Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Law Librarians are just smarter than everyone

Everything going to be OK
So, I had this guy come up to me today asking me how to fill in one line on a legal form.  When I said, "I'm sorry but I am unable to help with that because doing so would be legal advice" he got exponentially huffy and spat out that it was an "easy" question and I was just being "difficult."

The thing is is that behind every "easy" legal question is YEARS of preparation. You see, I'm really not trying to be difficult but when I say I can't do something, it's not that I don't know how to do it so much as it's that I want to keep my job so that I can keep on helping people like the good people who read this blog day after day, year after year.  

Fact of the matter is that because I know what I'm doing, I can show you resources to help you answer your own problems lickity split.  Because I'm not a lawyer (or even if I was) I'm not going to just dole out legal advice by telling you how to fill in a form (even one line) because doing so constitutes legal advice.  It all sounds like a catch-22 scenario and I know this because I 
  • went to (and graduated from) law school, 
  • have spent the last 20+ years in the legal business learning about the business of law and state and Federal legal process(es),
  • have worked in three brick and mortar law libraries (one university and two public law libraries) and one online university library,
  • learned how to use several different print and online catalog systems (darn near every library has a different one),
  • am familiar with thousands of primary and secondary legal (and non-legal) resources which I draw on to help library patrons,
  • have read hundreds of thousands of cases, legal (and non-legal) treatises, legal dictionaries, legal encyclopedias,
  • created a rolodex of hundreds of names of persons in a variety of fields (not just law) that I tap on a near daily basis to help library patrons,
  • developed a number of multi-week classes for law students and paralegals on the "how to" of legal research,
  • have created dozens of continuing legal education courses for attorneys on how to keep sharp on all things legal research,
  • am in the process of developing a series of online "how to" legal research classes through udemy
  • Wrote and edited a monthly newsletter for the library I worked (and subsequently won an award for Best Newsletter in 2006) which was distributed to over 40,000 persons on four continents about how to do legal research in everyday situations,
  • presently write a blog at legalresearchiseasy.blogspot.com which talks about all things law and legal research,
  • know how to use just about every legal (and most non-legal) online databases such as Westlaw and WestlawNext, LexisNexis, Lexis Advanced, CEB OnLaw, Forms Workflow, Intelleconnect, Lois Law, Fastcase, HeinOnline, Index to Legal Periodicals, JSTOR, Info Trac, LLMC Digital, Proquest, Checkpoint by Thomson Reuters, and many others I just can't remember off the cuff, and
  • am intimately familiar with a number of physical library collections
and because I've done all this AND know all what I know and have spent the time over the years to develop my research acumen and knowledge, I know what resources to hand to you so that you can fill in that one line on that legal form you are looking at, OR answer that "easy" legal question (so that you are not wasting your time looking in resources that would otherwise waste your time) so that you can get your case moving forward.

It's because I am smarter than the average bear, I can, within the confines of the law, help you to get where you need to be when you need to be there.  Yep, I and all of my fellow law Librarians all around the country/world are that good, if not better!