What does a law librarian do?

Would you make a good law librarian? Take our career test and find your match with over 800 careers.

Take the free career test Learn more about the career test

What is a Law Librarian?

A law librarian manages and provides access to legal resources within a law library. These professionals typically work in law schools, law firms, government agencies, or court libraries, supporting the legal research needs of attorneys, judges, law students, and other legal professionals. Law librarians acquire, organize, and maintain legal materials, including statutes, case law, regulations, legal treatises, and other relevant documents, to facilitate efficient legal research.

Law librarians also offer assistance and guidance to library users in navigating legal databases, conducting effective research, and accessing authoritative legal information. They may contribute to legal education by providing instruction on research methodologies and staying abreast of developments in legal information systems and technologies. Additionally, law librarians often collaborate with legal professionals to ensure that the library's collection remains current, relevant, and aligned with the evolving needs of the legal community.

What does a Law Librarian do?

A law librarian updating the library's collection.

Duties and Responsibilities
Law librarians have a diverse range of duties and responsibilities, catering to the unique information needs of legal professionals. Here are key aspects of their role:

  • Collection Development: Select and acquire legal resources such as statutes, case law, legal treatises, regulations, and legal periodicals to build and maintain a comprehensive collection. Continuously assess the relevance and currency of legal materials, making informed decisions about additions, withdrawals, or updates to the library's collection.
  • Cataloging and Classification: Develop accurate bibliographic records for legal materials, adhering to cataloging standards and classification systems such as Library of Congress Classification (LCC) or Dewey Decimal Classification. Implement effective cataloging practices to ensure the accessibility and discoverability of legal resources within the library's catalog.
  • Reference and Research Assistance: Provide reference services to legal professionals, including attorneys, judges, and law students, offering guidance on legal research methodologies, citation formats, and effective use of legal databases. Conduct training sessions or workshops to educate library users on legal research tools, databases, and emerging technologies.
  • Legal Database Management: Oversee legal databases and electronic resources, ensuring proper organization, functionality, and accessibility. Stay current with updates and changes to legal databases. Facilitate user access to legal databases, troubleshoot technical issues, and assist in navigating complex legal information systems.
  • Reference Materials and Research Guides: Develop research guides and pathfinders to assist library users in navigating legal resources efficiently. Curate a collection of reference materials and tools to aid legal professionals in answering legal questions and conducting thorough research.
  • Legal Information Literacy: Collaborate with legal educators to integrate information literacy into legal education programs, fostering effective research skills among law students. Offer workshops or training sessions on legal information literacy, focusing on critical thinking and research skills.
  • Collaboration and Outreach: Work closely with attorneys, judges, and legal scholars to understand their research needs and align library resources with current legal trends. Engage in outreach activities, such as participating in legal conferences or events, to promote the law library's resources and services.
  • Administration and Management: Oversee the day-to-day operations of the law library, including budget management, staffing, and the implementation of library policies. Ensure compliance with legal and ethical standards related to library operations, copyright, and intellectual property.
  • Professional Development: Stay abreast of developments in legal research methodologies, information technologies, and changes in legal regulations by participating in professional development activities, attending conferences, and engaging with legal and library associations.

Types of Law Librarians
Law librarians can specialize in various areas, each catering to specific aspects of legal information management. Here are some common types of law librarians:

  • Academic Law Librarian: Works in law school libraries, supporting the research and information needs of law students, faculty, and researchers. Provides instructional sessions on legal research methodologies and resources.
  • Government Law Librarian: Works in government agencies, providing legal research support for attorneys, policymakers, and government officials. Manages legal collections that may include statutes, regulations, and administrative decisions.
  • Court Law Librarian: Works in a court library, supporting judges, attorneys, and court staff with legal research needs. Manages collections related to case law, court rules, and legal reference materials.
  • Law Firm Librarian: Works in a law firm, assisting attorneys and legal staff with legal research and information retrieval. Manages legal databases, coordinates library resources, and stays updated on legal information tools.
  • Corporate Law Librarian: Works in the legal department of a corporation, managing legal resources and providing support for in-house attorneys. May focus on legal research related to business operations and compliance.
  • Special Collections Law Librarian: Works with rare books, manuscripts, and special collections in law libraries. Specializes in preserving and providing access to unique legal materials.
  • Digital Services Law Librarian: Focuses on managing and providing access to digital legal resources and databases. Specializes in the organization and maintenance of electronic legal materials.
  • Reference Law Librarian: Primarily focuses on providing reference services, assisting users with legal research inquiries. May develop research guides and conduct training sessions.
  • Serials Law Librarian: Specializes in cataloging and managing legal periodicals, journals, and other serials. Ensures access to current and historical legal publications.
  • Foreign and International Law Librarian: Specializes in foreign and international legal research, supporting users with global legal inquiries. Manages collections related to international law and legal systems.
  • Metadata Law Librarian: Specializes in creating metadata for legal resources, ensuring accurate and consistent cataloging. Focuses on enhancing the discoverability of legal materials.
  • Legal Technology Librarian: Integrates technology into legal research services, manages legal databases, and explores new tools to enhance efficiency. Collaborates with IT departments to implement and maintain legal information systems.

Law librarians have distinct personalities. Think you might match up? Take the free career test to find out if law librarian is one of your top career matches. Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of a Law Librarian like?

The workplace of a law librarian can vary based on the type of institution in which they are employed. Law librarians may work in diverse settings, including law schools, government agencies, law firms, courts, and corporate legal departments. The physical environment often consists of a combination of office space, specialized library stacks, and dedicated research areas. In academic settings, law librarians are an integral part of law school libraries, working alongside faculty and students to support legal education and research.

In law firms, law librarians contribute to the efficient functioning of legal teams by managing legal information resources, conducting research, and providing critical support to attorneys. The fast-paced nature of law firms often requires law librarians to be adept at handling a wide range of legal databases, research tools, and information retrieval systems. Government law librarians working in agencies or courts play a vital role in assisting legal professionals with access to legislative materials, case law, and administrative decisions. Their work environments may include dedicated legal research spaces within government buildings.

The workplace of a law librarian reflects the evolving nature of legal information management, with an increasing emphasis on digital resources. Law librarians often work with electronic databases, online legal research tools, and digital archives to ensure the accessibility and accuracy of legal information. Collaboration with IT departments is common, as law librarians integrate technology into their services, manage digital collections, and stay current with advancements in legal information systems.

Collaboration is a key aspect of a law librarian's workplace, as they often interact with attorneys, judges, legal scholars, and other legal professionals. This collaborative environment extends to participating in interdisciplinary projects, providing legal research training, and contributing to the overall knowledge management strategies within their institutions. The workplace of a law librarian is dynamic, requiring adaptability to the evolving landscape of legal information, technology, and the diverse needs of legal professionals they serve.

Frequently Asked Questions