Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Top Ten Things Law Librarians Wish Law Students Would Know or Do.
It’s finals week, and the library is filled with law students preparing for exams. While the knowledge and reasoning skills amassed from doctrinal classes is undeniably important, don’t neglect cultivating your legal research and lawyering skills, as well!

To help you out, law librarians at the University of Wisconsin law school library have pulled together a list of the Top Ten Things Law Librarians Wish Law Students Would Know or Do. Gallagher Law Library has a large collection of legal research guides to give you a hand.

Top Ten Things Law Librarians Wish Law Students Would Know or Do.

10. Know how administrative regulations relate to and differ from statutes and where to find state and federal regulations. See Gallagher Law Library's Guide on U.S. Administrative Law Research. We have one for Washington State Administrative Law Research, too!

9. Understand how state and federal bills become law and recognize the importance of documents produced in the legislative process. The Gallagher Law Library's Guide on Legislative History can help. 

8. Learn about the business environment and culture of your organization. Pay attention on orientation tours. Get out of your office and meet people. Investigate your library’s resources and get to know your librarian. Learn what is considered proper business attire.
Check out 100 plus pointers for new lawyers on adjusting to your job, Abrahams, Sharon Meit, KF300 .A75 2012 (Classified Stacks)

7. Be professional and courteous. Keep good research notes and update your sources. Proof—read and correctly cite your work product. Meet deadlines. Recognize the value of support staff and acknowledge their assistance. They can make your life easier!

6. Compare the strengths, weaknesses and costs of the information sources that you choose. Take advantage of free and low cost resources when appropriate but recognize that they may lack authority and comprehensiveness. Your librarian can help you select the resources best suited to your needs.
Gallagher Law Library has a great guide on Free Legal Information on a variety of topics, including family law, labor law, and landlord/tenant law (among many others).

5. Realize that your organization may have different databases than you expect. Many firms no longer have both Lexis and Westlaw. Some don’t have either. But they may have other databases that you’ll be expected to use. Take the time in law school to learn other databases, especially specialty databases in your anticipated practice areas.See your law school librarian for help identifying and using them. Gallagher's home page lists many alternative databases, including LegalTrac,and LexisNexis Academic.

4. Before jumping on a database, stop and consider how much it will cost. Understand your organization’s billing plan and how your search will impact your client’s bill. Ask for cost effective search assistance from your librarian or vendor representative. Most vendors offer free help by phone.
3. Understand the importance of context. See the big picture. Consider how your client’s unique facts fit into the larger legal issue. When researching, analyze where your search results fit into the underlying structure of the law. “Information is cheap, but meaning is expensive.”*

2. Consult secondary sources to get the big picture. ALRs, loose--leaf services, treatises, practice guides, CLEs, journal articles and other secondary sources provide context by pulling together relevant legal authority and identifying surrounding issues. Consult tables of contents, where available, to get a sense of where your issue fits into the broader legal hierarchy.
See Gallagher's catalog or stop by the reference office if you need help locating these resources!

1. Ask questions! Ask the attorney for whom you’re working for enough information to confirm your understanding of the assignment. Ask your librarian for research help whether you’re beginning or refining your research–all questions are confidential. By asking questions, you’ll save time, get better results, and look smart!
The Gallagher Law Librarians are here to help! You can send questions via emailReference Office at 206-543-6794 or stop in to talk to one of the reference librarians during library hours.

*Quote by George Dyson, science historian.

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