Being thrust into the world of articling student training in the first few months of your law librarianship career is perhaps the most effective way to understand the struggles of new students entering a large corporate firm. Although it sometimes felt like the “blind-leading-the-blind”, having little to no previous knowledge offered me insight into the perspective of new students and new lawyers. Now two years in, I’ve noticed some key distinctions to be made between the needs and expectations of both groups when it comes to training.

Articling Students

For the most part, the thing to keep in mind about summer students, and articling students alike, is that they usually have limited understanding of the demands of lawyers and specific practice areas, as well as the types and volume of requests they can expect to encounter. In that respect, it’s best to keep the following in mind:

  • Present a broad overview of resources rather than being too narrow in scope.
  • For orientation training, stick to the main major resources like Lexis Advance Quicklaw, Westlaw, CanLII, Proview and key practice group texts.
  • You don’t have to train on everything! Remember, you can book Quicklaw and Westlaw trainers individually. They will typically have a deeper understanding of what will or won’t be of interest.
  • Don’t be exhaustive—they won’t remember much because they have little to no context for when or how they’ll use each resource.
  • Prepare examples of questions that they’ll most likely encounter and the types of solutions they’d be expected to provide. E.g. Questions about case law, corporate filings, specific situations that might require Proview or specific resources, etc.
  • Reassure students that lawyers will not receive feedback about the students from librarians.
  • Encourage students to ask clarifying questions of lawyers when asked for something. Oftentimes, lawyers will forget that students are new to legal jargon and concepts.

Lawyers

When hiring new lawyers, they’ll most often than not be entering the firm with a specific practice group. This means, unlike the new articling/summer students, the training should be more tailored to their specific needs. The more senior a lawyer is, the more they’ll have a better understanding of the types of material they need for their practice.

  • Lawyers will have their own assistants to take care of pulling case law, precedents, forms, etc. Therefore, have a structure to the training, but conduct it as a discussion. Generally, lawyers are have much greater knowledge within a particular area than you. They may offer certain suggestions on what they’d like to be shown.
  • Catering to the lawyer’s practice area means that training sessions can be compressed to 30-45 minutes.
  • Show specific resources catered to the lawyer’s practice group.
  • Offer any extra services provided by the library like: media monitoring, legislation tracking, current awareness, account setup for specific resources, etc.
  • Ask what texts they’re used to having at their desk. If budget permits, offer to acquire those texts for them. At NRFC, we have a specific set of desk copies that we get for practice group lawyers, with the approval of practice group heads.

These are just some main differences that I’ve noticed over the past couple years at NRFC that truly differentiate between the needs of students and lawyers. This is not exhaustive, by any means. But, I find that these slight differences help to cater the training sessions to the appropriate audience. Hopefully this insight will be helpful for any new librarians preparing for their own foray into training!

-Danielle Chiang, Research Librarian, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada