The more you do the better you get
Feb 13, 2015
Once upon a time, I was attending a law Librarian conference. As I was perusing the offerings of the various vendors I stopped in front of the CEB table. Seems CEB had a few offering (one of which I was familiar with) and I was interested in what Suzanne Smith (our vivacious CEB Representative) had to say. Standing next to me at the CEB table was the Director of a well-known Southern California law school law library. Seems Director was only slightly interested in CEB's offerings because, as he noted, law schools don't teach practical knowledge (i.e. the "how" of legal research). Turning to Director, I asked, "if all you teach is theory, how are your students going to be able to find the law when they graduate from law school (with $200,000+ in serviceable debt)? Director replied - "that's what law firms are for."
Uh, I don't think so - and neither do a whole bunch of other people. In fact, The Los Angeles Daily Journal published an article a while back called "It's time to rethink law school" which noted that law schools need to change how they teach law students if they want to stay in business (at least, that's my take). Heck, there are lots of articles out in legal land that say law schools need to change how to they teach (i.e. moving from theory to practice) such as from the Washington State Bar Association, the ABA Law Journal, and the New York Times.. Bottom line, graduates are going out into the world with only theoretical knowledge and debt that rivals some 3rd world countries yet few of them have a clue about what to do once they pass the bar.
It was for that reason that I set out to create a series of basic legal research classes to help new law school graduates (and pro pers and paralegals and seasoned litigants) learn both the basics of legal research as well as some additional tidbits that they should have learned in law school (or, would have learned had they gone to law school) so they could find AND apply the law. The result is that on the second Tuesday of each month, the Riverside County Law Library hosts a continuing series: Legal Research 101 (because you gotta start somewhere). Classes are about one hour long and cover how to use and find primary and secondary authorities and how to use online resources like WestlawNext, Lexis, CEB OnLaw, and HeinOnline. Other courses cover how to find and use legal forms in various practical settings, locating (actually useful) legal websites, and learning the seven steps of how to conduct both an in-print and online California Legislative Intent Search. Six classes all designed to help anyone face the legal arena with less fear and more confidence. Anyone looking to join in the fun can contact the Riverside County Law Library at (951) 368-0368 and we'll be more than happy to provide you all the details.
Bret is a Legal Research & Instructional Services Librarian at our Main Library.