Four Ways To Utilize Your Law School Librarian
If you are a law student, you likely already know that it is essential to develop strong research skills that you will carry forward in your career. But did you also know that librarians at most (if not all) law schools are available to help you strengthen those skills and assist with your research needs? Law school librarians are information professionals with a wealth of legal knowledge and expertise in finding and utilizing the universe of available legal and non-legal resources. Keep in mind that they cannot do the work for you. However, they can provide you with invaluable tools to do the work yourself. Below, a recent law school graduate identifies the top four ways your law school librarian can assist you based on first-hand knowledge!
Four Ways To Utilize Your Law School Librarian
1. Workshops/Training Sessions
If you want to learn the best research techniques, check to see if your law school librarian offers any workshops or training sessions! Workshops typically consist of specialized instruction on topics such as how to conduct basic legal research, steps to developing a legal research strategy, how to find and utilize secondary sources, and best practices for researching specialized areas of law. Librarians also typically offer trainings on how to use HeinOnline, Westlaw, LexisNexis, and non-legal sources such as statistics databases. These types of offerings are especially useful for 1Ls who are just starting to learn legal research techniques. Also, be sure to check out these 1L research and writing techniques! Even if you’re already a seasoned researcher, you will still benefit from a workshop or training because chances are your law librarian can share new tips and tricks for how to search more efficiently and effectively!
2. Research Guides
Many law school librarians will create guides that will help you begin your legal research by offering quick tips on research techniques and list a variety of legal resources and tools. Typically these guides are made available to students on the library’s website or upon request. Some research guides are more general and address the research process, including topics such as Bluebooking, case law research, finding statutes, and tracking down secondary sources. Some are specific to particular areas of law, such as administrative law, corporate law, education law, estate planning, land use law, patent law, and tax policy. Others address how to research non-legal topics, such as accounting, economics, political science, and social work. Regardless of what you are looking for, a research guide is a great first step for performing research!
3. Books and Interlibrary Loan Requests
With so much information available electronically, chances are most of the research you do day-to-day is online. Although this is the quickest and easiest way to find the information you need, not everything is available electronically. So what do you do when you need to check a print source for your law review cite-check assignment, but you have no clue how to locate it? Or when your professor wants you to use a book as a source for your research paper that is not available online without purchasing it? Ask your law school librarian! They can show you where to find a print source if it is available in your law library. Or if there is not a copy in your library, they can show you how to request it from another library through an interlibrary loan program, or which library to visit if it is not possible to get a copy sent to you.
Need help crafting a research strategy for a research paper or a law review note? Your law school librarian may be able to help! Check to see whether they offer one-on-one meetings or consultations. This can be particularly useful when researching a unique or highly specific topic. This is especially true if your topic is not addressed in a more general research guide. Of course, you should still consult a general research guide as a starting point if possible. Just remember, your librarian can then help you come up with some additional resources specific to your issue. Keep in mind, they are not there to do the work for you. They can only provide you with the resources you need to do the work yourself!
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