Tuesday 5 September 2017

Law librarians and the importance of training

May your training room be full!
In this article I want to highlight the vital role that UK legal information professionals play annually each September. My team can testify to the fact that late summer is a busy time. Those of us involved in legal private practice are preparing for a new intake of trainee lawyers. Depending on the size of the client firm, this can be from 5-20+ new starters, so there is much to do. 

From early July we start planning and co-ordinating with the in-house learning and development teams. By late August we are finalising presentations, updating guidance notes, and tweaking test questions. We also oversee the administration of new password creation and sending out new joiner emails. Then once the training is completed, we are on hand for any post-training issues. Inevitably we field questions, and follow up with further sessions, as required.

By way of background, solicitors of England and Wales go through an extensive education and training process before qualification. The professional routes vary, but generally, solicitors complete a law degree, followed by the Legal Practice Course (LPC). If they haven’t done a law degree, after graduating, they can take the Common Professional Examination (CPE) or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course, again followed by the LPC.

Although the LPC covers important aspects of practice management, such as accounting, risk and compliance, etc., prospective solicitors still have much to learn. The mandatory two year training contract is an essential way of honing commercial acumen, fleshing out academic study, and getting valuable work experience. As you can imagine, competition for these generally well paid placements is fierce, and it is a fine balance between meeting the needs of the organisation, and getting the best experience for the trainee.

The library service contributes an essential part of that practical training. After all, researching an end of term paper for a law degree is different from resolving an urgent client issue. All online database providers now offer training services. In previous years I have engaged external trainers, as a supplement to my own presentations. For some information professionals, this teaching element can be challenging, hence the growing number of companies specialising in training.

For information professionals looking to take the lead on training, we can acquire the right skills in many ways. We can attend conferences and discuss best teaching practice; we can complete MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) on training for trainers and adult learners; and ultimately through practice and experience. These endless facets of legal information provision not only make our role personally rewarding, but professionally influential.

It is this influence I wanted to cultivate this September. In my role as a UK legal information specialist, I wanted to demonstrate that our team can exceed all expectations. It is imperative that we build trust with our legal clients. And what better way to make our mark, than to invest our own time in our client firms’ raw legal talent. Our role as trusted educators of future legal influencers is key to our on-going success.

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