Career Development

What Does a Law Librarian Do?

Find out what a Law Librarian does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as a Law Librarian.

The Law Librarian role encompasses a unique blend of expertise in legal research, information management, and customer service, serving as a cornerstone for legal education and practice. This position is dedicated to managing extensive collections of legal resources, both in print and digital formats, ensuring that students, faculty, and legal professionals have access to the latest and most relevant legal information. By offering guidance on research methodologies and information retrieval, the Law Librarian facilitates a deeper understanding of legal materials, supporting the academic and professional growth of their clientele. This role not only requires a thorough knowledge of legal publications but also an ability to adapt to the evolving landscape of information technology, making the Law Librarian an essential resource in any legal education or practice setting.

Law Librarian Job Duties

  • Manage and organize legal resources, including books, journals, electronic databases, and case law archives, ensuring easy access and retrieval for users.
  • Assist patrons, including law students, faculty, and legal professionals, in locating and using legal resources effectively.
  • Develop and maintain the law library’s collection, selecting and acquiring new legal materials based on current trends and user needs.
  • Provide reference services and legal research assistance, guiding users in finding and interpreting legal information.
  • Design and deliver instructional sessions on legal research methods and the use of legal databases and resources.
  • Catalog and classify new legal materials, ensuring they are accurately integrated into the library’s collection.
  • Oversee the budget for the law library, including planning, allocation, and monitoring of funds for resources, subscriptions, and acquisitions.
  • Implement and manage digital library services and technologies, enhancing the accessibility of electronic legal resources and databases.

Law Librarian Salary & Outlook

Factors influencing a Law Librarian’s salary include years of experience, level of education (e.g., JD, MLS), specialization within law librarianship, type of employer (e.g., academic, government, private firm), job responsibilities, and the demand for law librarians with specific skills or expertise in legal research technologies.

  • Median Annual Salary: $63,525 ($30.54/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $95,000 ($45.67/hour)

The employment of law librarians is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

This growth is driven by the increasing complexity of legal research, the expansion of digital legal resources, and the need for specialized skills in managing and navigating vast legal databases, ensuring law professionals have access to accurate, up-to-date legal information.

Law Librarian Job Requirements

Education: A Law Librarian typically holds a Master’s Degree in Library Science (MLS) or Information Science, often with a specialization in law librarianship. A Bachelor’s Degree in law, legal studies, or a related field is common groundwork. Coursework in legal research, information technology, and management of legal resources is crucial. Additionally, a Post-Master’s Certificate in Law Librarianship can enhance expertise, focusing on advanced legal research, digital resource management, and specialized legal databases.

Experience: Law Librarians typically possess a blend of experience, including a significant tenure in legal research and library management. Their background often encompasses hands-on training in legal databases, cataloging, and reference services, alongside practical experience in a law library setting. Many have undergone formal training programs to hone their skills in information technology relevant to legal research. On-the-job training in customer service, legal research methodologies, and library administration is also common, ensuring they are well-versed in both the theoretical and practical aspects of the role.

Certifications & Licenses: Certifications and licenses are not typically required for the position of a Law Librarian.

Law Librarian Skills

Legal Research: Law librarians gather and analyze statutes, case law, legal precedents, and regulatory requirements with precision. They utilize specialized databases and traditional resources to compile legal materials, ensuring research is accurate and comprehensive.

Cataloging: Organizing and classifying legal materials, including books, journals, and digital resources, allows for quick information retrieval. Law librarians apply metadata and standards, such as the Library of Congress Classification (LCC), to keep collections accessible and current.

Database Management: Law librarians manage legal databases, including case law, statutes, and regulations, to provide timely access to accurate information. Their meticulous attention to detail and adaptability to new technologies ensure a seamless research process.

Reference Interviewing: By conducting thorough reference interviews, law librarians uncover the true nature of patrons’ requests. Their approach involves precise, open-ended questioning and a supportive demeanor, helping patrons navigate their legal research.

Collection Development: Law librarians select and acquire legal texts, journals, and digital resources that reflect the evolving needs of the legal community. They balance budget constraints with the need for updated and expanded resources to support research, teaching, and practice.

Information Literacy Instruction: Law librarians teach patrons to locate, evaluate, and use legal information across various formats. Their guidance helps users become proficient in navigating the extensive landscape of legal resources, from traditional case law to digital databases.

Law Librarian Work Environment

Law librarians typically work in environments that prioritize quiet and focus, such as academic institutions, law firms, or public legal libraries. Their workspaces are often surrounded by extensive collections of legal texts, digital databases, and research materials, necessitating a comfortable familiarity with both traditional and modern information retrieval methods.

The nature of their work demands regular office hours, though some flexibility may be required during periods of high demand, such as leading up to major trials or during university exam seasons. The dress code tends to mirror the professional standards of their workplace, ranging from business casual in academic settings to more formal attire in corporate law firms.

Interaction with others is a significant aspect of their role, involving not just assisting patrons with research but also collaborating with legal professionals and students. This requires a balance between solitary research tasks and interpersonal communication, all within a setting that values discretion and confidentiality. Opportunities for professional development are often available, reflecting the evolving nature of both the legal field and information technology.

Advancement Prospects

Law librarians have a unique career trajectory within legal and information sectors. Advancement often involves transitioning from general library duties to specialized research, digital resource management, or administrative roles within academic, corporate, or government law libraries.

To ascend, a law librarian may focus on mastering complex legal databases, becoming proficient in foreign or international law resources, or leading digitization projects.

Elevating to a director or head librarian position requires demonstrated leadership in library operations, budget management, and strategic planning. Engaging in professional associations specific to law librarianship, such as the American Association of Law Libraries, can provide visibility and opportunities for advancement.

Success hinges on a deep understanding of legal research methodologies and the evolving landscape of digital information management.


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