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There’s a new fashion trend among law librarians: hats. They wear many of them — sometimes at the same time — all of differing sizes, shapes, and colors. The hats really mean one thing: From bookshelf to desktop, legal research has changed significantly in recent years, and the role of the law librarian has changed along with it. At one point in the history of the profession, law librarians were chiefly catalogers and legal researchers, crucial to the profession of law yet limited in their scope when it came to business strategy and firm management. With the onset of the Internet, attorney-enabled desktop research, and electronic documentation, however, the law librarian’s role began to evolve. Today, law librarians are professionals skilled in a host of sophisticated areas, including detailed research, training, business development, client retention, risk assessment, professional development, marketing, and technology, all of which are crucial to successful management of firms, schools, agencies, and corporations. Law librarianship is no longer just about cataloging — it’s about complex research and intricate knowledge-sharing to support and work with every area of legal institutions. “Librarians are becoming involved on the practice-group level at law firms,” says Christine Morong, librarian relations manager for West. “They are attending meetings and learning what attorneys are working on, information which they can use to stay relevant on resources needed for day-to-day business.” One obvious example is a firm’s intranet. Librarians have become guardians and content managers for business information on the firm, current events surrounding practice areas, and scores of other information necessary for effective communication across the firm and vital to doing firm business and practicing law. Minneapolis-based Dorsey & Whitney’s Linda Will and her staff, for instance, produce four daily newsletters. The newsletters have become so popular that they are now sent outside the firm to some of the firm’s clients and national business publications. “It’s a result of the very fine-filtered researching we do,” says Will, director of information resources. It makes sense, notes Montana state law librarian Judy Meadows, to have librarians handling intranet or Internet sites for a firm. In her case, it’s for the judiciary system of Montana. Her staff is in charge of the courts’ Web site and is in the middle of putting together a new site for the entire judiciary. “Librarians are the ones that understand how people use information,” says Meadows. “When it comes to providing the information that people want in the format they want, no one understands like we do.” Additionally, today’s librarians make critical decisions on what information is necessary and what information would be nice. “There is pressure to continually downsize the library,” says Elizabeth Black Berry, manager of information resources, professional development, and audit inquiries for the Houston office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. “Attorneys still need and ask for the information, yet want to downsize due to cost and space. Management of resources is crucial.” Librarians are finding that a library that includes both hard copy and electronic resources is the best way to provide information. “We’ve done some experiments in some of our small offices of only electronic resources,” says Maureen Sirhall at Littler Mendelson in San Francisco. “Those attorneys turned around and said, �No, we want some books.’ So we aim for a good blend of books and electronic research.” Ironically, Sirhall, as national director of legal information services, does much of her work electronically, as she manages 28 firm libraries across the country from her headquarters in San Francisco. “Technology has just added a new dimension to research and assistance,” says Sirhall. “The librarians are still at the forefront of how to use the tool, whether it’s electronic or books, and can help decide where to find the best content.” The intranet, though, is just one way librarians are contributing to the business of the firm. Librarians have become savvy in business strategy. In fact, part of their job involves all sorts of strategic business research. “In my role, I need to know which practices are expanding and in what areas, so that I can best assist them within the �big picture’ of firm activity,” says Catherine Monte, director of knowledge management at Fox Rothschild, a firm with offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. “This encourages collaboration across the firm by demonstrating the synergies among practice groups, how they are interrelated, and how we can work together for everyone’s benefit.” Nonlegal research is an increasingly important skill for the librarian. The changing demands of business necessitates detailed risk assessments and conflict searches, all of which librarians are helping with more and more. Information and research is intricately tied to client retention and development, calling on a librarian’s expertise about where to find the most accurate and trustworthy information. Building databases of competitive intelligence or prospective clients is the norm. Staying current on what’s going on in a particular industry in a firm’s practice group or compiling risk information on growth areas of the firm is all within a librarian’s scope. “Often I will say, ‘Did you know we can do this for you?’” says Monte. Dorsey’s Will gives the example of one of her firm’s attorneys going to meet with a potential client in a particular area of business. Will and her staff knew about it and helped the attorney prepare with detailed research and information. “We put together PowerPoint presentations on that industry so the attorney could become an expert in that area by the time he met with the client,” says Will. Librarians also are documenting and managing the intellectual capital of the firm, indexing expertise, logging presentations and speeches individual attorneys have given and law review articles written by firm staff, all of which can then be used to market the attorneys and the firm. Such a shift in the role of the law librarian is not without its difficulties. Many law firms have chosen to rename their libraries to things like information services or knowledge management. Like many librarians across the country, Berry of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, who has a law degree in addition to her master’s degree in library science, also handles her firm’s audit inquiries and coordinates professional development seminars. Training has become one of a librarian’s primary functions, whether it’s orienting summer associates to the firm or illustrating new desktop research functions. “Librarians are a vital and necessary resource to help their users and to support the mission of their organization,” says Morong, who was a law librarian for 15 years. “They draw on their creativity and resourcefulness to collaborate across the firm.” Or, as both Will and Berry put it, librarians “wear lots of hats.” Anne Ellis is senior director of librarian relations for West. A 28-year librarian with 14 years as a law firm librarian, Ellis is a member of the American Association of Law Libraries. She has served as chair of the AALL Private Law Libraries Special Interest Section and is active in the Special Libraries Association, the American Library Association, and the American Bar Association. Tom Jared is vice president of customer management and marketing services for West. Jared manages several departments at West, including the librarian relations team.

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