Sunday, July 15, 2007

From AALL in New Orleans

The most interesting program I’ve been to so far will be available to the world in a taped version online at , the West Education Center. The videotape will also be available to AALL chapters if they want to show it: The Town Hall meeting with Thomson-West on the Research Skills most needed by Lawyers and Law Students.

West pulled together roundtables of all types of librarians in a number of cities around the country. They discussed the research skills needed, and lacking, in the lawyers and law students they work with. They also performed some tests of research to identify the “pain points” of legal research. For instance they located a brief out of a large law firm dealing with a single legal issue. They gave the issue to one of their best research attorneys, telling her there was a brief, but not to consult it. Then they created a table showing the databases consulted, and what was found at each step. The table showed what librarians recognize as the multi-step, reiterative nature of legal research. You look in a lot of places, and at each step, find many of the citations you already located, but also add a few new ones (if you’re lucky and not at the end!). The West researcher found 24 of the key 25 citations used in the brief, missing one administrative source.

Out of these research projects, West pulled out the main “pain points” of legal research:

Time Consuming


Lack of Confidence

The biggest problem seemed to be that lawyers, students and librarians did not often feel confident that they had found all relevant items. Young lawyers and students had the biggest problem also in doing the legal analysis to identify relevant issues. West also followed lawyers through a full day at work, noting how much time they spent on various tasks. Not surprisingly, the newer the lawyer, the more time was spent on research, both because they were given more research tasks, but also because they were less efficient at doing the research.

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