Director of Library Services
Baker & Daniels
Master of Library Science, Case Western Reserve (1974)
J.D., Indiana University (1991)
In the private law firm environment, the size of the organization often dictates the role of the librarian. In the large multi-office firms, there may be law librarians specializing in legislation, electronic services, new business development, or reference. Smaller law firms may employ only one librarian known as a solo librarian who performs all the tasks necessary to operate the department. Whatever the size, providing information resources to the attorneys, paralegals, administrative staff, consultants and other professionals is the responsibility of the law librarian.
A cursory look at the physical plant of a private law library reveals shelves of case reports, statutes and secondary sources. Yet, if a second glance is taken at individual titles, non-legal sources, such as medical dictionaries, technical books, and corporate directories are evident. An even better understanding of the tools used by private law librarians comes to light by studying the frequently used databases on the librarians' computer screens. Subscriptions to legal and non-legal Websites are a necessity in law firms. While private law librarians avail themselves of the many government websites for information gathering, the subscriptions to value added sites are of high importance for more complex retrieval. On many days the research performed can be better described as business, medical, statistical, or technical rather than pure legal research. It would also be fair to say that computers are used much more frequently than books. On the other hand, sometimes a book provides the most efficient, least expensive and only source for a research question.
Two words, time and money, are always on the minds of private law firm librarians. Most requests are time-sensitive with ASAP being a common and expected acronym. The goal is to provide the information as quickly as possible while still being cost-conscious. Inefficient searching not only can cause a deadline to be missed, but can also be financially punitive. Since private law librarians often record and bill their time on client and firm projects, there is another incentive to do the work quickly and correctly the first time. Meeting the fast turn around times demanded in the legal environment is sometimes made possible by reliance on networks with other law librarians. Colleagues owning the item needed are generally willing to ship a publication overnight or fax a crucial document within hours. Local law librarians know each other and freely share advice and resources. When all avenues to answer a question are exhausted, a posting to the law librarians' Internet network usually yields an answer or suggestion for research alternatives.
Article reprinted with permission from the author and Indiana Insight, a publication of IUPUI.