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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.
6/25/2013 4:26:40 PM

Book Review: Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas

Rachel Marx Boufford, ed., Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas (Vault.com Inc., 2013), 196 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58131-895-1, $29.95 (PDF).

While Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas provides some insight from lawyers on their respective legal practice areas for those interested in starting or switching legal careers, too much of this already short title is devoted to full-page advertisements for firms and legal products.  An academic law library or law school career services department might consider this title, but the amount of included advertising makes it difficult to recommend, even at its relatively low price point.

As stated in the book’s introduction, this guide is intended to inform law students, pre-law candidates, and practicing lawyers interested in a lateral move about the legal career options available to them.  The book consists of interviews with lawyers from 22 different practice areas, including Antitrust, Bankruptcy, Intellectual Property, Real Estate, and Tax.  The interviews are organized alphabetically by practice area; there is also an index with the names of lawyers interviewed and another index for the firms each lawyer works for.  While the number and variety of topic areas seem appropriate, the interviewees are mostly partners from AmLaw 100 firms, which is under-representative of the legal career opportunities available in these practice areas.

The depth and specificity of the information provided varies by interview.  One to four lawyers are interviewed in each practice area, and each lawyer is asked an identical set of questions about the specifics of their practice.  The questions cover the types of clients and cases they work with, what a typical work day or work week is like, trainings and classes they would suggest to others, factors that influenced their decision to practice in their current area of law, what they like best about their current practice, and the greatest challenges they face in their practice area.  The lack of specificity is partially due to the format; all of the interviews are one to two pages, which is not enough space to allow the interviewees to thoroughly answer the questions posed.  This leads to occasionally vague answers; variations on “the best thing . . .  is the variety of the work. . . . The most challenging aspect . . . is the same as the best thing about it—the variety of the work” are common without much further explanation.  However, many of the lawyers do provide more enlightening comments about their work and experiences.  For example, a bankruptcy attorney, asked how he decided on his practice area, lists aspects of his summer jobs that he did and did not like, and he felt that financial restructuring and Chapter 11 work was the best combination of what he liked with the least amounts of the type of work he wanted to avoid. (p.17-18)   A real estate attorney explains how it was less the practice area than the type of work environment that suited her personality and career advancement opportunities that attracted her to her current firm.  (p.133-134)  This level of candidness is much more beneficial to the intended audience; it allows them to compare their own preferences and interests to those of the interviewees.

Unfortunately, while the content has the potential to be valuable, the biggest drawback of this book is actually the lack of content.  In the PDF version of the title reviewed for this post, there are 41 full-page ads for law firms, Vault.com, and other legal products, and there are 22 blank pages (one before each practice area).  In addition, there are 33 pages that are blank except for a pull quote from the preceding interview.   As a result, only a little more than 50% of the book’s pages present substantive content.  It is possible that this would be less frustrating in print, but scrolling past all of that in a PDF file made it glaringly obvious how little content there actually was.

While some of the content of this title is of interest to its target audience, the too-short interviews and over-abundance of advertising make it tough to recommend.  However, for those looking for first-hand information about practicing at top firms in the covered practice areas, this is could be a decent purchase at a low price point.

Tina Brooks is the Electronic Services Librarian at the University of Kentucky Law Library in Lexington, Kentucky.

Posted By Tina Brooks at 6/25/2013 4:26:40 PM  0 Comments
6/19/2013 5:12:39 PM

New Issue of JurisDocs (GD-SIS) Newsletter Available

new issue of the Government Documents SIS newsletter JURISDOCS is now available.  It contains a summary of the section's planned activities at the AALL annual meeting, general news about federal government documents, and a review of the virtual GPO conference Partners in Preservation: Government Information for Future Generations.

Posted By Sara Sampson at 6/19/2013 5:12:39 PM  0 Comments
6/10/2013 4:28:56 PM

Book Review: The Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook: A Guide for the Serious Searcher

Hock, Randolph, The Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook: A Guide for the Serious Searcher, 4th Ed. (Medford, N.J.: CyberAge Books, 2013), 344 pp., incl. index. ISBN: 978-1-937290-02-3, $24.95 (softcover).

The Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook: A Guide for the Serious Searcher, 4th Edition, discusses research strategies and internet tools to effectively and efficiently locate information on the internet and the “deep web”. In the introduction, the author makes a point of noting that most people learn about the internet by using it, but don’t have a comprehensive source pulling the information together in one handy reference like this one. Although much of the material is too basic for the research needs of most law librarians, I would recommend this book as a basic reference source especially for use with students and other patrons. In addition, I see value in using portions of the book in legal research instruction.

Overall, I was disappointed that the author focused on “basics” when the title of the book implies that the reader will already be a well-informed researcher. Chapter 1, covering background material and research strategies, was designed for someone with a very basic skill set. Chapter 2, covered directories and portals even though the author freely admits that many researchers no longer use directories, especially general directories. I was concerned that the book began by explaining very basic internet concepts and the substantive discussion opened with a resource that is generally out of favor. I would like to believe that he did so to explain the concept of moving from a general search strategy to a more specific strategy.

Fortunately, chapters 3 and 4, on search engines, explained concrete skills to improve results when using search engines. The 25 pages covering the details of specialized searching in Google is good reference material that could be used to help students improve their research skills. And, although the information covering other search engines was not as comprehensive as the Google discussion, the chart that compares the features of the four search engines discussed, is useful reference tool.

I found chapter 6, An Internet Reference Shelf, interesting because it provides a snapshot of what an expert in the field views as the most important online reference sources. I thought this was a very good collection of basic sources that would be useful for conducting research in a wide range of topics. Again, this would be a good collection for students or patrons, but I would expect librarians to be aware of most of these resources.

The rest of the chapters provide an overview of search strategies in a particular type of resource, such as images or news sources followed by a list of websites and a corresponding description of the website. These chapters were much more focused on lists of sources without going into any great detail. Again, these sources can be a good reference list. It was in these chapters that I discovered a few new and interesting sites.

The book concludes with a glossary of terms and a list of all of the URLs that are mentioned throughout the book as well as an index. The URLs are also available at the site www.extremesearcher.com The author has published a new edition approximately every three years, and updates the material on the website between print editions. Current updates cover changes to the Google results pages.

Laura Ax-Fultz is the Access Services/Reference Librarian at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law in University Park, PA.

Posted By Laura Ax-Fultz at 6/10/2013 4:28:56 PM  0 Comments