ARCHIVED: Law Librarian Compensation Special Committee - 2001-02 Report

  • Bookmark and Share

Presented to AALL President Barbara Bintliff and the AALL Executive Board

The Committee met during the AALL Convention in Minneapolis. The Committee meeting was preceded and followed by e-mail exchanges among Committee members. The composition of the Committee, which included members from a variety of law libraries, brought a wide range of issues to the table. This report attempts to distill the problem and map the road to a solution.

As we see it, the problem of law librarian undercompensation results from the fact that the value of law librarians' work simply is not understood by decision-makers in law firms, law schools, and throughout the legal field. AALL's solution to this problem must necessarily start with educating decision-makers in law firms, law schools and courts concerning the value added to their organizations by law librarians.

We recognize that this problem has long been identified within the profession. We groped for a means by which AALL could begin to solve it. The Committee recommends as follows:

The AALL Executive Board must make the compensation of law librarians one of its central concerns. We wish to convey a sense of urgency to the Board. Institutional resources must be devoted to this issue immediately. In order to ensure sustained effort on this issue, the Board (a) should create a permanent Committee on Law Librarian Compensation, and (b) create a permanent AALL staff position for a Marketing/Public Relations Coordinator. (A suggested description for this position is attached to this report as Appendix A.)
  1. The AALL should retain the services of a public relations firm. Finding a firm that is familiar with the world of law firms would be ideal. This firm should be charged with mounting a professional, coordinated plan for raising the status of law librarians in the eyes of their employers, and in the eyes of law firm management consulting groups like Altman Weil, Hildebrandt and McKinsey. The AALL should also consider hiring a labor economics consultant to objectively evaluate the wage structure within law firms and legal organizations to determine the extent to which the pay of law librarians reflects gender bias and to calculate what law librarian salaries would be if their education and skills were properly reflected. The law librarian community needs professional help from those who specialize in PR and labor economics.

  2. Because the low pay of law librarians is related to that of librarians generally, AALL should work on this issue together with the broader librarian community, including librarian academics and other library associations (such as the American Library Association and the Special Libraries Association). For example, AALL should have the Coordinator or the permanent Committee consult with James Matarazzo, Dean of the library school at Simmons College, on strategies to address the salary issue. Dean Matarazzo spoke at the 2000 AALL Annual Meeting on improving library salaries, and has expressed interest to the Committee in writing articles and speaking on this subject. He could provide contacts with other library associations and suggest further action.

  3. The importance of this issue should be made clear to the Chapters and Sections of AALL and a search should be conducted of successful education efforts that have been carried out. The Committee heard about the encouraging efforts of the law librarian community in Cincinnati and the Virginia Association of Law Libraries in raising the visibility of law librarians among their respective bar associations and legal administrator organization chapters. (These efforts are described in Appendix B to this report.) The effort to improve salaries will have to be conducted on many fronts -- at the national, regional, and local levels -- and AALL should monitor any successful strategies and serve both as a coordinator of such efforts and as an information clearinghouse.

  4. The President of AALL must make a concerted effort to work with the leadership of the Association of Legal Administrators ("ALA"). It is crucial that this group, at both the national and local levels, understand who we are and what we do. At a minimum, the ALA's salary surveys, on which many law firms rely in setting salaries, should accurately reflect the complexity and value of the law librarian profession. Efforts also should be made with groups like the ABA and AALS, but given their size and tradition progress will be slow. The ALA is a more immediate problem, and one that we can reasonably tackle.

The Committee recommends these actions as the initial steps in a sustained campaign to improve salaries.


Report of the Special Committee on Law Librarian Compensation



The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) seeks a person with background in marketing and/or public relations to coordinate a campaign to educate law firms, law schools, courts, and other organizations that employ AALL members of the value of law librarians, with the goal of improving the compensation of law librarians to a level reflecting the education, skill and effort associated with the law librarian profession. The successful candidate will:

  • oversee and coordinate the marketing campaigns of AALL and its regional and local chapters;
  • coordinate efforts by AALL and its chapters to improve relations with bar associations, other associations (such as the Association of Legal Administrators), and consulting groups that consult with law firms on human resources issues (such as Altman Weil);
  • facilitate educational activities such as coordination of preparation of articles by AALL members for bar publications and speaking engagements at CLE programs and bar conferences;
  • serve as a liaison to AALL's public relations consulting group;
  • implement recommendations by AALL's public relations consulting group; and
  • undertake other standard marketing and public relations initiatives.


Report of the Special Committee on Law Librarian Compensation


The AALL Special Committee on Law Librarian Compensation has determined that the fundamental task in improving law librarian salaries is to educate decision-makers in law firms, law schools, courts, and other employers of the value added by law librarians to their organizations. The following are a few examples heard by the committee of local AALL chapters to raise the visibility of the law librarian community among such decision-makers:

A. Cincinnati Law Librarians

In Cincinnati, two years ago the private firm librarians petitioned the Cincinnati Bar Association (CBA) to become a special committee of the Bar. Their petition was accepted, and the Legal Research and Information Services (LRIR) Committee of the CBA was formed. The LRIR Committee includes librarians from academia, the county library, a local judge, and the owner of a small company focused on writing and public relations for the legal market. The LRIR Committee is required to produce at least two CLE programs a year, one of which is its "Inside Look" program for summer associates, which the Cincinnati law librarians have done successfully for six years. The CBA gives the Committee a budget and the use of its personnel and facilities. LRIR Committee members are frequent speakers for other committees' CLE programs, and they publish regularly in the CBA's newsletter.

Obtaining recognition as a committee by the CBA involved a long struggle by the librarians. It was only after they had successfully run the "Inside Look" program for summer associates several times that the CBA began to see the librarians' potential and accepted the librarians' application to become an official committee.

B. Virginia Association of Law Libraries

Earlier this year the Virginia Association of Law Libraries (VALL), taking their cue from a similar project done by Nancy Adams and the Northern California Association of Law Librarians (NOCALL), undertook to raise compensation and awareness of librarians' skills. NOCALL and later VALL encouraged local chapters of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) to add several job descriptions to the local chapters' salary surveys. Both NOCALL and VALL succeeded in increasing the number of job descriptions on the local salary surveys.

The Richmond Virginia chapter was the only Virginia chapter that published a salary survey and had a survey pool large enough to guarantee anonymity. Richmond's president/salary chair readily agreed to work with VALL. She was extremely pleased to have VALL submit job descriptions. Once she saw VALL's submissions she suggested that VALL contact the national ALA president about adding their job descriptions to the national salary survey. (Thereafter, Lyn Warmath spoke to the national president about her willingness to work with law librarians, but the ALA president explained that the national salary survey is intentionally general and she prefers it that way. However, the ALA president indicated that ALA publications, such as ALA's book of sample job descriptions for various administrative positions for law firms, would be revised/supplemented in the future, and she welcomed suggestions.) Also at the local level, VALL members have been invited by the newsletter editor of the Northern Virginia chapter of ALA to submit submit articles to the newsletter. In addition, a VALL member recently was the speaker at a monthly luncheon meeting of Richmond's ALA Chapter.

VALL has also worked extensively with the editor of the state bar's publications. VALL has established its own quarterly column, "Legal Resources Review" in the state bar's magazine, Virginia Lawyer. The quarterly columns were so well-received the editor asked VALL members in 2000 to produce a entire issue written by law librarians. The editor was pleased to report to VALL members that this issue "received more complements from bar members than a whole year's worth of other issues combined." Members of the bar used this whole issue as a handout at two Bar Leadership Institutes. Moreover, an attorney coordinating the annual William & Mary Tax Institute requested permission to reprint one of the articles as a handout at the institute in December 2000. That attorney next met with several VALL members late last year and recently asked VALL members to appear as panelists for the upcoming annual institute in November. The issue was so successful that VALL was given the opportunity to publish a second issue written by librarians in October 2001 (available on the web at: