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There are times — 3 a.m. is typical — when bleary-eyed associates drafting tedious documents for the Big Meeting may ask, “So this is being a lawyer? Do I really want to do this?” Ralph Monaco, chair of the public relations committee of the 750-member Law Library Association of Greater New York, has lately been hearing tales of woe from attorneys who have “crossed over,” as he puts it. Increasingly, he said, young lawyers are going back to school to pursue master’s degrees in library science. “It’s anecdotal,” he admitted, “but that’s my sense of it.” The other day, Monaco recounted, one of the association’s past presidents was speaking to the membership on the occasion of the group’s 65th anniversary this year. “She came from that hectic, 24/7 law firm arena to the library world,” said Monaco, who is executive director of the New York Law Institute, the city’s oldest law library. “For her, it was about quality of life.” Of the law librarian profession, he quickly added, “Maybe it’s not hectic, but it is demanding. Trust me. It’s demanding.” But not impossibly so, said lawyer-librarian Janice E. Henderson. “You’re not going to be told you have to fly off to California at the drop of a hat,” said Henderson, reference and research librarian at Covington & Burling. “You have a life, and you can have that family you’re interested in having.” Patricia Kasting, reference and government documents librarian at Hofstra University School of Law, became frustrated with practicing law in Missouri, where she graduated from the St. Louis University School of Law. Consequently, she returned to her home state of Indiana, although to more professional frustration as a lawyer. “But then I got my head together,” she said, “and I picked up [a master's in library science] at Indiana University in Bloomington.” In the pre-Web world of 15 years ago, she responded to a help-wanted ad in a professional journal and wound up at Hofstra. “We do a lot of teaching these days,” said Kasting. “It’s not telling law students the answers, but listening to them, then suggesting various approaches to a problem and guiding them through the research.” Although lawyering was not to her liking, said Kasting, “I truly enjoyed law school — the intellectual analysis, and getting my teeth into a problem and puzzling out an approach. Now I can do all that, and toss the actual drafting and so forth.” PAY RANGES Salaries, to be sure, are not on a par with big-firm pay scales. Kasting said starting pay for campus law librarians is about $45,000, which can gradually double over time, with library directors earning in the six figures. In the world of private law, said Henderson, the salary range is virtually the same. Although Monaco is not an attorney, he said the profession increasingly requires librarians to hold dual degrees in law and library science. In academe, especially in the area of time off, fringe benefits are “very generous,” said Henderson, who has an enviable 21 vacation days annually — not counting the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when Hofstra is closed. “Your skills as a lawyer are not wasted in becoming a librarian,” said Henderson, who began as a law librarian, then earned a J.D. as a night student at Brooklyn Law School to enhance her career opportunities. “In fact, you’ll gain more skills. Being an attorney and being a librarian are two different sides of the same coin.” Librarians, Henderson added, must be eclectic, keeping abreast of new research materials and methods available to attorneys. “There’s always some new question, some whole new area of law to get involved in, whereas a practicing attorney might be stuck in one area for years,” she said. Henderson advises practicing attorneys interested in “crossing over” to join the Legal Library Association of New York, a chapter of the 5,000-member American Association of Law Libraries. Annual dues for New York membership is $40. For young attorneys drowning in their workloads, “I would definitely recommend changing careers and becoming a law librarian,” said Henderson. “There’s always someone bringing you a question that stretches your skills. “It’s never boring,” she said. “It’s like being a detective.”

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