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The third and final speaker for this event was Ian Hunter, from Shearman and Sterling, who spoke on information literacy in the work place, and in particular in a law firm. Obviously this session was of the most relevance to my work, but I also thought it provided a nice flow to the evening following Nancy’s talk on HE and considering how the information literacy needs of law graduates change from HE to becoming a trainee solicitor at a firm.

Ian Hunter presentingWhen a trainee joins a law firm they tend to undergo an extensive training programme, of which the library is usually a part. Ian reported that at his firm they still demonstrate Westlaw and Lexis Library (the 2 main legal databases used for UK case law and legislation) and a treasure hunt through the physical resources (which is very similar to what we do at my firm), but Ian is now also providing training on how to use Google and other business sources, with less emphasis on Westlaw and Lexis.

The marketing or business development teams, as well as junior lawyers, are increasingly asking the library for economic information, and Google is an important resource to conduct this search with. Ian has been offering training on Google and demonstrating the advanced search, which has been very well received. This also touches on something Nancy Graham mentioned in her presentation – if you know your users are more likely to be using Google (particularly the ‘Google generation’) rather than the authoritative subscriptions you promote to them, then you might as well work with their current way of searching and teach them how to best use Google and teach them to critically analyse the sources they find on Google. In the legal sector, there is a tendency for lawyers to simply Google for a piece of UK legislation, which they are most likely to find on legislation.gov.uk – but most of them will fail to realise that the legislation on this website is not kept up to date and cannot be relied on. That is why law firms subscribe to databases such as Westlaw and Lexis Library, which are updated daily and provide added value with analysis and links between related cases and legislation. However, if we provide training on how to use Google for business development information, then we can use the opportunity to highlight that for legal information they should be using primary sources that we subscribe to, and not Google.

PanelOne thing Ian reported as an issue for more senior lawyers is the information overload problem. Ian raised an interesting point that clients take it as a given that they are going to receive high quality legal advice; what they are really looking for are lawyers with an understanding of their business and the industry that they operate in, and so the research the library is increasingly being asked to undertake is business development rather than legal information. Furthermore, information retrieval is playing less of a role and the pushing out of business and industry information via alerts and updates is becoming more important. However, as a result, the number of alerts and emails can be overwhelming and information overload is a problem. There a number of third party services that offer solutions to this, combining numerous alerts in to one daily email.

Ian also touched upon knowledge management and how important it is in the legal sector. There are issues where younger layers expect the internal knowledge management system to behave like Google, and Ian wondered whether making lawyers use filters and tags to search for information rather than creating their own free text search is a good thing for information literacy – as a searching strategy it doesn’t help if they are looking for something obscure. Ian referred to an article published in the Law Society Gazette entitled “Net Surfing Lawyers Warned of Compliance Risk”, and how as a result BIALL published their Legal Information Literacy Statement which was picked up by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA), who then launched an education and training review. Professional bodies may have a role to play in information literacy and providing reward or accreditation for attending information literacy sessions. Ian concluded by summarising that there is a lack of information literacy in the corporate world, and that teaching needs to focus more on the choice of sources rather than the mechanism of searches.

Overall it was a very enjoyable and engaging evening – there were lots of questions for the panel, and lots of drinks and nibbles for the networking afterwards. Myself and my colleague were already excitedly discussing offering Google training as we left the lcture theatre, hoping to offer it in team meetings and possibly introduce it to our trainee training too. If you have any thoughts or ideas about information literacy, whether in the legal sector or elsewhere I would love to hear them!

Nibbles and networking

Nibbles and networking

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