AALL Spectrum

AALL Spectrum / March/April 2016 / Volume 20, Number 4

AALL Spectrum / Published by American Association of Law Libraries

Issue link: http://epubs.aallnet.org/i/655362

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Page 25 of 55

24 AALL SPECTRUM | WWW.AALLNET.ORG anyone with whom the research can't be discussed. Discovering with whom the research cannot be discussed helps determine if the telephone can be used as a research tool, whether a project is not yet publicly announced, or if there are required ethical walls in place for the matter. Finally, the sheet provides space to list resources used and search strategies. Assignment sheets also help associates keep track of what they've already done and serve as a record of diligence if nothing is found. It is just one tool that can help students make the transition to the world of law practice. Work with What You Have While students have access to nearly all legal research platforms and treatises galore while in law school that can change dramatically in the real world of legal work. Firms and other employ- ers provide access to a mix of print and electronic resources that meet the needs of their users' specific practice areas as well as the realities of budgets in a quickly changing market. Students need to become well versed in the art and science of efficient and effective search techniques, regardless of the platform. Flexibility is key for law stu- dents entering the work environment; oen the tools that seemed essential during law school are not available in an actual firm. Students must be prepared to make the best use of the resources at hand to do assigned legal work, even if those resources are lim- ited or not what they prefer to use. Sometimes There Isn't a Clear Answer Law practice is an art form based on interpretation and analogy. In school there has to be an answer of some kind to make it possible to grade assignments. New associates are oen frustrated working with an issue that has no clear answer, even if the assign- ing attorney is certain that there is a case or statute out there somewhere that perfectly answers the question. Most of the time, there is no "magic" case; librarians can help new associates reach that conclusion confidently. e art of law firm librarianship is truly on display in these cases—librarians talk through the question, determine what has already been done, suggest other resources to check or new search strat- egies to try, and finally, reassure the associate that sometimes no answer, or a contradictory answer, is the only answer available. As much as some attorneys wish it were true, librarians cannot make the law say something that it doesn't. Similarly, associates taking on posi- tions in firms without a staffed library need to understand what resources are available to them. Support might come from a vendor's telephone help service, from librarians at public law libraries, or even through a service for alumni from their law school library. Research can be difficult and frustrating, but these resources are there to help. Finding something on point in another jurisdiction or another context and using that knowledge to analogize to the question at hand may be the only way to provide an answer. Law Is More Than a Bundle of Cases Students graduate from law school having spent three years looking at cases and learning to think like a lawyer. is oen leads new associ- ates to jump directly into case law research without regard to the issue at hand. Librarians need to remind associates that the law is made up of far more than just cases, and that the best answer might lie in a statute, regulation, or other guidance. During firm library orientation, when new associates are asked what they know about the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), there are usually quite a few blank faces in the crowd. is is not because CFR is not being taught, but that most students have not used it since the first six weeks of law school. erefore, it's essential for students, especially those who won't be stepping into a big firm job, to understand that while cases are important, knowing when to look to statutes, ordinances, regulations, and other sources will greatly improve their research effec- tiveness and efficiency, and will lead them to an answer much faster. Technological Competency Is Critical Technology is ever present in law practice and its use grows every day. New lawyers are bombarded as they enter a firm with many systems to learn, including tracking and entering time, opening a matter, finding a file in a document management system, making a photocopy, and much more. Beyond these systems, new lawyers also need to be competent users of word processing and spreadsheet pro- grams. As the number of firm support staff shrinks, attorneys are beginning to find themselves grouped four or five to one secretary or legal assistant. is means that new lawyers, even if they have grown up with their fingers glued Flexibility is key for law students entering the work environment; often the tools that seemed essential during law school are not available in an actual firm.

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