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As with any journey, whether it is for career or pleasure, a sure way to success is to have a good roadmap and a well-made plan. So far, your journey is going well. You’ve made the grades and the cuts. You’re settling into law firm life as a summer associate. One way you can ensure your continued success is to have an important “destination” marked out on your roadmap this summer. And that destination, one that is a must for every summer associate, is to meet, get to know and use one of your firm’s most valuable resources: the library and its librarians. As a law student, you have undoubtedly already taken numerous courses on how to conduct legal research. But just how much focus was placed on print resources? This is exactly one of the many ways that the library’s research professionals can be of help. Librarians are the expert researchers who also have intimate knowledge of their library’s collection and how to use these print resources in an efficient and cost-effective manner. If you were going to use an online service like Lexis or Westlaw, perhaps it might be a simple procedure. Notice that I said “perhaps,” which I’ll explain a little later. But remember that you have to use the library’s print resources first. Where do you look? In the Federal Securities Law Reporter. This is an eight-volume set including the current reporter volume. In which volume do you look? In the volume that contains the “Finding Lists.” Specifically, in the release lists that contain the ’34 Act’s documents. The documents are indexed in numerical order. You find the release entry and are provided with a paragraph number. What now? You start looking through all the volumes, but the indicated paragraph is nowhere to be found. Ever hear of transfer binders? Transfer binders retain older material removed from the main volumes to make room for newer material, but are still important enough to keep. Now you have to find the appropriate transfer binder, which is organized by year and paragraph number. Find the transfer binder, go to the paragraph number and you will have the release you were looking for. Easy if you know; not easy — and time-consuming — if you don’t. This research example would take your firm’s librarian less than five minutes, which also includes providing you with instruction on how to do it yourself in the future. The end result? The assigning partner would have the release in record time, you’d look great and you’d have learned a valuable lesson. Point being: Speak with a librarian at the start of a research assignment. Using the previous SEC Release as an example, let’s say you did an online search using Westlaw. Finding an SEC Release when you have the number and date is easy enough. You run the search in the FSEC-RELS database using the number and date. The result is zero, no documents.(1) So you try to run the number and use only the year. This time you get one document, but not a ’34 Act Release. You try yet another search using only the number. You get over 15 documents but not the needed Release. What’s your conclusion, that it’s not available online? Not correct! If you run the search this time using Lexis with the number and date as your query, you would find the Release you’re after. The point here is in no way to say that one online vendor is better than another. The point is to make clear that there are important differences in content and how you can get at the content that a vendor provides. Librarians are knowledgeable as to vendors’ content and their database’s individual nuances. The professional librarian would know that to be certain to find an SEC Release, both Lexis and Westlaw would have to be used. Research librarians are extensively trained in using a vast number of online services that are available from both commercial and free sources. This training is an ongoing process that consists of many hours of advanced and specialized research techniques. Online vendors are constantly adding and changing their already dizzying array of database content in an effort to provide the legal community with more and more research material. A vital part of a librarian’s job is to keep track of all these changes and organize the information efficiently. The librarian is always on top of the latest databases available, including content, and is up to date on the most cost-effective research techniques. Law firms expect their summer associates to be aware of the online fees that they accumulate while doing a research assignment. The easiest and quickest way to become properly educated with regard to online usage and the associated costs is to speak with a librarian first. Generally, the firm’s librarians are the individuals who negotiate and sign the online contracts with the vendors. This knowledge, in addition to their online research expertise, places the librarians in a very valuable position. Most online vendors also offer different types of searching or access to their services. An example of this is “hourly” or “transactional” searching. Using the wrong type of access can mean the difference between a $50 and a $500 online fee. I kid you not! Additionally, some firms might have a preferred online vendor, especially when non-billable research is to be undertaken. Your firm’s librarian can explain the differences available, and offer guidance as to how best summer associates can cost-effectively use online research to their advantage, to the advantage of the firm and to the advantage of the client too. Each day more and more information becomes available with just a few clicks of a mouse. What used to takes days, now takes seconds. But there is a downside to all of this. A downside that can cause you to crash and burn especially in the practice of law if you’re not careful: determining the accuracy and validity of the information that is being displayed on your PC’s monitor. Unfortunately, many Internet surfers are lulled into believing that because it’s on the Web, the information is gospel. This is not the case. In fact, it’s anything but. While there certainly is a wealth of good grade material on the Internet, there is also a lot of trash — information that is outdated, information that has been edited to suit special interests of an individual or group, or information that is just plain bogus.(2) Determining the accuracy and validity of Internet material can be very time-consuming and frustrating for the untrained or non-seasoned researcher. It’s for this reason that summer associates should take advantage of librarians’ Net expertise. The firm’s librarians have already spent hour after hour surfing the Web, culling out the chaff and bookmarking the nuggets of gold. Additionally, the librarians will readily be able to identify and evaluate the reliability of information on a Web page. You must ask all the questions necessary to get a good understanding of the assignment. In addition, it is important to ascertain any cost and time restrictions, i.e. how much research money can be comfortably spent and when the assignment is due. Once all the facts of the assignment are clear, stop by the library’s reference desk to speak with a research librarian. After discussing the assignment, the librarian will be able to efficiently direct you to any available treatises on the subject. If the issue at hand is a first for you, the librarian can recommend a basic text so you can get a firm understanding of the area or law. Additionally, the librarian will be able to offer online research strategy and database tips, such as query structure, making a list of terms of art or a list of applicable synonyms, before you go online. Even with all the help a librarian has to offer, though, only the summer associate knows all the facts and circumstances that can affect a research project. You have to be aware of what’s on your plate, how many deadlines there are to meet and when. Also, being able to prioritize assignments is extremely important. You have to remember another balancing act too: the balance of quality and quantity. Taking on the lion’s share of requests at first might make you look good, but having the biggest work load in the world doesn’t mean a thing if your answers and analysis are flawed. Your work load and work product as a summer associate will be the best opportunity you will have to firmly cement an offer of employment after graduation. Now is the time to make your mark by building a solid reputation for producing a high caliber of work. With law firms requiring that summer associates have knowledge of, and use, their library’s print resources along with online research, you have to learn to balance the use of these resources to get the best of both worlds. This perhaps is the most challenging balancing act of all. When all the facts regarding the assignment are taken into account, the you must carefully weigh all of them to determine the best route to take. Again, a quick discussion with a librarian can provide you with good research strategy to help you make the right choices. Attorney Jeffery Feldman said in an interview with The Legal Intelligencer that “Any associate who has access to a legal librarian who doesn’t turn to them for advice is missing out.”(3) So take my advice: Tap the expertise of your firm’s librarians and your road to success will be straight and trouble-free. Enjoy the experience! Eric M. Kaufman is head of research services at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan.
A FEW BASIC RESOURCES PRINT: Tribe, Laurence H.: American Constitutional Law Calamari, John D., Perillo, Joseph M.: Contracts Wilner, Gabriel M.: Domke on Commercial Arbitration Loss, Louis, Seligman, Joel.: Fundamentals of Securities Regulation Siegel, David D.: New York Practice Mauet, Thomas A.: Pretrial Gillers, Stephen, Simon, Roy D.: Regulation of Lawyers: Statutes and Standards Dobbs, Dan B.: The Law of Torts Farrell, Richard T.: Prince, Richardson on Evidence Mauet, Thomas A.: Trial Techniques Jerry, Robert H.: Understanding Insurance Law White, James J., Summers, Robert S.: Uniform Commercial Code: Practitioner’s Treatise Series INTERNET Search Engine: Google: http://www.google.com/ Legislative Information: Thomas: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas2.html Legal Portal: FindLaw: http://www.findlaw.com/ News Portal: NewsLink: http://newslink.org/ Intelligent Interface to SEC EDGAR filings: EdgarScan: http://edgarscan.pwcglobal.com/servlets/edgarscan Company Information: Hoovers: http://www.hoovers.com/ Bankruptcy News: ABI World: http://www.abiworld.org/ Multi-State Bar Requirements: Crossingthebar.com: http://www.crossingthebar.com/ Arbitration/ADR: AAA: http://www.adr.org/index2.1.jsp Historical Currency Exchange: FX History: http://www.oanda.com/convert/fxhistory?lang=en Stock Quotes: BigCharts: http://bigcharts.marketwatch.com/ Federal Courts: Federal Court Finder: http://www.law.emory.edu/FEDCTS/
(1)SEC Release 34-3643 was chosen at random. At the time of this writing it was not available on Westlaw. Online vendors’ content can and frequently does change. (2) Visit the Mankato, MN homepage: http://lme.mankato.msus.edu/mankato/mankato.html (3) Alyssa Litman, “Associates shelve law firm libraries for web tools,” 227 The Legal Intelligencer 4, July 5, 2002.

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