A few weeks ago, a local library association put out its call for proposals for an upcoming conference. The conference will focus on breaking down silos, and one point of emphasis is whether your library involves members of the community or local government in library instruction. As I was thinking of possible proposal topics, I realized my library does quite a bit of outreach to the profession and wondered how many other libraries bring in practicing attorneys (and other legal professionals) to provide their words of legal research wisdom.
At least three of our advanced legal research classes actively introduce practitioners into the classroom to provide real-life stories of best practices for legal research. These professionals have included e-discovery experts, current awareness gurus, and lawyers specializing in areas ranging from real estate to medical malpractice. We don’t always know what stories we will get, but the experiences have always been excellent. The students are engaged and ask great questions, and the attorneys enjoy the experience. If you have never reached out to the local legal community for assistance, you should consider tapping into this great resource. And I haven’t even mentioned the benefits we see from partnering with outside librarians.
The following tips can help things go as smoothly as possible.
Start Planning Early
My calendar starts to fill up weeks in advance, and I plan events as if everyone else is in a similar situation. I recommend reaching out to any potential guests as early as possible. The last time I made arrangements with local lawyers, I started contacting leads three months before the date. I then followed up with additional information periodically to provide topic information and to keep the date in the back of their minds. It helped me send subtle reminders while also keeping things on track.
Help with Every Logistic Imaginable
At least one of my communications always includes information about the logistics of getting to the law school. For someone who has seldom, if ever, been to your place of work, issues such as directions, parking, and the layout of the building could be a headache you can easily help them avoid. For most of us, I am sure parking is the biggest issue and may take the longest to get straightened out.
Let the Professionals and Students Dictate the Discussion
My best experience with an outside speaker involved the director of the Law Practice Management Program with the Georgia Bar Association. I gave our speaker some basic parameters but decided it would be interesting to leave the plan pretty open and see what happened. It ended up being completely different from what I expected and turned into a very enlightening hour for everyone. The speaker detailed the program’s robust consulting business with law firms of all sizes and the multitude of business-related issues most firms face. After the speaker left, the students spent the next hour bringing up questions about the discussion — so much so that we just could not move on to the next topic.
For your next classroom experience, don’t hesitate to reach out to those in the greater legal community to contribute. There is evidence that guest speakers are effective even in accounting classrooms. Certainly, if the accounting profession can do it, so can the law librarian community.