Jennifer Anderson of the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science recently posted a working paper entitled Empirical Studies of Law Student Information Seeking Behavior and a Call for the Return of the Law Library as a ‘Laboratory’ for Legal Education (2011).
Here is the abstract:
The legal education literature is replete with complaints that law students have poor legal research skills. This is despite the fact that no one disputes the importance of legal research to the practice of law. Indeed, one highly-cited professor and law librarian described legal research as “one of [the] most essential functions” of an attorney. Now more than ever, graduating law students must have strong information seeking skills to be competitive in the job market, as more law firms expect new hires to be able to conduct timely, cost-effective legal research without the need for extensive training by the firm. Newly graduated law students often fail to live up to these expectations, however.
Despite universal agreement about the importance of this “essential” lawyering function, little empirical work on the information seeking behavior of law students appears in either the legal education literature or the library and information science (LIS) literature. This paper begins by defining “information seeking” in the context of law students. It then reviews and synthesizes the few studies that have been performed. Finally, it discusses the implications of this research for the law school curriculum and calls for a return to one of the first innovations of pioneering legal educator and former Harvard law school dean Christopher Columbus Langdell—that of re-establishing the law school library as the “laboratory” for the study of the law.