Jennie Findlay is an Information and Research Specialist with a law firm in Edinburgh.
My library background
My path into law librarianship was more by accident than by design. After being advised by my Mum and my careers adviser not to look for a job in libraries (I was told that there was no money in it, and computers would soon be doing it all – this was in the early 1990s), I studied the subject I was academically best at: biology. This led to a university course studying biology and environmental science, but I quickly realised that although I had a personal interest in science, I didn’t want to work as a scientist. Some internet searches helped me find out how I could become a librarian, and with some volunteer work in a school library under my belt, I was accepted for a postgraduate place at Strathclyde University. On qualification, the first job I was offered was in a private law library. The role meant involved a pretty steep learning curve, as I’d never worked with legal information before. Luckily, I loved the work, and have stayed in the sector ever since, moving between roles in private membership bodies and commercial law firms.
My current role
My current role is a very responsive one, and no two days are the same. I’m employed to provide legal research services, and supply current awareness materials and training to internal users, but quite often I can be juggling all these duties simultaneously! I work as part of a team of three, so enquiries are distributed between us, depending on personal experience and skills. We also communicate with each other about the progress of our enquiries, to share information and gain assistance. This means that although I may be working on or be solely responsible for one enquiry, I can also be helping with multiple other ones at the same time. Since there’s no typical day here, this is a quick snapshot of some of the main enquiries and activities I’ve been involved in recently:
- One of my core duties, and one which takes up a lot of time, is creating multiple current awareness bulletins covering legal and commercial developments in multiple sectors, from hospitality and construction, to employment and the environment.
- I have been supporting my manager while they worked to determine the company structure and ownership of a complex chain of small private companies in the UK, Germany and America.
- I have repeatedly contacted a Scottish Government department to check for any information on the work of a newly formed Scottish Government review group which has not yet appeared online.
- I’ve been trying to source a copy with publishers, libraries and personal contacts of an elusive, out of print Scottish text which a user has requested we find for them.
- I’ve created an information pack containing key staff and business information, and the recent activities of a potential client in England, which a team of solicitors will be visiting soon.
- I spent time working with a trainee to complete legal research on land rights, and guiding them on their drafting of a note informing their line manager of the legal position.
- I have given a short induction to a new member of staff in the firm on the services provided by the library, and the services we offer to users.
- I’ve been arranging for various external trainers to come in and provide training to the fee earners and trainees on subscription resources we use.
- I’ve been liaising with the training coordinator to make sure I don’t clash with other training when booking rooms and equipment for training with external trainers.
- I’ve been contacting suppliers and arranging remote demonstrations and trials of current awareness resources for the library team, as we’re reviewing the suitability of our current supplier.
- I’ve been booking rooms and equipment for delivery of WebEx demonstrations by current awareness suppliers, and attending those demos.
- I did some impromptu weeding of our textbook stock, to remove textbooks which have become outdated.
- I ordered a new textbook, in response to a user requesting a specific text which is relevant to their business area.
- In breaks, I began collating and analysing responses for a salary survey I set up for Scottish legal information professionals, to allow for better benchmarking of salaries in the sector.
Due to a previous employer going into administration suddenly, I had to temporarily move out of the legal information sector in 2013. This move led to me working initially in an academic setting, and then in the information service of a large public body. Despite all my previous professional experience being gained in legal information roles, my transferable skills were recognised by the selection panels for these other positions, and the interviews I was invited for were often for roles based around the skills of managing data or information: grants manager; bids administrator, Open Access assistant etc. During interviews, I was also told that the interviewers understood that my information management skills were not restricted to dealing with legal information, and that my experience was useful in different settings. So, if you think that you have to stay in the work sector you start out in because you end up corralled there, don’t! Potential employers can often be more open-minded about transferable skills than you may think.
Thanks to Jennie for telling us about law librarianship and giving useful tips about changing sectors. She is willing to answer questions – in the first instance please leave a comment below.
You might also be interested in another blogger who wrote about being a law librarian this week. Check out this post on Renaissance Utterances.