I’ve never been afraid to tell you things that I should have know, but didn’t. Here’s just one more example of something that I should have been doing, but wasn’t. While at the AALL conference in Denver, I walked into the exhibit hall one morning, made that automatic left-hand turn to the BNA coffee and donut section (thank you, thank you, BNA!!), and sat down with a couple of academic law librarians that I’d never met before. Turns out that one of them was from Wake Forest and (after I had a couple sips of coffee) that triggered a memory. I had a Summer Associate from that school currently at my firm. Aha!! This was at least a conversation starter, so I mentioned it to the librarian and she immediately knew the name of the Summer Associate I was talking about.

I had never thought about this opportunity before, but I think I’m going to start doing something a little differently when preparing for these law library conferences. I’m going to start contacting the law librarians at the schools that my firm’s Summer Associates are attending to see who will be attending the conference that year. Perhaps we could meet up and discuss what we could both do to help the student succeed when he or she is ready to come back as an Associate next year. Simple things like identifying journals that we commonly route to the practice group could help keep the law student up to date on issues that others within their potential practice group are reading. Not only could it help the student, but it may also help the librarians by exposing each of them to materials they may not have currently in their own collections.

We law firm librarians tend to complain that law schools don’t prepare students for the realities of law firm life. Maybe here is an opportunity to give pointed suggestions to the law school’s librarians on how to assist specific students to be better prepared for the transition. At the very least, it gives us one more opportunity to network with others in our field.

  • I think all academic law librarians would welcome the discussion you describe. I would love to have a dossier of sorts on research materials and the research landscape to review and work wtih summer associates before they go off to their firms. We are trying to gather that information from the students when they return, but I would love to speak with the librarians. If you have Cornell students, contact me any time!

  • Great, great idea! The "Bridge the Gap" programs were a way to facilitate that dialog back in the 1990s, but with the advent of online social networking, much more cross-pollination is possible. Hope this catches on!

  • As a fellow Cornell law librarian, I echo Iantha's comments. One of the things we're doing here is offering multiple research courses. Iantha and I are teaching courses that we hope will move students beyond the Wexis regime–I'll be teaching subscription sources (BNA, CCH, etc), while Iantha will look at non-subscription/free sources.

    However, we want our teaching to produce students who are actually prepared for their firm duties and not have our courses be limited to an academic exercise. I know I too would love to connect with firm librarians to help achieve that end. I like your idea of connecting firm librarians with the librarians at the school from which the firm is employing their summers and their new associates. I wonder if something could be formalized (within the AALL structure or not..) Something on my mind is a sort of exchange program in which an academic librarian visits a firm at which their students go to work and the firm librarian visits the school. Perhaps this could be done remotely to make it more feasible. The idea is for academics to get a solid understanding of law firm research demands and practices and for the firm librarian to get a handle on the teaching constraints/realities faced by the academics. The goal is to make our teaching relevant thus producing a student who can competently hit the ground running so he/she can be an asset to the firm as quickly as possible.

    So, sorry to blather on, but feel free to contact me any time. I would love suggestions for course content, assignments, etc.

  • Greg, would it be feasible/advisable to take this idea even further?

    Something like:

    1. Firms librarians and academic librarians exchange lists of summer associates or future associates.

    2. Firm librarians give academic librarians as much info as possible on each associate's eventual practice area, as well as eventual supervising attorney, supervising attorney's favorite looseleaf service and research pet peeves, particularly useful resources at the firm's disposal, potential cases, etc.

    3. Academic librarians actually use this information to craft niche research instruction that will be useful to the associate out of the gate.