by Dean Duane Strojny
Because of another blog posting forwarded to me recently, I am moved to discuss the bar exam and the role libraries could, should, and must play in the preparation of it.
This is a critical time for law schools in this country. There are many experimental programs that have yet to prove their worth given the time and effort, not to mention the money, that students put into attending law school. During the interpretation of the latest bar exam results, it is easy for schools to forget that the next exam is less than five months away. New ideas can quickly be put on the back burner. Since there are finals and semester breaks between now and then, the time will quickly pass. It’s never too early to start thinking about bar prep programming for the next bar exam.
The vast majority of law school students intend to graduate and work with traditional types of legal questions whether they are in law firms, government, or corporate settings. The real question for librarians might be what is the purpose of law school and how can the library help?
Supporting academic programs is essential. Also, toss in assisting faculty in research. Finally, add a little alumni and general pro se assistance for good measure, and you likely have the basis for a solid library program. However, today there is something larger looming in our futures. Students walking across the stage are not completely done with us. There are bar exams and job interviews to secure. Bar preparation is not to be taken lightly. There are many schools with struggling students who deserve the opportunity to become licensed lawyers. These students often thrive with a little extra attention and support. By having some programming in place that all students can take advantage of, the library continues to serve the institution in new ways.
So, what can the library do to help students on the cusp of beginning new careers?
1. Maintain a strong connection with your student support office. Constantly remind them that the library is a great place to study and can serve as a resource center for bar preparation.
2. Profile a bar preparation collection. There are many print resources available to assist students. Make them readily available and make sure all the reference staff know where and what they are. This might be one area where buying print materials might be a wise choice.
3. Create a research guide that directs students to both online and print resources. Those who would not think of stepping into the library after graduating might actually click on some links for assistance.
4. Make space specifically for bar exam studying. From study rooms to an area of tables or carrels, it is easy to delegate a specific area for a few months before the exam. It makes the students feel more supported in this tough task that lies ahead.
5. Partner with other law school departments to sponsor programs on bar prep, career services, and financial skills. All of these topics are important to upper level students as well as recent graduates. There is no limit to thinking outside of the box with programming ideas among your colleagues and many departments know how to successfully attract people to their events.
6. Remind library staff about the bar exam dates. If librarians are assisting in appropriate outreach, they will be cognizant of the dates and be able to become well-wishers and supporters along the path to those important dates.
Remember that the mission of the library is to support the academic endeavors of the law school. With this in mind, outreach for bar preparation is of utmost importance and can pay great dividends especially if institution bar results improve and can be linked to any of the library’s efforts.
The following is a small compilation of bar prep research guides that can either be general or state specific: