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Legal Reference Librarianship: Home
About reference work in law libraries, and reference work involving legal materials in general libraries
Cornell's online law resources and legal encyclopedia are free and available to all users. They provide federal and state codes, case law, topical information, federal regulations and other research tools.
From the official U.S. Government Publishing Office. Provides free, up-to-date online electronic access to a variety of information produced by the federal government, including legislative documents. It provides the official version of all publications. Coverage goes back about two decades.
Basic Legal Research: Tools and Strategies, Seventh Edition by Amy E. Sloan is known for its clear, step-by-step instruction in the basics. Using a building-block approach, the textbook breaks material into discrete, readily comprehensible parts. Self-contained chapters on sources make the book flexible for any type of legal research course. Useful pedagogy throughout the text includes end-of-chapter checklists, clear examples, and summary charts. Helpful sample pages and examples of research sources guide students through the presentation.
Finding and using legal resources effectively is an essential skill for lawyers. This comprehensive but succinct guide covers research procedures using major online services, free Internet resources, and library materials. Several hundred websites are discussed and placed in context for effective and productive use in research. Discussion includes coverage of legislative history, administrative law, specialized and interdisciplinary resources, and research in international and comparative law. Appendices list state research guides and treatises and services by subject, and a companion website has a regularly updated list of URLs and illustrations of online and print resources.
This looseleaf work covers legal research in nine specialized substantive areas. Securities Regulation, UCC, income tax, copyright law, labor law, environmental and land use law, admiralty and maritime law, immigration law, and military law research techniques are presented in the book.
Types of Law Libraries
You may encounter legal reference work in ANY library!! You may find
the occasional legal reference question at the desk of a busy public
library, or as a regular part of your traffic at a specialized law
library. Many special libraries have a connection to law, including
corporate, court, state, county, law firm, and academic.
Law librarians do legal reference in varying proportions to other
work in a law library, but many librarians in other libraries also
encounter questions from their patrons that involve the law to some
The Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals Special Interest Section (PLLIP-SIS) was established in 1977 to improve the quality and service of private law libraries by emphasizing their goals, needs and special interests, and to represent its members’ interests and concerns within AALL (American Association of Law Libraries).
Other Governmental Law Libraries
Even the Senate Judiciary Committee has a law library! Granted, it's a single librarian, and the collection is primarily distributed in electronic form, but the library was valuable enough to the committee that the librarian survived two changes in Senate leadership (and a proposed dismantling of the library, in-between)
SCCLL-SIS is now GLL-SIS! This Special Interest Section provides leadership in identifying the needs and concerns of government law librarians and developing appropriate programs and services to address them; and supports the interests of government law librarians with their parent organizations and other related entities.
From Microsoft to Apple, Exxon to Shell Oil, Prudential to Allstate, most large corporations have law librarians. Corporate law librarians fall under the Private Law Libraries SIS in AALL, with their own subgroup, linked above.
Pro Se patrons, aka the self-represented litigant in the library.
Among the many challenges that such patrons present to librarians, are concerns on the part of the librarian or the library about the unauthorized practice of law (by the librarian). Unauthorized practice is prohibited in all 50 states, but the definition of "practice" is somewhat vague. Librarians should know the law in their state, and more importantly, the policy of their library.
Legal research services
In many law libraries, the librarian performs research for a client, e.g., the lawyer, the judge, or for faculty in academic institutions. Some law school libraries run very large and successful programs where librarians supervise students who do research for faculty. In others, the librarians handle research requests ranging from preparing annotated bibliographies on an issue to assembling a package of research on a topic. And in a law firm, most of a librarian's work could be termed research, as opposed to reference.
Reference work with legal materials is complicated by the complexity of the law and the interplay between primary sources of law and the many secondary sources of commentary and analysis that are crucial to an understanding of the law on any given topic. Legal reference work includes instruction on the use of legal resources such as statutes, caselaw digests and databases, regulations and other sources, and recommendation of secondary sources.
A growing percentage of reference questions in law libraries are actually not about the law, but are related to business or statistical information, or other government documents. This drift is especially noticeable in the law firm environment, where special law & business consulting firms have spun off.
Short article by law librarian Mary Whisner, updated april 4, 2008.
What About the JD?
One of the first questions I hear from graduate students in LIS is whether it's possible to enter this field without a law degree. In a word, YES! According to the most recent American Association of Law Libraries' (AALL) Biennial Salary Survey, only 27% of respondents had both the MLS and the JD degree. There are several good articles on this questions, as well.
Law library jobs that do require the JD tend to be in academia, especially in management. And since law librarians are recruited from law practice and law schools in addition to library schools, many law librarians find their "fit" within the profession after giving law practice a try. So the market for law librarians has remained relatively well-stocked with dual-degreed applicants for those positions that require both degrees. But if you're interested in law librarianship, there are plenty of opportunities for work in firms or other settings, that don't require the JD.
Keep an eye on the AALL's Career Hotline for job postings and descriptions.
Provides abstracts and some full-text of bills, Committee reports, prepared testimony from hearings, and public laws, as well as legislative histories. Check out Proquest Congressionals libguides: http://proquest.libguides.com/
Illinois Continuing Legal Education materials, published to support practitioners and others working on legal issues in Illinois in a majority of practice areas. Includes theoretical groundwork as well as practice tips and forms.
Fully searchable digital archive of the published records of the American colonies, documents published by state constitutional conventions, state codes, city charters, law dictionaries, digests and more.
The SSRN eLibrary consists of two parts: an Abstract Database containing abstracts on over 445,400 scholarly working papers and forthcoming papers and an Electronic Paper Collection currently containing over 359,600 downloadable full text documents in Ado
Comprehensive online collection of records and briefs brought before the nation's highest court; includes transcripts, applications for review, motions, petitions, supplements and other official papers.