Lorna Robertson is Librarian in an Edinburgh law firm and is also active in the Scottish Law Librarians Group. Here, she gives us glimpses of both and how they interact.
While an undergraduate student (of environmental science!) I spent my summer holidays working as a holiday relief library assistant for Edinburgh City Libraries. This reignited my childhood interest in librarianship as a career and I then did an MSc in Library and Information Studies at Loughborough University.
I had never considered law librarianship as a career but in 1995, to escape from temping, I took a job in the library of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow, a private, members-only law library. I knew nothing about law then so it was a steep learning curve, but thankfully the library side of things was familiar which made things easier. I quickly moved on from there to the Advocates Library, and then into law firms in 1998. I am currently the librarian for Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP, working in the Edinburgh office as part of a small knowledge management team.
In Scotland most law firm librarians work in small teams or are solo librarians: this means that there is a lot of variety in the work that we do. In Shepherd and Wedderburn the library staff look after the books and journals, we subscribe to legal databases, we buy new books, we carry out legal research for the lawyers, we provide a daily current awareness bulletin, we help look after the knowledge part of the intranet, we do company research and much more. As you can guess from that list no two days are the same but a typical day for me could be something along these lines –
8.50 – arrive at work, get the computer fired up and make a cup of tea.
9.00 – quickly check over my email and the library helpdesk email to see if there is anything urgent that needs my attention.
9.10 – deal with the post. Mondays and Fridays always have lots of new journals and we need to get these out on circulation to the lawyers as soon as possible. Journals are logged into the library management system and this generates circulation lists which we staple to the journal.
9.30 – process the week’s invoices which need to be stamped and authorised for payment, then sent on to the finance team. I also record the details on the LMS so that I have all the information I need if there are any queries about an invoice later.
10.30 – download some company reports to be used in anti-money laundering checks. This is simple if the company is registered in the UK, but if it’s a foreign company things become trickier.
10.45 – check some law report citations for a lawyer and point them to the correct databases to find the full text of the cases.
11.00 – weekly meeting with the head of knowledge management. We use this time to update on projects or other issues and to make plans – it is very useful in keeping things moving along.
11.30 – do research for a fee-earner into the energy sectors in Iceland and South Africa. In both instances the government websites proved to be really useful sources of information.
12.45 – lunchtime. I have recently been sitting in on the training sessions for the trainee lawyers. This is proving useful in increasing my knowledge of law and the actual day to day work of the lawyers: the more I know the better I can support the lawyers.
2.00 – admin work on the knowledge part of the intranet – adding submissions to the knowledge bank and making some changes to the structure of the page for the employment team.
3.30 – meeting with an account manager to discuss the renewal of a subscription to an online database.
4.30 – find and email the up to date version of the Building Societies Act 1997 to a partner and download some more company reports.
4.55 – help someone find a book they need to consult before a client meeting in the morning.
5.00 – the end of my official work day but I am off to a committee meeting of the Scottish Law Librarians Group.
Of course no day ever runs quite so smoothly. The requests for help are usually urgent so the admin is put aside while I deal with the enquiry. I usually keep tasks which need a lot of concentration, such as work on the annual budget, to days when the assistant librarian is working so that she can deal with the enquiries and minimise my interruptions.
I am currently Secretary of the Scottish Law Librarians Group (SLLG) and have been an SLLG member for many years. The SLLG provides support, training and networking opportunities for law librarians, legal information professionals in Scotland and others interested in Scottish legal information. Some recent events are a training course on European Union information, a speed networking meeting and a visit to the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh. I highly recommend becoming involved with the profession through CILIP, a local group or a specialised group such as SLLG. If you join a committee there’s a chance to gain skills you wouldn’t in your day to day job, such as organising events and courses, and you get to work with some great people. Over the years I have found SLLG to be an invaluable support and resource – if you are interested in law librarianship in Scotland please take a look at our website.
Thanks to Lorna – I strongly agree with her on the benefits of getting involved in professional bodies. Lorna is happy to be contacted by comments on the blog, by email or in person. Please use the reply box below in the first instance. You can also find out more about Lorna on her LinkedIn profile, on her blog or on Twitter where she is @lmrlib.