AALL Spectrum Blog

  • Bookmark and Share


The AALL Spectrum® Blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. The previous Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
8/20/2015 3:02:20 PM

The Very Model of a Modern Law Librarian

During a recent interview with a candidate for a reference librarian position, the interviewee said he hoped to learn how to be a full-fledged law librarian.  I replied, "If you work here, you'll become the very model of a modern law librarian."

After the interview, I checked the internet and found that I'm not the first law librarian to come up with this Gilbert and Sullivan reference.  See Jean-Paul Vivian, ALLUNY Newsletter, Vol. 32, Issue 3 (Sept. 2007) at 16, http://www.aallnet.org/chapter/alluny/2007-03fall.pdf ("I am the very model of a modern court librarian...").  Other kinds of librarians have also had a go at this ditty.  See Jeanette C. Smith, The Laughing Librarian: A History of American Library Humor 77 (2012), https://books.google.com/books?id=BbBl25f6s4gC&pg=PA77 ("An Up-to-Date Librarian"; "A Modern Map Librarian"; etc.).

I wondered: what is the model of a modern law librarian?  I started to look for an answer by considering the model of a modern major-general.  It's been a while since I've seen or heard "The Pirates of Penzance"; so I again turned to the all-knowing internet.

The lyrics to "The Major-General's Song" tell of someone with historical and academic knowledge but not so much understanding of what a major-general must do.  Spoiler alert – here's how the song ends:

For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

I think you'll agree that historical and academic knowledge is very important, but not sufficient by itself, for the modern law librarian.  A law librarian must also keep up with and implement current best (or at least good!) practices.  Having knowledge and being "plucky and adventury" can help in the implementation; but sound strategy and tactics are also necessary.

Of course there is no one "modern law librarian."  Law librarians differ in setting (academic, law firm, county, outside a traditional library, etc.), job description, size of library and staff, etc.  But aren't there some aspects – certain key attitudes and abilities – that essentially all legal information professionals should and (I hope and believe) do have in common?

Law librarians strive to save the time of patrons -- that's one of the Library Laws, and not just for law libraries.  We make the best plans we can (on the fly when faced with an immediate challenge, or in a considered way when planning for the longer term), execute the plans, and revise as needed.  We seek to communicate well, whether in speaking, in writing, or via PowerPoint or Excel or other software.  We have at least some knowledge of the law and, more important I think, about where legal information is published.  In this day and age, we must certainly have an interest in and some facility with the internet.  And it would probably help if we like books and other documents, especially relating to law.

What do you think?  In your view, is there a model of a modern law librarian?  If so, what (or who) is that model?  I'd welcome your comments, whether in prose or verse.

Posted By Scott Frey at 8/20/2015 3:02:20 PM  0 Comments
8/19/2015 12:47:45 PM

Book Review: A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era: Volume 4, Judicial Decisions 1867-1896.

Editor's Note: This review was written by: Douglas Lind, Law Library Director and Professor of Law, Southern Illinois University School of Law. dlind@siu.edu

Mackey, Thomas C. A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era: Volume 4, Judicial Decisions 1867-1896. Univ. Tennessee Press, 642 pages. 70.00 (Cloth). ISBN 978-1621900405

It’s an ambitious undertaking to create a documentary collection of the entire Civil War Era. The myriad political, social, and economic crosscurrents make it a daunting task to select the most important documents which define the tumultuous middle part of the nineteenth century and then arrange them a manageable and comprehensive manner.  Nevertheless, Mackey does an admirable job of doing just this in only four volumes.  Judicial Decisions, 1867-1896 is the final title in A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era, and is preceded by other volumes which serve to provide a snapshot of significant aspects of the Civil War Era through primary sources.  Other titles in the series include Legislative Achievements, Political Arguments, and Judicial Decisions, 1857-1866.

Volume four, Judicial Decisions, 1867-1896, covers the period of Reconstruction in the post-Civil War Era and gives a glimpse into the public policy concerns facing America via federal and state court decisions. Whereas the preceding volume covered judicial decisions from a nine year period, albeit covering the constitutional issues created by the war itself, this volume takes on a huge swath of time which saw many political, social and economic changes, and spans the terms of six presidents; Andrew Johnson, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, and Cleveland.  As a part of the Voices of the Civil War series, it is not surprising that the decisions in this volume are bookended by the federal circuit court case, In re Turner (1867), upholding the constitutionality of the 13th Amendment, and the “separate but equal” ruling upholding racial segregation in the Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).  The remainder of the volume presents a chronological journey of how the judicial branch wrestled with post-Civil War social issues.

It should be noted that this title is more than a document collection. The cases chosen for inclusion all serve to illustrate touchstones in judicial constitutional interpretation. Some are well-known foundational decisions, while some are lesser known but no less important in understanding the contemporary issues facing the country after the Civil War. Mackey’s brief introductory essays for each decision provides the researcher with the larger historical context in which the case fits. Although cross references to other volumes in the series are not provided, this title can be easily be used in conjunction with others in the series to understand the parallel contemporary discussions in the executive and legislative branches. For example, the cases take us through Reconstruction, but researchers unfamiliar with the terrain might need to know more about the political aspects of Grant’s two terms and the lingering effects of Rutherford B. Hayes’ term. One can find documents regarding these men in volume two of this series, Political Arguments

For those who actually read front matter and introductory materials, as one should when delving into any documentary collection, this volume includes both an introduction to the volume as well as an introduction to the multivolume series. The back matter contains a bibliography of selected readings for deeper analysis of the topic as well as a name index to the volume.  A minor complaint is that the Chronology listing those major Civil War Era events is hidden in the back of the volume.  Because it provides such necessary context to the researcher wishing to delve into the intricacies of the Civil War Era, placing it at the front of the volume would allow the passive reader a better chance to obtain a broad overview of the era.

Because this volume lies within a larger setting, the series should be purchased in its entirety. A review of the other volumes shows that A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era is essential for academic and public libraries and will find niche markets law schools that have curricular offerings in social or political aspects of legal history.

Book review written by: Douglas Lind, Law Library Director and Professor of Law, Southern Illinois University School of Law. dlind@siu.edu

Posted By Catherine Lemmer at 8/19/2015 12:47:45 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: book review,
8/12/2015 4:47:14 PM

A Review of "Lawyers at Work" by Herbert M. Kritzer

In Lawyers at Work, Herbert M. Kritzer, Marvin J. Sonosky Chair of Law and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota Law School, presents updated versions of over three decades of law review articles and book chapters relating to the practice of law.  The book is divided into four distinct parts: (1) Theory and Method in the Study of Legal Practice, (2) Lawyers at Work, (3) The Impact of How Lawyers Are Paid, and (4) Lawyers’ Legal Practice in the 21st Century.  Each part features three to five chapters, the majority of which present relevant empirical research on the topic.  Lawyers at Work is a worthy addition to academic law library collections and will appeal to a wide audience.

Law library patrons interested in empirical research will find Lawyers at Work particularly interesting.  Chapter two, for example, compares two methods of studying attorneys’ behavior: observation and interviews.  Mr. Kritzer conducted a study of contingency fee practice in Wisconsin in which he observed the daily behavior of lawyers at three different firms and then interviewed similarly situated lawyers about their daily routines.  Unsurprisingly, he found that the observational method of study produced a more nuanced portrait of daily practice.  Meanwhile, in chapter eight, Kritzer details a survey he administered in which attorneys from eleven different federal districts were queried about their encounters with Rule 11 sanctions.  In the end, substantial differences were observed amongst the districts.  For those interested in empirical research, these and other chapters will provide guidelines and models for their work.

Additionally, patrons interested in learning more about the day-to-day work of lawyers, as well as where the legal profession is headed, will find this book very useful.  For example, in chapter four, Kritzer identifies three dimensions of lawyer-client relations (professionalism, business, and social), and provides excerpts from interviews which provide evidence of each dimension.  Similarly, in chapter six, he provides a detailed breakdown of the various components of insurance defense practice, including fee arrangements, marketing, bill auditing, and working with adjusters.  For those who are less interested in theory and more curious as to what daily practice truly entails, these and other chapters will be beneficial.  Additionally, in the final part of the book, Kritzer addresses legal practice in the 21st century.  In chapter 15, for example, he draws on the work of Richard Susskind to envision and describe new roles in the delivery of legal services, including that of legal information engineer, legal consultant, and legal processor.

Being a compilation of 15 law review articles and book chapters, Lawyers at Work is extremely well-researched, featuring 37 pages of references.  A close look at these sources, however, reveals a potential shortcoming of the book.  Indeed, only 45 of the sources, or roughly 6%, are dated 2008 or later.  Considering the legal market was hit extremely hard by the 2008 recession, it is reasonable to question the efficacy of some of the assertions and anecdotes included in the text.  Moreover, the impact of technology in recent years may not be fully captured by the book.  For example, in chapter five, discussing the work of contingency fee lawyers, Kritzer includes a section on managing client behavior.  When discussing how workers’ compensation clients can jeopardize their claims by exhibiting behavior inconsistent with their claimed injuries, he makes no mention of warning clients about posting on social media.

Despite this potential weakness, Lawyers at Work is an excellent book.  Mr. Kritzer is an expert in the field and this compilation showcases his prolific body of work.  It is highly recommended for academic law library collections.

Reviewed by: Jesse Bowman, 2015.  Electronic Research, Technology, and Instructional Services Librarian, Pritzker Legal Research Center, Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago, Illinois.  jesse.bowman@law.northwestern.edu

Posted By Jesse Bowman at 8/12/2015 4:47:14 PM  0 Comments