Reference from Coast to Coast – Summer Associate Welcome

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Welcome to Reference From Coast to Coast: Sources and Strategies, a monthly column written by Jan Bissett and Margi Heinen.

Jan Bissett is a Reference Librarian in the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan office of Dickinson Wright PLLC. She is a past president of the Michigan Association of Law Libraries and has published articles on administrative and research related topics in the Michigan Association of Law Libraries Newsletter and Michigan Defense Quarterly. She and Margi Heinen team teach Legal Information Sources and Services for Wayne State University’s Library and Information Science Program in Detroit, Michigan.

Margi Heinen is the Librarian at Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer & Weiss in Detroit, Michigan. She teaches Legal Resources at the University of Michigan’s School of Information and is team teaching with her co-columnist, Jan Bissett, at Wayne State University’s School of Library and Information Science. She regularly does Internet training of legal staff at her firm and recently collaborated with Kathleen Gamache on an I.P.E. presentation, Internet Strategies for the Paralegal in Michigan. She is active in the Law Librarians of Metro Detroit and is a member of the American Association of Law Libraries.

April showers bring….May’s class of summer associates! Before long law firms will be welcoming summer associates or perhaps new associates fresh from graduation. Finding appropriate ways to introduce the “new kids” to your firm’s culture and expectations is a challenge even if you already have a training procedure in place. How do we law firm librarians assist in this process?

Some resources on the web can help by providing a discussion of sources, training materials, and descriptions of experiences. LexisNexis™’s InfoPro Summer Associates Toolkit 2001 (which can be found as cached if you search Google, includes Joan Ogden’s article, All My Children, originally published in the CALL Bulletin, Issue 177, Summer, 2000. Ms. Ogden proposes planning as you would for any new arrival by knowing the due dates, setting aside quality time, being supportive and realizing your responsibility for teaching. The need for law firm librarians to be teachers is echoed in Nancy Tuohy’s article, The Librarian’s Place in the Life of the Summer Associate, published in AALL Spectrum, March, 2001:14 and at . Mary Lynn Wagner offers a look at the Cincinnati librarians’ program in Cincinnati Librarians Give Summer Associates an “Inside Look” at the Legal Profession. Also here at LLRX are plenty of tips on preparing training sessions in the Presentations Resource Center.

Law librarians aren’t the only folks interested in summer associate training. The two big providers of online legal research have offerings to help summer associates. Summer Daze: Ten Tips for Surviving Summer Associate Season, written by Michael Saint-Onge offers 10 suggestions . Since this appears at the LexisNexis™ Information Professionals page, it includes tips on using PowerInvoice™ to check on summer associates usage, knowing your Lexis® contract and getting training from Lexis® reps. Research suggestions from the Westlaw® slant are available in Joanne Dugan’s Summer Associate Training Curriculum. Her curriculum includes cost effective techniques and strategies for common research problems.

These writings highlight the librarian’s role in summer associate orientation. We offer the following as points to be considered when dealing with your summer associates.

Be A Known Quantity

Make sure you are introduced to the summer associates and that they know what you and your staff do. Librarians need to be proactive since the new folks will be pulled in many directions. If you cannot get the time for a full scale presentation, start by making certain you are included in their walk-through.

Teach The Reference Interview

Law students are not taught how to query authority figures. Summer associates want to appear as knowledgeable as possible and asking questions may be seen as a weakness. We librarians know how important it is to ask for more details before walking away with an assignment. We have the advantage of AALL’s Research Instruction & Patron Services SIS acronym- JUST ASK© (jurisdiction, useful tips, scope, terms of art, acronyms, sources and key cost constraints)- to remind us of important questions to ask. The University of Missouri-Columbia Law Library has put together a guide for summer associates that describes the reference interview in terms any law student understands — negotiate your research contract in Research Spotlight — Summer Associate Research Strategies.

Make a list (and share it) of the frequently used practice sources

Here in Michigan we have our own Uniform System of Citation for materials filed in state courts, but this is always a new source to summer associates. Similarly, new associates may be unaware of local court rules, annotated court rules, your state’s administrative code, form books, and “practice and pleading” treatises. Introduce these sources in your orientation or presentation to new associates and be prepared to remind them when the first appropriate assignment appears.

Introduce the world of “there is no clear answer”

Law students are taught with examples that work. A research assignment tends to have lots of ways to reach The Answer so that the student gets experience with the sources and techniques of legal research. In the real world, young associates often get the question whose answer has eluded seasoned partners. We practitioners who know the daily frustrations of elusive answers need to teach summer associates to be comprehensive and thorough so that when no answer appears they can describe their research with confidence.

Change the habits created by law school years of free online research

For many firms time is spent each summer repeating to new associates the mantra “online research costs money.” Cost effective search techniques are crucial to surviving at a law firm. Every minute spent teaching summer associates to plan their searches before going online is money saved. Even law schools see the need for expanding students research horizons. Suffolk’s Law Library includes on their website a resource for summer associates that gets right to the heart of the research debate: How to research without using Lexis or Westlaw. When you talk to your summer associates, many of whom have received free passwords or other give-aways, acknowledge this gift for what it is – a sales pitch.

The legal research process includes a written trail

Those practitioners with years of experience have had time to hone their instincts. We can anticipate some of the questions that develop when handing a partner the results of your research. Summer associates have not had to explain the process followed while doing research or remember what side trails appeared that they didn’t follow while they searched for The Answer. As they learn the ropes, they will have to explain their research and possibly revisit it. We can help by explaining the importance of keeping careful notes.

We hope you and your summer associates will find some helpful hints among the above. May your summer bring a garden of delights!

Links Mentioned in this Article
All My Children

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Cincinnati Librarians Give Summer Associates an “Inside Look” at the Legal

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InfoPro Summer Associates Toolkit 2001

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Presentations Resource Center

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Research Spotlight — Summer Associate Research Strategies.

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Summer Associates Toolkit – (as cached)

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Summer Daze: Ten Tips for Surviving Summer Associate Season

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The Librarian’s Place in the Life of the Summer Associate

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How to research without using Lexis or Westlaw

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Posted in: Legal Research Training, Reference from Coast to Coast, Summer Associate Programs