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We now know what it feels like to be an Oscar winner who forgets to thank someone responsible for her success. In our last article, we mentioned by way of example the key roles the supporting departments at large law firms play in the success of young associates. In doing so, we did not mention every department. In particular, we forgot to mention the wonderful supporting role librarians play. Of course, we couldn’t have written this article without the help of our firm’s librarians. Librarians are, by definition, the greatest research tools that any firm has. They are charged with understanding what resources are useful for what purposes and for staying on top of emerging research tools. These tools range from traditional sources — books and periodicals — to online and other Internet sources. Additionally, librarians today are most likely to be the people responsible for maintaining a library’s Web site and evaluating, purchasing and implementing the software and hardware necessary to access electronic information. A good library staff will make it easier for attorneys to access at their desks all sorts of information via the Internet and intranet. Simply having access to the appropriate research tools is not enough. Librarians are also skilled at using these resources and are often responsible for training attorneys on what resources to use and how to use them. If you are not sure that you are aware of every resource available for your law specialty, call the library and arrange a training session with someone that does know. Not only does the library staff know the electronic data sources, they are also versed at finding the most cost-effective means of finding out the information needed. Instead of reinventing the wheel every time you have a research project, ask a librarian. For recent law school graduates, your first step in researching is usually Lexis or Westlaw. Unfortunately, this is usually not the best route for several reasons. First, although Lexis and Westlaw are good when researching narrow concepts, they are usually not the best resources to get a broad understanding of an area or law. Indeed, using Lexis or Westlaw often leads to missing the nuances that are not readily apparent in a few cases. Therefore, most research should start with a review of the relevant treatise. For example, we would not begin research on a civil procedure issue without first looking at “Wright & Miller’s Federal Practice and Procedure.” There are comparable treatises for almost all areas of law. For those who are a little rusty on subscription services or who were not formally trained in legal research, the library can point you in the right direction. Second, in most law firm libraries the librarians are able to conduct legal due diligence, compile state and federal legislative histories and — according to our librarians — conduct multi-jurisdictional surveys of specific laws. They are also knowledgeable about sources of information from the government and can track down unpublished information from the federal government and various agencies. Librarians are also a great source when searching for company information and are able to search filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Third, librarians often have access to databases that although they are a valuable source of information, are not available to associates, usually for licensing reasons. For example, the library is a good place to go if you need to search for scientific publications. Depending on the urgency and the price you are willing to pay, you can have these articles within a few hours. Finally, if you have identified a book or article from your research that would be helpful in preparing a brief, librarians will be able to obtain it, either by borrowing it from other law firms, law associations, or college law libraries or by buying it. All of these resources are wonderful in concept but unfortunately attorneys seldom take advantage of them. So make yourself comfortable and start looking into what your firm’s library has to offer. Alison McKinnell King and Daniel Boglioli are associates at Kaye Scholer.

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