and job opportunities are expected to be favorable since a large number of librarians are expected to retire in the coming decade. In the legal sector, law librarians are assuming on new responsibilities such as due diligence research, business development, and records management, ensuring greater job growth and security.