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Everything You Need to Know About the Law Society Library: Value, Innovation, and Service

By Alan Kilpatrick

This talk was presented at the University of Regina Academic and Special Library Celebration Symposium on December 6th, 2018. 

Good morning.  I’m excited to be here to speak about law libraries, because working in a law library is an experience I’ve found to be deeply rewarding.  I’d like to take this opportunity to provide some background on the Law Society Library, to talk about what I do as a law librarian, and to convey the vibrancy, variety, and complexities of modern law libraries.

The Law Society of Saskatchewan regulates Saskatchewan’s legal profession.  To govern lawyers, the Law Society enforces standards for conduct and competence.  The goal in regulating competence is to protect the public.  While the Law Society isn’t a government organization, it’s authorized by legislation to carry out this task.  Every province has a Law Society which also supports a law library system.

Organizationally, the library is part of the Law Society’s Legal Resources department.  The library supports the legal information needs of all 1800 lawyers in the province, as well as the public, by providing a practitioner-focused legal collection covering every area of Canadian law, legal information services, and research assistance.  We’ve also stepped into the role of publisher and database developer.  Saskatchewan is too small to attract much attention from Canada’s legal publishers, so we’ve created a variety of Saskatchewan-focused legal publications and databases.

We provide two staffed libraries in the Regina and Saskatoon Queen’s Bench Courthouses as well as several unstaffed libraries in rural courthouses.  I play a leading role in day to day operations in Regina, our main branch.  We have a library technician and two support staff in Regina.  Saskatoon, our secondary branch, has a reference librarian and library technician.

Many law libraries, including ours, have a unique funding model.  Lawyers are required to be members of the Law Society and a portion of their annual fees funds the Library.  We also receive an annual grant from the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan, a charity that distributes interest generated by lawyer trust accounts.

Like most practitioner-focused law libraries, our mandate was historically centred on maintaining lawyer competence by ensuring lawyers had access to the resources they needed to practice.  Technology has enabled law libraries to push the limits of how this is accomplished.  Thanks to the leadership of past library staff, including my fellow panelist Susan Baer, the Library embarked on a desktop access model for online resources that we continue to this day.  Our goal is to facilitate lawyers’ access to online legal resources no matter their location in the province.  This is key as our lawyers are geographically more spread out compared to other provinces.  This approach has led to some challenges.  Primary law (case law and legislation) is generally available online for free.  eBooks and online sources containing legal analysis are not.  Canada’s legal publishers can be resistant to licencing online resources to practitioner law libraries in ways that makes sense for law libraries.

Our mandate has also grown in recent years due to the growing number of individuals representing themselves in court due to Canada’s access-to-justice crisis.  This has enabled us to diversify beyond our historical role and place greater emphasis on serving the public.  Helping the public has become a larger and larger priority for law libraries looking to demonstrate continued relevancy in an environment of budget reduction.

As a librarian in a small special library, I wear multiple hats: I sit on the reference desk, conduct research, help the public, lead instruction sessions, write blog posts, maintain the collection, evaluate new products, help negotiate licences, and so on.  Every day is different.  Like many law librarians, my day is shaped by the reference and research requests I receive.  Our Saskatoon reference librarian, Ken Fox, and I provide a full range of reference services to lawyers in the province.

Lawyers information needs are practical, time sensitive, and can involve any area of the law.  They are connected to a legal action or are part of a lawyer’s efforts to stay up-to-date with the law.  Needs range in complexity from simpler requests to in-depth research on a point of law.  The more straightforward requests I answer could involve locating a case, statute, or literature on an area of the law.  I might be asked to determine sentencing ranges for a criminal offence, identify how courts have interpreted a case or statute, or trace legislative changes.

Ken and I provide in-depth legal research to lawyers as well.  In this situation, a lawyer wants me to locate primary law and legal analysis that supports the argument they plan to make or the amount of damages they want to seek.  I view law librarians as a part of a team effort crucial to a successful legal outcome.  Research requests often take hours to complete.  They’re deeply interesting as I continually learn new things about the law.

Lawyers also contact me to request instruction sessions.  Like academic librarians who teach students about information literacy, law librarians teach legal research using many of the same concepts and principles present in the information literacy class.  For example, I’m currently working with the Law Society’s Professional Development department to develop interactive instruction sessions to lawyers anywhere in the province using distance technology.

Our library is open to the public and I’m available to assist public patrons.  Not all law libraries in Canada are open to the public.  However, we encourage the public to visit and take advantage of our resources and services.  Please refer your students to the Law Society Library if they’re researching the law or need legal information.  We’re happy to help.

We’ve seen a growing number of the public contacting us for assistance in recent years.  This includes inmates from the correctional centres.  Like lawyers, members of the public have a variety of legal information needs.  The most common queries I receive concern family, estates, and criminal law.  How we assist public patrons differs from the assistance we provide to lawyer patrons.

I can provide general information about the law.  However, I’m not a lawyer.  I can’t provide legal advice, interpret the law, or comment on how to proceed with a legal action.  There’s a fine line between legal information and legal advice I’m cognizant of during reference transactions with the public.

I strive to connect our public patrons with plain language legal information.  A great deal of legal information, including many resources in our print and online collection, is written for lawyers.  Legalese is often difficult to comprehend.  Fortunately, there are organizations, such as Saskatchewan’s Public Legal Education Association, dedicated to creating legal content in plain language.  A leading 2013 report, the Access to Civil and Family Justice report, identified the importance of legal information.  It recognized that while more legal information is available online than ever before, its less clear what legal information is credible.  Generally, many people are unaware of how to access reliable legal information relevant to their jurisdiction.  This concept, of course, is central to information literacy instruction in academic libraries.  It’s also one of the reasons the Law Society Library helped create the Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information Project, a partnership among justice stakeholders and public libraries to advance access to legal information.

Law librarians have a natural role to play in helping the public locate legal information.  In fact, I’ll be participating in an exciting pilot project in the new year at the Regina Public Library.  Twice a month, I’ll be at the Central Branch as a law librarian on-site available to help connect the public with legal information.

Thank you.  That’s it for my portion of the panel.  I’ve only scratched the surface of law libraries.  My contact information will be on the final slide.  Please feel free to contact me by emailTwitter, or through my blog if you have any questions.

Free Legal Resources Fair at the Saskatoon Public Library

By Alan Kilpatrick 

The Saskatoon Public Library’s Frances Morrison branch hosted a free Legal Resources Fair during Saskatchewan’s Third Access to Justice Week.  The fair featured a tradeshow, legal assistance clinics, and presentations on legal topics.

The fair’s bustling trade show included representatives from non-profit, government, and community organizations.  It gave members of the public a chance to connect with Saskatoon’s legal service providers.

Volunteer lawyers and law students from the Ministry of Justice, Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan, and Pro Bono Students Canada hosted a free walk-in family law information clinic.  Lawyers from CJC & Co. LLP volunteered to host a free walk-in wills and estates information clinic

Law Society Librarian’s Ken Fox and Alan Kilpatrick were proud to attend the trade show and to connect with members of the public who had questions about legal information.

Hosting a fair like this aligns naturally with the mission of public libraries.  CREATE Justice explains further on its website:

Saskatoon Public Library’s mission includes providing free and open access to resources as well as providing community spaces where people and ideas meet. Through the Legal Resource Fair, we are able to help meet the legal needs of Saskatoon citizens with the tradeshow of service providers, a walk-in family law information clinic, and a walk-in wills & estates information clinic.

The Law Society Library is looking forward to participating in the Regina Public Library’s annual Legal Resources Fair in Winter 2019.

Sources

Create Justice. (2018, October). Saskatchewan access to justice week. Retrieved from https://law.usask.ca/createjustice/saskatchewan-access-to-justice-week.php

Legal Sourcery. (2018, October 24). Free Legal Resources Fair – Saskatoon. Retrieved from https://lsslib.wordpress.com/2018/10/24/free-legal-resources-fair-saskatoon/

Primer on Saskatchewan’s Legalization of Cannabis

By Alan Kilpatrick

Do you need to get up speed on legal cannabis?  The Law Society Library’s team of information professionals have put together this brief primer for you.

You can find a variety of posts about Saskatchewan’s legalization of cannabis on Legal Sourcery, the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library blog:

• Towards Cannabis Legalization in Canada
• Cannabis Legislation in Saskatchewan – Effective When?
More Cannabis Legislation – Effective October 17

Law Society members can purchase this recorded CPD seminar that explores cannabis from insurance, criminal, labour, and law enforcement perspectives:

• Seminar: After the Ash Settles – The Legalisation of Recreational Marijuana (CPD-187)

Saskatchewan’s Public Legal Education Association (PLEA) has also produced this excellent document.  It provides a practical and straightforward overview of the province’s new cannabis regulatory scheme:

• Cannabis Regulation

PLEA, as you know, is a non-profit organization that creates plain language legal information for the public.  Those who want to learn more can also consult this helpful page created by the Government of Saskatchewan:

• Cannabis Use in Saskatchewan

Finally, researchers will be grateful to learn that Saskatchewan’s Legislative Library has created an in-depth bibliography of articles, scholarly sources, and resources that explore legal cannabis use:

• Cannabis: A Select Bibliography

Saskatchewan Library Week – Libraries Transform

By Alan Kilpatrick

Saskatchewan Library Week (SLW), an annual province-wide event, is being celebrated this year from October 14-20, 2018.  SLW celebrates Saskatchewan’s diverse and varied library sector and promotes the many services that libraries provide.  The Saskatchewan Library Association, an organization dedicated to library development, has hosted SLW since 1976.

Saskatchewan is home to over 1200 libraries.  This includes public, school, academic, health, law, and government libraries.  They provide a multitude of dynamic and competitive services to Saskatchewan’s citizens, students, and professionals.  SLW is an opportunity for Saskatchewan’s libraries to stand up and push back against ongoing threats to the library sector.

As a staunch member of Saskatchewan’s library community, the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library proudly celebrates SLW.  Learn more about the innovative service, expertise, and potential the Law Society Library provides at the following links:

• At the Leading Edge of Innovative Service: The Law Society of Saskatchewan Library
Law Society Library Technology Timeline
• Knowledge is Power: Jordan Furlong on Law Librarians and the Future Legal Market
• The Brass Tacks of Librarianship

Sources

• https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/news-and-media/2018/october/16/library-week
 http://saskla.ca/programs/slw/slw-background

Creating CanLII Alerts

By Alan Kilpatrick

Did you know that you can receive instant notifications every time a new case is added to CanLII simply by subscribing to an RSS feed?  Would you like to monitor all new decisions from a particular level of court or administrative tribunal in Saskatchewan?  An RSS feed can do that for you.

RSS feeds deliver instant updates that inform you whenever a website is updated.  In CanLII’s case, they will alert you whenever a new decision is posted.

Our colleagues at the Law Society of Manitoba Library have put together an excellent guide that describes how to Create an Alert with CanLII.

We encourage you to check their guide out.

Source
Manitoba Law Library (2018). Create an alert with CanLII.  Retrieved from http://lawlibrary.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Create-an-Alert-with-CanLII.pdf.

Knowledge is Power: Jordan Furlong on Law Librarians and the Future Legal Market

By Alan Kilpatrick

Jordan Furlong is a well-known Canadian legal writer, innovator, and futurist.  Furlong spoke recently at the 2018 Canadian Association of Law Libraries Conference about the future of the legal market and the role law librarians will play in that market.

Key components of the future legal market include knowledge, data, and information.  Those who can harness knowledge and successfully acquire, analyze, and disseminate information to law firms will play an influential role in this new market.  Legal information professionals and law librarians, Furlong asserts, are the ideal group to do this given their robust and competitive set of skills and capabilities.

 The Future Legal Market

Today’s legal market is wrought by uncertainly and upheaval.  From deregulation to alternative service providers, little remains certain about the provision of legal services.  Furlong explains that the legal market of the future will be shaped by clients, markets, and law firms.

In the future, clients will expect faster results and more value for less money.  How clients identify value will be personal and subjective.  Lawyers will no longer dictate how client value is identified.  The market will transform as alternative service providers begin to provide routine legal services.  As clients take advantage of these cheaper alternatives, billable hours will diminish.  Legal technology and artificial intelligence will become increasingly innovative and capable.  Routine services will become automated and firm profitability will be further reduced.  Finally, law firm culture will experience a generational shift.  As millennials take over, firm culture will shift toward a strong focus on client satisfaction.

The Legal Intelligence Era

Client expectations, evolving markets, and firm transformations will dominate the legal market of the future.  Success with each of these elements will depend on gathering, understanding, and acting on relevant information, data, and knowledge.  Given the prominence of information, Furlong describes the future market as a legal intelligence era.  Law librarians, Furlong notes, will have a leading role to play with regards to client intelligence, firm intelligence, and market intelligence.

Legal information professionals can play a role in gathering critical intelligence about clients and making that intelligence easily accessible to the firm.  Client intelligence could include client profiles, matter summaries, and satisfaction surveys.  Taking advantage of legal information professionals will help save firm lawyers’ time, maintain firm profitability, achieve better client outcomes, and ensure higher client satisfaction.

Law librarians can produce internal intelligence about firm practices, processes, and procedures.  Furlong explains that firms often know little about themselves and how they operate internally.  Firm intelligence could include profitability reports and process improvement recommendations.  This type of in-house intelligence is critical as it will help make existing firm processes more cost efficient and sustainable.

Finally, market intelligence will be crucial.  With expert business research skills, information professionals are uniquely positioned to produce competitor reports, scouting reports, and trend overviews for the firm.  Accurate market intelligence like this will enable a firm to gain advantages over its competitors and successfully prepare for tumultuous market forces.

In the legal market, knowledge is power.

This blog post was inspired by a session at CALL/ACBD 2018: Knowledge is Power: The Role of Law Librarians in the Future Legal Market presented by Jordan Furlong. 

Source
Furlong, J. (2018). Knowledge is Power: The Role of Law Librarians in the Future Legal Market. Plenary Session at CALL/ACBD 2018.

Gallop Portal

By Alan Kilpatrick

Did you know that the Gallop Portal (Government and Legislative Libraries Online Publications Portal) provides free and convenient access to almost 500,000 electronic government publications from all levels of Canadian government?

Launched five year ago by the Association of Parliamentary Libraries in Canada (APLIC), the portal is intended to provide Canadians with an easy way to access, connect, and interact with Canadian government resources.  Canadian Legislative and Parliamentary libraries are mandated to provide access to government documents by the Federal government’s Depository Services Program.

APLIC describes the portal as a “one-stop access point” to government publications.  Users can search for documents across jurisdiction and language using a variety of filtering options and a straightforward search interface.  The portal provides particularly high ease of use compared to other Canadian government websites.

We encourage you to check the Gallop Portal out at gallopportal.ca.