As we get to the end of fall, it seemed timely to revisit associate and law student training topics discussed at this summer’s AALL Annual Meeting and see if anyone had implemented new associate training initiatives or new approaches to legal research classes this fall. This post covers attorney research skills, and a second post about technology training will be published next week.
by Kathy Skinner, Director of Research Services at Morrison & Foerster LLP
“Keep the conversation going” was the resounding feedback from attendees at the 2015 AALL program, “Attorney Research Skills: Join the Conversation between Law Firm and Academic Law Librarians.” Based on program responses, there’s a clear need to discuss law school and law firm research training methods and adapt them so they are more meaningful, practical, and consistent. So, how can we keep the discussion going in order to realize change?
For those readers who were not among the 200+ attendees at this AALL program in Philly in July, here’s a quick recap. Speakers from academic and law firm libraries presented key points from a recent survey of practitioners and law firm librarians on legal research practices and opinions of new associates’ research skills. The ALL-SIS Task Force on Identifying Skills & Knowledge for Legal Practice sponsored the survey, and 603 attorneys and 150 librarians responded. Findings are contained in the three reports available at http://goo.gl/TDKKJ2.
After discussing the findings, presenters Susan Nevelow Mart (University of Colorado Law School William A. Wise Law Library), Shawn Nevers (Brigham Young University), Laurel Evans (Lane Powell PC), and Kathy Skinner (Morrison & Foerster LLP) introduced three topics – research tools, training, and legal analysis – for attendees to discuss with colleagues at their tables. Tables included a mix of law firm and academic librarians in order to get a variety of viewpoints, and there was a high level of engagement and interaction at each table.
One of our most satisfying roles as librarians is helping students and associates develop the strong research skills that are key to a successful career. The research roadmap seems less certain and structured than it once was, due in part to disparate platforms, formats, and levels of access to sometimes costly research tools. Add to that budget challenges faced by law schools, which can affect the resources devoted to Advanced Legal Research instruction, and it’s easy to see why the role of teaching research is more important than ever, as was made clear by the survey results.
How can academic and law firm librarians partner to improve the research experience both in law school and after associates start to practice? Ideas abound, including enlisting law firm partners and recruiters to lobby law school deans and administrators for a greater focus on research training; “bridge the gap” research training programs jointly administered by firm and academic librarians; or vendor-enabled research “sandboxes” in law schools which provide access to a wider range of practice-related research tools than are traditionally offered. Most importantly, however, we have to heed the advice given over and over in the program comments to “keep the conversation going.”
If anyone has had success with new training or teaching ideas or has a best practice to share, please feel free to submit a post or comment.