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With the economy booming and associates pulling in record first-year salaries, law librarians want to make sure that they don’t miss out on an opportunity to dramatically increase their earning power. But according to many law librarians gathered at the American Association of Law Libraries’ annual meeting in Philadelphia this week, law firms don’t always recognize the full value of librarians and, all too often, librarians are not willing to stand up for themselves during salary negotiations. “We need to get away from the attitude that we are lucky to make what we make,” says Elizabeth Kenney, the law librarian at the Boston office of Philadelphia-based Dechert (which recently changed its name from Dechert, Price & Rhoades). Due to a number of factors — including the economy, law firm librarians’ change in job scope to include more technology-related tasks, and a growing shortage of qualified information professionals — there might not be a better time to act. One librarian says that salary goals should not be any less than the super heated figures that first year associates are pulling down. “If they paid us that kind of money, it would not be a waste of money,” says Jeanette Tracy, a law librarian at the Boston office of Pittsburgh’s Kirkpatrick & Lockhart. “If we can’t raise the bar during the good times, it’s not going to happen during a recession.” But while librarian salaries are clearly not keeping up with those of first years — which are as high as $125,000 per year at some firms — Kenney fears that they are also not keeping pace with the wages of the technology staffers that firm librarians work closely with. Increasingly, law librarians even mimic many roles of the technology experts as they take on more responsibilities for firm Internet sites, intranet projects and software. “The empirical evidence is that we need to catch up with the rest of the world,” Kenney says. Worse, Kenney says, is the fact that law librarian salaries in her region have also lagged behind those of legal secretaries who often don’t have the advanced degrees of the library staff. “I don’t want to belittle the work they do,” Kenney says. “They are a skilled profession, but so are we.” The situation is often worse for academic law librarians, who still face want ads with starting salaries in the $30,000 per year range for positions that require a Masters of Library Science and prefer a law degree. “At the director level some academic librarians do very well, but once you get to the front-line workers, the truth is — they don’t do very well,” said a law librarian at one small New England law school who asked not to be identified. “I had to fight to get a new librarian a little over $40,000. That’s pathetic.” But the news is not all bleak for law librarians. According to James Matarazzo, the dean of the graduate school of library and information science at Simmons College in Boston, law librarians make more than other types of specialty librarians and according to a recent study by Chicago-based AALL, law librarian salaries are inching up, with head librarians making an average of $79,000 per year. And what’s more, because of the shortage of law librarians caused by an aging work force and fewer librarian and information programs around the country, entry level salaries are shooting up with some firms paying as much as $50,000 per year for new library school graduates. “That’s reasonable for what we are going to be required to do,” says Tracy. The key for law librarians is to shed what many agree is a passive stance during negotiations. Law librarians need to ask for high salaries and must be prepared with comparative salary figures and better job descriptions that reflect librarians’ growing role at most firms. “We tend not to have enough gumption to ask for what we are worth,” says Betsy McKenzie, the law librarian at Suffolk University. “We have to do a lot more education. A lot of administrators, lawyers and judges still don’t know what we do.” But to get higher salaries, law librarians might also have to keep up with their contemporaries in another way, and become more willing to join an increasingly mobile work force. Many of the high-salaried technology professionals routinely change jobs every few years while law librarians still display amazing job loyalty. According to AALL Executive Director Roger Parent, studies indicate that law librarians average 11 years before changing jobs. “Most employers tend to hold the line on salary increases internally,” says one Los Angeles law librarian. But drastic action might not be in the cards. “If we all went home and quit, it would probably work,” says Tracy. “But I don’t think that’s going to happen this year.”

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