Quick tips to improve relationships for law librarians with lawyers

Earlier today the SLLG on @scotlawlibs tweeted a link titled: 7 Quick Tips to Improve Relationships with Frustrated Lawyers

You can read the full article, which was designed to help law librarians understand the position of lawyers when they approach them with an enquiry, but the 7 tips can be summarised thusly

  1. Learn to speak the lawyer’s language: Drop legal buzzwords into communications, it will show the lawyer you are on the same wavelength.
  2. Be tactical: Teach a lawyer where the free resources are that they can use without you.
  3. Patience: Law is a high stress environment and it is the lawyer with a query from a frustrated client who is your frustrated client.
  4. Be open: Encourage direct communication and accept feedback from a lawyer to let them know you want to improve the support for them personally.
  5. Show your value: Develop resources to give your lawyer the edge.
  6. Minimise interruptions: Provide updates and news at a time when a lawyer is most likely to be able to digest it.
  7. “It’s not me, it’s you”: You might bear the brunt of a lawyer’s frustrations just because you happen to be there in front of them.

We know that the best relationships are reciprocal, so we have quickly put together 7 tips back to lawyers from law librarians.

So here are our own 7 tips (+1) to improve relationships with exasperated law librarians when a lawyer has an information enquiry

  1. Don’t law-speak: While legal terminology can be useful and necessary, legalese for the sake of it is prone to confuse and slow an enquiry. Law librarians will know a surprising amount of law terminology, but cannot be expert in all fields of law specialisms or maxims.
  2. Everything has to come from somewhere: Not everything is on the internet. Not everything on the internet is free.
  3. Good time, Sunshine: Ask for all information as fully as possible in the one visit and be realistic with the timeframe. It’s not just you asking for something ASAP or Urgently, and in the words of Chief Engineer Scotty “Ye cannae change the laws O’Fizzicks” : a printer will take the time it takes, just the same as an interlibrary loan request or a book purchase order being fulfilled. A law librarian cannot operate outside the concept of time.
  4. Be like a crystal and make clear: Ask for the accurate and exact information you need, how you want it delivered and when you really need it. A trainee or PA asking on your behalf can distort the enquiry and cannot answer any follow-up questions and so simply adds delay. Speak to the librarian directly.
  5. There’s more going on than meets the eye: The law librarian is providing an equally high quality service to more than just a single lawyer. The law librarian might have numerous enquiries spinning as well as maintaining a raft of resources and keeping a watch on working within any licenses and legal framework. In order to do this successfully, they must develop a service which is not always tailored to your immediate requirements, but for the benefit of all service users.
  6. Ask your friendly neighbourhood law librarian: Ask your law librarian for help anytime you need it. Instead of spending hours trawling internet sites and Google, use a law librarian’s skills. These are specialists employed to find information efficiently and with authority offline or online, so don’t waste the real resources of the law library.
  7. Sometimes there is nothing up our sleeves: Occasionally the law librarian simply can’t get the information you require. But there will always be a good reason for this. It won’t be for the want of trying every option available to them, including some dark arts known only to information professionals. Often it will be because the information does not exist.
  8. HULK Q.C. SMASH!: It would seem that this point should go without making it (so we have added it to the end), but please don’t take your frustrations out on the law librarian. Law librarians are fellow professionals, equally adept at their job as you are at yours, and, likewise, are just as easy to upset as anyone else.


The point probably is this:

True communication and genuine understanding of both the pressures and expectations put on the lawyer and the law librarian are key to creating a professional relationship which will stand up to them.

If you have any other suggestions for tips, please add them to the comments section.

Many thanks to SLLG members, Lorna and Fiona, for their input and contributions to this post.


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