To train or not to train…

by James Mullan, KM Systems Manager at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP and BIALL President-Elect.

For Law Librarians in the UK September and October usually mean the start of a frenetic period of activity organising and delivering training sessions to the new trainee solicitor intake.

Having been involved in the trainee training process on a number of occassions I’ve seen how much the new trainees appreciate the training they are receiving. Perhaps not right at that moment in time but certainly once they’re fully settled in their seats. However recently  I’ve been wondering whether the training we’re delivering is actually useful for them and whether we could be doing more to both identify and meet their training requirements and to go beyond what we might ordinarily offer in terms of training.

There is no doubt in my mind that we need to be showing new trainees how to use the key legal resources they’re going to be using on a daily basis. To not do so would potentially mean trainees using resources incorrectly or use the wrong resources and risk passing incorrect information on to their supervisors. So training trainees on how to use the flagship products from the major legal database suppliers is an essential part of a trainee training programme.

Alongside this Law Librarians should be showing new trainees how to undertake legal research correctly, either using a legal database or a combination of legal datbases and hard copy materials. As trainees and solicitors become more self-sufficient and more content is pushed to individuals desktop a good grounding in how to undertake legal research has never been more important and trainee training is often the only opportunity Law Librarians have to demonstrate how to underake it correctly. Law Librarians should also be involved in any training on how to use a firms Intranet, a key information resource in any firm, and if used by the Law Firm an Enterprise Search tool.

I believe Law Librarians are also ideally placed to talk about a number of other topics which might not be considered part of a traditional trainee training programme. Using social media effectively for example would be one of those topics. As users and advocates of social media tools Law Librarians are ideally placed to talk about the benefits of using these tools to communicate and collaborate more effectively. All too often any discussion about social media tools is usually delivered by the Risk Management Partner or someone from Information Security whose primary concern is ensuring individuals think before they start using a social media tool in a professional context. Stressing the important of using common sense when using social media tools is an important point but what we risk doing is alienating trainees from using the tools at all. To do so is in my mind dangerous as firms are increasingly encouraging individuals to join forums, write blog posts and edit and create content within wikis.

Having a Law Librarian deliver a session that looks at how these tools can be used effectively without over emphasing the “negative” aspects of these tools seems to me like something we should be doing if we aren’t already. I also see no reason why Law Librarians shouldn’t deliver training on a number of other topics, including but not necessarily limited to:

  • Presentation skills
  • Creating content for the web
  • Advanced search skills
  • Copyright

So what are you waiting for, get out there, find out what training isn’t being offered and start adding even more value to your organisation!

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