From research support, online legal research and instruction, to operations management and strategic planning, law librarians strive to meet the information challenges facing law firms, corporations, universities and government libraries in varying roles and settings.
While the traditional library seems to be disappearing from all but the largest law firms and corporate law departments across the nation, the law librarian has not vanished with it. On the contrary, the librarian’s role has transformed and expanded. A few tasks that law librarians commonly undertake are:
- Managing law library operations, including monitoring budgets and allocating, organizing and disseminating legal resources.
- Conducting in-depth research across a wide range of focuses including practice-specific areas of law, business intelligence, public records, legislative history, medical and news/media.
- Training lawyers, students, staff and others on the use of Internet-based legal research programs such as Westlaw, LexisNexis, and emerging electronic resources such as Google Scholar, electronic journals, online court dockets, and legislative materials.
- Conducting periodic reviews of new and existing electronic resources with an eye toward improved service and research efficiencies.
- Promoting library services and resources to other departments, students, vendors, and the public.
- Coordinating technical services and troubleshooting technical issues.
- Performing various cataloging procedures for all types of library resources.
- Supervising and evaluating the work of clerks, librarian assistants, and other staff.
In these times of economic restructuring, the responsibilities of law librarians are shifting within the law firm, assuming additional responsibilities such as records management, conflicts checking, and business development. Law librarians may also:
- Perform topical research for attorney blogs, newsletters, firm websites, and other media
- Conduct due diligence on the creditworthiness of potential clients and outside vendors
- Produce competitive intelligence reports for the firm’s business development efforts
- Compile RSS feeds monitoring clients, competitors, market trends and regulatory issues
- Assist with background research for media opportunities
- Assist with verifying books of business for lateral candidates
Law librarians employed within a law school are typically members of the law school faculty. They often provide research support to students, faculty and library patrons, and participate in student research education. Law school librarians may also:
- Represent the law library on committees and in meetings with the law library staff, faculty, and external organizations
- Provide legal reference services and instruction to the law school's faculty, staff, students and the general public
- Assist students and staff with legal reference sources, legal publications, and online sources
- Train lawyers, students, staff and others on the use of Internet-based legal research programs and emerging electronic resources
- Teach legal research skills and courses to law students, particularly the first year legal research and writing curriculum
- Participate in scholarly research support
Law librarians employed by a corporation manage law library or research department operations. Typical responsibilities include:
- Providing legal reference services and government document reference services to employees, clients, and others
- Developing and maintaining a portfolio of cost-effective, client-valued information services that are aligned with the strategic directions of the organization and client groups
- Building a dynamic collection of information resources based on the organization’s information needs
- Gathering evidence to support decisions about the development of new services and products
- Assessing and communicating the value of the information organization, including information services, products, and policies to senior management, key stakeholders, and client groups
- Researching and monitoring legislative and regulatory issues that may affect the organization
- Contributing to senior management strategies and decisions regarding information applications, tools and technologies, and policies for the organization